Windows Server 2003

Microsoft ceased support for its Windows Server 2003 and Small Business Server 2003 operating systems in 2015.

Over the years, the operating system has been replaced by Windows Server 2008, Windows Server 2008 R2, Windows Server 2012 and Windows Server 2012 R2, yet some organisations continue to run the old server operating system.

If your organisation still runs Windows Server 2003, you should migrate to a new server operating system now.

Unlike Windows XP, where there were application migration challenges, Windows Server 2012 R2 offers relatively good application compatibility with Windows Server 2003. In technical terms, although the new system is delivered as a 64-bit operating system, most 32-bit applications that have no 16-bit code segments should install and run on it through Windows on Windows 64 (WoW64) technology.

The security risks to not upgrading before Microsoft support ceases are outlined below, but we should add that Windows Server 2012 R2 also features many improvements compared with the old system including integrated virtualisation, extensive scalability, new operational roles and script execution capabilities.

We advise against making an interim upgrade to Windows Server 2008 as mainstream support  for that had already been discontinued, in fact before Windows Server 2003.

Risks of not migrating

  • As no security updates are nowl issued, your server running Windows Server 2003 will be highly vulnerable to infection by malware, with criminals being well aware of the vulnerability.
  • Such malware could be used by criminals for a number of purposes, including:
    • To steal your organisation’s and customers’ financial details in order to commit fraud
    • To commit identity theft in order to apply for bank accounts, passports and other facilities in your name.
    • To monitor email and other communications.
    • To make your server part of a botnet, commonly used to attack corporate or government websites.
  • An increasing number of devices and software programs will not work with Windows Server 2003.
  • Failure to meet most industry-wide compliance standards and regulations.
  • You risk unauthorised entry to your information systems, leading to your data being accessed or stolen, non-compliance with insurers’ and/or customers’ standards and breaching the Data Protection Act.
  • A decreasing number of independent hardware and software support vendors who provide services for Windows Server 2003 systems, and increasing costs for obtaining those services from those that do.


Full information and advice from Microsoft about migrating from Windows Server 2013 can be found on Microsoft’s website, here.

See Also...

Jargon Buster

A Glossary of terms used in this article:


A computer that serves files or services to other computers over a network or the internet.