Windows Server 2003 Migration: How to Choose Hosting

November 7, 2014 by iWeb Technologies in: Web Hosting Articles

Migrating from Windows Server 2003 to 2008/2012 requires a hardware upgrade, but it’s also a chance to find better hosting and consider virtualization. Turn the hassle of Windows Server 2003 End-of-Life into an opportunity to build a more scalable, more secure hosting solution by considering these factors when targeting a new destination for your applications.

Windows Server 2003 End of Life

Choosing a software version

The latest version of Windows Server is Windows Server 2012 R2. However, your applications may dictate that some of your servers run WIndows Server 2008, itself due to be supported by Microsoft until 2020.

To decide whether you need to run Windows Server 2008 or you can migrate directly to Windows Server 2012 R2, analyse your applications. Applications written for 16-bit applications are not compatible with 64-bit OS Windows Server 2012 R2 (but are compatible with 32-bit OS Windows Server 2008).

Choosing a server

Choosing hardware depends entirely on the requirements of your applications. If you are keeping the same applications that you have been running on older servers, it may be that you are considering servers towards the less powerful end of the spectrum.

Minimum requirements for Windows Server 2012 R2 / Windows Server 2008:

  • 1.4 GHz 64-bit processor
  • 512 MB RAM

  • 32 GB Storage

However Ken Hess on ZDNet suggests: “Both of the newer operating systems require 4GB just to run their basic services. Start with 8GB of RAM and 50GB of system disk space.”

The smallest Windows 2012 Cloud Server offered by iWeb is a 1GB RAM server with 1GB of SSD Storage at US$0.06 per hour (or $43.80 per month based on 730 hours).

The smallest Dedicated Server offered by iWeb is an Intel® Core™ i3-540 3.06GHz H/T with 8GB RAM and 2TB of Storage + SW RAID at US$89 per month (clearance servers available for less).

Test and production environments

Migration that requires a change of hosting architecture, hardware or operating system will require some testing and configuration (if not development) in order to make applications compatible and to manage security. In order to properly test your applications it’s therefore necessary to have at least two identical environments: a test environment and a production (live) environment.

In order to manage costs you may wish to host the servers used for your test environment on your own premises. But live applications, websites and database that need to be available 100% of the time should be hosted in a professional data center with full N+1 redundancy. For more information about that see our article on the mistakes to avoid.

Another option is to use virtualization to create two or more environments on a single dedicated server.

Virtualization in Windows Server 2012

In the decade since the release of Windows Server 2003, the major shift in internet infrastructure has been the rise of virtualization – the creation of Virtual Machines (VM), each with their own operating system and an allocation of resources from the underlying pool of resources in your architecture.

Windows Server 2012 R2 is geared around virtualization. The Hyper-V hypervisor makes it possible, and Windows Server 2012 and the System Center add monitoring, automation and operations management tools that make up the Microsoft Cloud OS and enable a full Microsoft Private Cloud.

Windows Server license pricing

Following the release of Windows Server 2012, Microsoft amended their licensing to accommodate the new reality of virtualization. Regardless of your version of Windows Server, from 2003 up to 2012 R2, licensing is charged in the same way, at the same price, for the same licenses.

When you purchase Windows Server licenses to use on your own servers, the number of licenses now depends on the number of processors and the number of Client Access Licenses (the number of users or devices accessing the server). More information here (PDF Download).

For customers of hosting providers like iWeb, licensing is based on the number of processors in a server multiplied by the number of Virtual Machines (VM) on the server. A ‘datacenter’ license allows unlimited VM included the price. It is therefore advisable to purchase a ‘datacenter’ license if you intend to deploy more than 2 VMs. You can see the prices for licensing at iWeb in our Knowledge Base.

Resources and assistance

Need help planning a migration? Take a look at these popular resources from your friends at iWeb :)

Planning a server migration – How to turn the pain into an opportunity

Guide to database hosting – Help sizing a server for your database

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