Danwood raises printer worries post WS2003 support switch-off

On top of all the other worries around security and compliance issues there could also be problems printing for those using Windows Server 2003 once support ends next week

It is just a week until support for Microsoft Windows Servern 2003 is officially switched off and the worry that many users will be left on a vulnerable platform becomes a reality.

The channel has been getting increasingly louder in its warnings to customers over the last few months as it emerged that thousands are still using WS2003 and many have yet to sit down and draw up a migration plan to move away from the software.

users face several options with the most straightforward to move to the next version 2008, but that will also face its support being turned off in a couple of years, or to go for a longer term option and adopt the 2012 flavour of Windows Server or to plumb for the cloud.

Sticking with WS2003 is not a viable strategy and to add to the security warnings that the unsupported platform will be open to hacking attacks there are now additional fears that it could have a wider impact on other parts of the infrastructure.

Print management specialist Danwood has warned that one of the problems that some of those firms moving to Server 2008 R2 or later could find is that because those versions do not have support for 32-bit processing, it could make printer drivers non-operational and remove the printer queue function.

There could also be problems with some of the print management packages that hold a print job on the server until a device becomes available with some of those also facing compatibility issues.

The channel player talks printers all day and has found that in conversations with customers the link between WS2003 and the printer network is not one that has been made by that many users.

Those who do seem to be aware of what is going on are mainly in the public sector but Danwood has found the SME segment is lagging behind.

“Printing continues to be a fundamental business process, yet it is often over-looked by IT departments and not typically used beyond deployment. Companies are being urged to migrate away from Windows Server 2003, yet the repercussions of ignoring print within a migration strategy are potentially huge, leaving users without the ability to perform a common – and necessary – function," said Alan Bainbridge, head architect at Danwood.

Danwood also points out that the Print Migration Utility from Microsoft, which is available on WS2003, can be used to back-up print queues, settings and ports from Server 2003 but will not be able to restore these to later versions of Microsoft’s server operating system.

The additional worries about printers will be more fuel for the fire for those resellers doing their best to talk to customers about the need to have a migration strategy for WS2003.

In addition to raising security fears and problems that could come from a compliance perspective there have also been statements from vendors making it clear that it will not be their problem to patch up WS2003 post the support ending on 14 July.

Users have had plenty of time to get ready for next week's support switch off with mainstream support for the server platform wound down in 2010 before the extended support kicked in for an additional five years.

Having said that for many customers the difference between mainstream and extended support has not been that noticeable, which has led to some mistakenly thinking that there could be some additional help on offer after 14 July.

IDC acknowledged there had been some confusion about different phases of support when it produced a white paper looking at the WSW2003 issue last year.

"For some customers, there is little perceived differentiation between the mainstream support phase and the extended support phase because the things that concern them most, such as having ongoing security hotfix support and paid per-incident support, continue to be available," the analyst house stated.

"Once extended support expires on July 14, 2015, all these support activities will be eliminated. Microsoft does offer for-fee custom contracts — which extend for a limited period beyond the termination of extended support — to customers that are actively working to migrate to a next generation product. This option is not for the faint of wallet and is intended only for organizations that are making a proactive effort to migrate off the product being supported beyond its normal life cycle," it added.

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