Windows Server 2003 Migration: Tasks Part 3 – Build and Test

windows server 2003 R2In Part 2, we created a plan that maps out the migration from Windows Server 2003. Now we are at the point where we need to build what we designed. Notice how in all the blogs concerning decommissioning 2003 that I use the words ‘migrate’ and ‘migration’ and not upgrade? I probably should have discussed this sooner, but there is no upgrade. You cannot upgrade 32-bit Windows 2003 to 64-bit 2008 R2 or 2012 R2. No matter your plan and budget, you will need to perform a fresh install on at least one server to start the process. Also, it would be wisest to go to 2012 R2 for many reasons (particularly not having to repeat this process when 2008 reaches end-of-life). For some migration paths, you may need to install at least one 2008 server to go from 2003 to 2008 and then to 2012.

The best place to start would be a test/development environment. We know from experience that there are many smaller shops out there that do not have the budget to create a development environment. Most of them are going to rely on the expertise of their staff or outside services to get their environment from where it is now directly to an updated infrastructure without performing a lot of tests. For those environments, remember to at least do extensive planning and research beforehand to mitigate issues. For those that can build a development environment, the best way to do it is virtualization (there I go again using that word). Remember that you can make a virtual server host out of various hardware platforms. You can even install a robust hypervisor for free. To give you an example, my laptop has an extra drive that I swap instead of the DVD drive. I then manually boot to the extra hard drive where I have XenServer hosting over a dozen VMs. Is it powerful? Not really, but I can run my demo environment from it. The point is we don’t need to break the budget to make a development environment. We may not even need to touch any of the budget. If you did budget for a new virtual environment or to extend an existing one, here is where you can start utilizing that new investment. P2V (physical to Virtual) machine images of your existing infrastructure servers. From there, you can fire up a new virtual machines (VMs) housing 2012 R2 and/or 2008 R2. Once you have the test environment, take snapshots of all the VMs before making any changes. Now you can begin the process of converting your virtual infrastructure in a development environment. If you run into issues, you can utilize the snapshots to reset the environment and try again. Take detailed notes of all the steps and pay attention to any potential problems. Once you have a clear plan with detailed notes, you are less likely to run into the unexpected when updating your production environment.

So, what exactly are we testing in our development environment? There are basic services that almost every shop is going to be utilizing. Active Directory, DNS, and DHCP are the three most common services we will need to migrate to another server. The good news is that detailed directions from Microsoft and other experts can easily be found on the web. Some organizations are going to have the basics and some are going to have more services in use. For instance, some organizations may utilize Terminal Services. Migrating that to Remote Desktop Services (RDS) will be a project in itself (though a worthwhile one).

Here is an example list of services you may/will need to test:

  • Basic services:
    • Active Directory (AD)
    • Group Policy
    • Domain Naming Systems (DNS)
    • Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP)
  • Extended services:
    • Certificate Services and Public Key Infrastructure (PKI)
    • Terminal Services
    • Distributed File Services (DFS)
    • Internet Information Services (IIS)
    • Network Load Balancing (NLB)

Each organization is different, so they may have some or all of the items from the above list. A lot of organizations will have more to add to the list. Aside from these services that come in a Windows server, we will need to test hosted applications. This set of blogs has been pretty much focused on the Active directory side of the migration, but what about applications? If you have Exchange, SQL, or another enterprise application hosted on a 2003 server, you are going to need a separate project just to migrate those applications. This may be the opportunity to move from in-house mail services to a cloud-hosted solution like Office 365. It is possible to focus on upgrading our Active Directory infrastructure first and saving the applications hosted on 2003 servers for a later project. However, research the applications to make sure they will still function in an updated AD infrastructure. If not, that is one of those symmetrical projects you will need to have in your plan.

The next step will be implementation into production. At this point, we are ready. We have performed tests in our development environment, gained experience in the tasks, created detailed instruction sets, and realized modifications needed in our plan.

As always, I welcome your comments or questions. Please feel free to leave them below or email me directly. Also, be sure to bookmark our site for more information from Microsoft. Also, please be sure to register for our live, Microsoft event – Windows Server 2003:  Security Risk and Remediation on February 18.




Sr. Network Consultant




©2015 Custom Systems Corporation

Windows Server 2003 Migration Resources

Microsoft will end support for Windows Server 2003/R2 on July 14, 2015.

Now is the time to migrate.

Here are some links and resources to help as you prepare for your Windows Server 2003 migration. Be sure to bookmark this page to avoid missing new resources as they are added.

Windows Server 2003 migration

– Understand what end of support means, directly from Microsoft, via Custom Systems Corporation.

