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What is Windows 2003 Hosting?

Windows Server 2003 is a Microsoft server operating system (OS). As an enhanced version of Windows XP bundled with a server, it is thought to offer more compatibility, security, and power than the previously released Windows 2000 operating system. Depending on your needs, you may choose one of several Windows Server 2003 editions, although newer Windows servers exist and have better support and security.

About Windows Server 2003

A server is a computer or other device that manages the resources of a computer network (simply two or more computers linked together). It responds to the requests of the computer network for services like communication, data storage, printing, and much more. 

Different servers perform different functions, and are often referred to as “dedicated” to one specific task. As a server, Windows 2003 is more efficient than a consumer operating system when it comes to corporate networking and communication, databases, and hosting of the Internet/intranet.

Window Server 2003 was initially released in 2003, had final software updates in 2007. Mainstream support discontinued in 2010, but Microsoft will offer consulting level support through 2015 and paid commercial support may be had continuously.

Microsoft has since released several newer versions of it's server technology, notably Windows Server 2008 (and R2), Windows Server 2012 (and R2). A planned newer server version, Server 2016, is expect after the release of the consumer level Windows 10 OS release.

Features of Windows Server 2003

Window Server 2003 is essentially an enhanced version of the consumer facing Windows XP OS, but with all of the scalable features of a network server. Windows Server 2003 expanded on the earlier Windows Server 2000, allowing for 64-bit processors to run. For computers running a 32-bit operating system, the maximum available memory is 4 GB, but for x64, the RAM available is much larger.

Windows Server 2003 comes bundled with Internet Information Services (IIS) preinstalled, which can be upgraded to version 7 or 7.5 if desired. Additionally, a few other crucial tools were introduced:

  • Improved capabilities for Microsoft Message Queuing - allowing for many different concurrent applications to run, using specified ports for information transfer of different packet protocols.
  • Role-based server administration - allowing tiered levels of accessibility and control based on the permissions and privileges of each user.
  • Active Direct functionality overhaul, which allowed deeper control of classes within the system schema, and even allowed for multiple instances of the directory server.
  • Better command line tools and scripting capabilities, as part of the Microsoft's initiative at the time to create command shell controls
  • Introduction of a "Watchdog" timer which can restart the server if the operating system ceases to respond (possibly due to applications overloading computer memory.)

The combination of all these features helped to establish the ASP.NET framework as a modern web application ecosystem. However, those core features of the server are found across all versions, which are different flavors of the server which were released with different software optimizations build in:

  • Windows Server 2003 Web - focused on creating and hosting web applications, as a combination of web pages, and XML web services. Heavy integration is provided with IIS 6 and ASP.NET technology. However, Terminal Services are not included in installation. This version also only runs on 32 bit and so only allows for 2 GB of ram and 2 physical processors.
  • Windows Server 2003 Standard - aimed towards small to medium sized businesses, the Standard Edition is setup to support file and printer sharing on a dedicated network. It also allows for the 64-bit  version, capable of using up to 32GB of RAM.
  • Windows Server 2003 Enterprise - aimed to larger businesses, the operating system can run on computers of up to 8 physical processors and is meant to scale onto clusters using the Microsoft Cluster Server (MSCS) sfotware - with RAM support up to 64 GB and use of Non-Uniform Memory Access (NUMA). Additionally, this OS can be used on an  "Itanium" architecture, which supports up to 2 TB of RAM
  • Windows Server 2003 Datacenter - this version of the server software was created to mainly for the Itanium architecture, for the largest possible data clusters, and has the strongest support for what is categorized as a "Storage Area Network" (SAN). A special class of Windows Sockets can be used to emulate TCP/IP channels, and can thus communicate over those channels in a SAN without any software modification

Additionally, a few derivative versions were released, the Windows Compute Cluster Server 2003 (CCS) was released in 2006 to support high performance computing at supercomputing speeds. A version called the Windows Storage Server 2003 was released as well, which focused on using the Storage Area Network capabilities for setting up large file servers with highly capable search capabilities. 

This Storage Server has support for a "Distributed File System" which would become popular for research into "big data" storage technologies in the later part of the decade.

Microsoft also released smaller class derivatives, the "Windows Small Business Server," the "Windows Home Server" and the "Windows Server for Embedded System."

Hosting & Installation

Windows servers and hosting solutions are available from a number of companies online. However, because Windows 2003 is an aging OS, many no longer offer hosting on the platform. 

When you select a host, first consider your willingness to work with an older OS, and whether or not the host's tech support will suffice, as Microsoft itself will terminate official support in 2015.

Choosing an older version of the server operating system is probable something that should be reserved for highly specialized data-center technicians who need to use older software for older (but still useful) hardware. 

For small to medium sized projects and businesses, using a newer version of Windows server is recommended for support and security reasons.

Windows 2003 Frequently Asked Questions

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