Channel Insider content and product recommendations are editorially independent. We may make money when you click on links to our partners. Learn More.

Microsoft is ending support for Windows Server 2003 on July 14, 2015. This means Microsoft will no longer issue security updates for the operating system, leaving many companies, particularly small and midsize businesses (SMBs) open to security risks and breaches.

One of the roles of a trusted channel partner—IT distributor, reseller, cloud provider or managed service provider (MSP)—is to assist their SMB customers during any kind of migration transition, helping them plan and implement a migration strategy to protect their IT infrastructure. In this case, it is helping them plan and implement their migration from Windows Server 2003 to a new infrastructure, such as Windows Server 2008, Windows Server 2012 R2, Microsoft Azure or Office 365, which will improve the efficiency and performance of the business.

Demand is starting to surface for next-generation systems and services although the pipeline for migration to these newer systems has been slower than expected, said many channel players.

A recent assessment analysis by Softchoice, a North American IT solutions and managed services provider (MSP), found that 21 percent of servers scanned in the first half of 2015 were still running Windows Server 2003. It was a surprising finding, indicating a lack of urgency among organizations to upgrade their systems, said Softchoice.

Softchoice’s TechCheck analysis of nearly 90,000 servers at more than 200 organizations also found that only 7 percent of them have fully migrated to newer operating systems, up from 3 percent in 2014. The biggest risks companies will face for still running Windows Server 2003 after end of support include non-compliance with industry or government regulations and the inability to process credit card transactions, said Softchoice.

There are several verticals, such as health care and finance, where this is a critical conversation, due to compliance issues and potential security gaps that may exist after end of support, said Brian Davis, senior vice president, U.S. marketing, Tech Data. “The urgency is going to depend on the specific industry and maybe the specific applications that are running.”

Despite the fast-approaching deadline, channel partners still have an opportunity to help their SMB customers mitigate risk before the end date. Part of their role is to help their customers make the decision to either upgrade their current hardware and software environment, move workloads to a private or public cloud, or implement a hybrid solution. This involves creating a migration roadmap and supporting them wherever they have security gaps in the interim if a migration can’t be made before the deadline.

The first step to help SMB customers who don’t have a migration path is to conduct an assessment, agreed channel partners.

“One of the challenges is being able to understand what the existing environment is and what applications are running,” said Davis.

“The end-user client is looking for guidance. They’ve been running their current environment for quite a long time so they are looking for a number of things—assessing which of those apps they will be able to keep on-premise in the new environment, which applications they might need to move into—most likely—a public cloud environment where they are paying for infrastructure-as-a-service and continuing to run the application, or they may be faced with a decision to terminate that specific application and upgrade to a new one that provides the same functionality,” added Davis.