Great resources from our own blog:

Upgrading Windows Server 2003 Active Directory

This is a basic guide to help walk you through the upgrade of  Server 2003 Active Directory to Server 2012 R2.

Migrating from Windows Server 2003: 64-bit vs. 32-bit

This this post, we’ll explain  one of the key points involved in moving off the Windows 2003 platform – moving from 32-bit computing to 64-bit.

Windows Server 2003 Migration: Planning Considerations

Where does your organization fall today, in planning the migration process from Windows Server 2003.

Windows Server 2003 Migration: Tasks Part 1 – Inventory

Just because a resource is not a Windows Server 2003, it does not mean it is exempt from the effects of the migration. In this first task, review your current inventory to prepare for server migration.

Windows Server 2003 Migration: Tasks Part 2 – Planning

Now that we have our inventory, it is time to plan our Windows Server 2003 migration.

Windows Server 2003 Migration: Tasks Part 3 – Build and Test

Now we need to build what we’ve designed.

Windows Server 2003 Migration: Tasks Part 4 – Implementation

We documented our inventory, created a plan, allocated the resources, procured the budget, and practiced our migration in a development environment. Now we are at the point where we need to implement our design in production.


Be sure to bookmark the Windows Server 2003 Countdown Clock on our site. You’ll also find great resources directly from Microsoft here. The network services professionals at Custom Systems are trained to perform the tasks outlined in our blogs, necessary for your organization to migrate from Windows Server 2003. You can reach our sales team by calling us at 800.539.3523 or by email.  Please feel free to leave any questions or comments below.

Windows Server 2003 Migration: Tasks Part 2 – Planning

Dusit PLANNINGIn Part 1, we discussed taking inventory. Now that we have our inventory, it is time to plan our Windows Server 2003 migration. The planning phase is very critical. This is where you are going to make major decisions that will affect your infrastructure going forward. We could do a straightforward migration going server to server or we could use this opportunity to make needed or desired changes to the infrastructure. Moving from Windows Server 2003 will make news technologies and advancements available. You do not have to create a plan from scratch. There are a number of tools we can use. For instance, Microsoft has the Assessment and Planning Toolkit. The web is full of helpful tools that you will have to log onto. Also, open your favorite browser and search engine to find what you need (say, a blog like this).

For our planning phase, we need to factor in the following:

  • Inventory – We took an inventory of our infrastructure in Part 1. We now need to assess that inventory.
  • Budget – How much we can spend determines what we can do to perform the migration. If we can afford to put up a new virtual environment or build on an existing virtual environment, then we virtualize. If we can only afford to utilize the hardware we have, then this is a rolling migration.
  • Man-power – The experienced resources available to work on this project and how much of their time they can allocate/dedicate.
  • Timeline – Given how long we have to complete this task, we can determine what we can accomplish.
  • Infrastructure and environment – The condition of our infrastructure and the environmental resources may require modifications to accomplish this project. If you are adding new servers, you may need new racks, more space, more cooling, and more power.
  • Symmetrical Projects – Those projects we can get done in conjunction with this project (i.e. virtualization) or those projects going on that could be impacted by our migration project.

Given the factors above, here are the general tasks in creating your plan:

  • Determine the project manager. Make sure you have someone who is dedicated to seeing this project through and can coordinate the plan.
  • Put the inventory into categories that make sense to your team and then prioritize the categories. The inventory facilitates our assessment of what we have.
  • Given the assessment and factors listed above, we can determine our needs, tasks, and what we can feasibly accomplish.
  • Determine the goals:
    • Are we migrating everything?
    • What are we migrating within our deadline? What can be migrated at a later time?
    • Are we trying to migrate and utilize the existing hardware or are we moving to new hardware?
    • Where will the supported applications reside?
      • New physical server?
      • Virtualization?
      • Moving to cloud services?
  • Determine your timing – Take your priorities and determine what can be accomplished within the allotted time frame and what needs to be done at a later time.
  • Map out the target destinations for the items you are migrating (i.e.virtualize, move to the cloud, upgrade, decommission, etc.)
  • Given the priority and desired outcome, determine how much time each task needs. Where possible, leave time for the unexpected. Try not to make your timeframes to tight. (Don’t read this out loud: If you want, use the Engineer Scott method. Give a time frame you know you can beat so you look good.)
  • Map your resources to your task. Determine the best available candidate(s) for each task.
  • Develop your timeline. Take the information and priorities you have gathered and map the tasks with a start date and time, duration, and an expected end date.
    • Include allowances for acquiring new resources. For instance, that SAN you ordered for the virtual environment may take three weeks to deliver. Use other tasks to fill the gaps where you are on hold. Even if they are a lower priority.
    • Include research time for each task. It does not hurt to admit that there are tasks your people are not sure how to accomplish. I would not want someone to try and migrate my DHCP from server 2003 to server 2012 without having experience or at least proper instructions. Within the planning documentation, note where to find the instruction sets.
    • Don’t oversaturate a resource. We all have environments where certain people will wind up being the subject matter expert for multiple tasks.
  • Document everything.

