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Finally, Windows Server 2008 has arrived, but before you order up those DVDs to insert into your customers’ servers there are a few things you need to know.

Firstly, if your customers are running NT or Windows Server 2000, you can forget about an in-place upgrade. Server 2008 only offers an in-place upgrade option for Windows Server 2003, and even then it can be a touchy process.

That’s the bad news; the good news is that if your customers can benefit from Windows Server 2008, then there is a hardware sale in the mix, specifically a new server. Add to that the migration process and the typical VAR can net some decent revenue from both hardware and services.

Some may wonder if limited upgrade options are a bad thing, but in reality, by limiting the upgrade scenarios the typical problems associated with upgrades are eliminated. What’s more, if customers are running Windows NT or Windows 2000 Server, odds are that they are due for a hardware refresh anyway. For those that are on Windows Server 2003, hardware may not be an issue, but complicated implementations may muck up the works.

For example, if a server is running Windows Server 2003, SQL Server, Exchange and other network applications, an in-place upgrade is probably the last thing a technician wants to attempt. Compatibility and performance issues can quickly rear their ugly heads and put a dampener on the whole process. An even bigger problem can be encountered if an in-place upgrade fails, which could potentially leave customers without a functioning server and could take several unbillable hours to return that customer to the previous version of Windows Server.

The best approach is to start with a new server, running a new installation of Windows Server 2008, and then perform fresh installs of the associated applications and then finally migrate the data over. There are several advantages to this style of upgrade. First off, the new server and new software can be tested outside of the production environment, which will prevent any nasty surprises on upgrade day.

Also, the upgrade can be done in phases, the new server can be brought onto the network and function as a domain controller, and over time, installers can move Exchange or SQLServer or other server applications over to the new server. That allows a path back if the migration fails and also allows multiple or virtual servers to be implemented over time as needed. The whole idea here is to ease the customer’s pain, while offering the advanced capabilities offered by Windows Server 2008.

So, by eliminating complex in-place upgrade and migration scenarios, templates and wizards, Microsoft has done the channel a favor by forcing adopters to focus on the new features and not be hampered by legacy workarounds.