I know that I have greatly simplified the information listed above. The goals of the blogs in this series are to get you thinking, give you a general outline, and help keep you moving. I cannot stress enough that you need to be very detailed with your resulting planning. Your plan is what will be visible to your team and your management. You will most likely be held to the plan you publish. Proper planning will take out guesswork, cut down on surprises, help you handle the unexpected, and keep things running smoother.

In the next blog for this topic, we will look into our next step: ‘Build and Test.’

As always, I welcome your comments or questions. Please feel free to leave them below or email me directly. Also, be sure to bookmark our site for more information from Microsoft.




Sr. Network Consultant




©2015 Custom Systems Corporation

Migrating from Windows Server 2003: 64-bit vs. 32-bit

Windows Server 2003 End of Life

On July 14, 2015, Windows Server 2003 Microsoft support will end. Meaning, after that date, there will be no more security fixes, hot-fixes, patches, or any other type of development for Server 2003 from Microsoft. It also means that if you have an issue and call in for Microsoft support, they will no longer open a support case for you. To find out the information from the source and to get ideas on how to move forward, click here. Over the next few months, we will be presenting blogs with information on migrating from Windows Server 2003. In this blog I am going to discuss a topic that is a major factor in migration.

Moving from 32-bit to 64-bit

One of the key points involved in moving off the Windows 2003 platform is going from 32-bit computing to 64-bit. 32-bit and 64-bit computing refer to a change in the instruction set for processors (CPUs) and how processors handle memory. Bits (binary digit) refer to the smallest units of computer data (a value of 1 or 0). As the number of bits in a computational value increase, the amount of data the value can hold increases. A 64-bit value exponentially holds a greater amount of data than a 32-bit. This difference is exhibited the most in physical memory addressing. The key differences of 64-bit computing over 32-bit computing is more memory. Memory limits in 32-bit Windows Operating Systems (OS) depended on the version in use and the 32-bit address space. Windows Server 2003 Standard had a limit of 4GB of memory, while Datacenter and Enterprise had a 64GB limit. In a 64-bit world, the Windows OS version still controls memory limits, but the 64-bit address bar has been raised. Windows Server 2012 Standard and above have a memory limit of 4TB. In fact, hardware is actually the primary limiting factor over software.

There is a Windows Server 2003 64-bit edition, but the adoption rate of that version was extremely low. The vast majority of Windows 2003 Server implementations were 32-bit. This happened for a number of reasons. The 64-bit server product was bleeding edge when it was introduced. Until Windows Server 2008, development for 64-bit products was not mainstream. Few software vendors factored in 64-bit compatibility in their code until Windows Server 2008. On the consumer side, 32-bit was the comfortable norm and 64-bit was factored in only when there were obvious gains. Requirements and advantages in Exchange and SQL were some of the primary factors for using the 64-bit version of 2003 over the 32-bit version. The number of users you could connect to one server through terminal services was greatly increased, but then you had to make sure that you were using software that worked in 64-bit terminal services.

It’s all about compatibility

So, what does all this mean in relation to migrating off Windows Server 2003? Compatibility. Will the software we have running in Windows Server 2003 work in 64-bit 2008 or 2012 servers? Will we have software drivers available on 64-bit that are as comprehensive as the ones we used in 32-bit systems? 64-bit servers are backward compatible and will run 32-bit applications, but not all 32-bit applications are 64-bit compatible. Applications with high resource demands probably moved towards 64-bit computing a while ago to take advantage of the increase in memory and processing power. However, we still have the issue of legacy software. We may only have licenses for a certain version of an application. We may need to pay for licensing of a later version. Or the licensing was based on the server OS. For instance, our 2003 Terminal Server CALs will not work with 2008 or 2012. We will need new licenses for that. What if there is no upgrade for that legacy system that will only work on a 32-bit system? All software issues will need to be researched and a plan developed to move forward.
Look for upcoming blogs, where we will discuss the research and testing needed, peripheral drivers (printers, scanners, etc.), SQL and Exchange requirements, backup solutions and more. Stay tuned and as always, please feel free to post your questions or comments below. You can also email me directly.





Sr. Network Consultant




©2015 Custom Systems Corporation