In late November, Microsoft said that in the future there would only be small security fixes released for Windows 2000, which Gartner believes is a decision that creates both advantages and disadvantages for enterprise customers.
According to Gartner analysts Michael Silver and Neil MacDonald, because Windows 2000 SP4 will now be the basic platform for all Windows 2000 variations till the end of its supported life (30 June 2010), maintaining the OS will be simpler for administrators because small patches are easier to deploy than a service pack.
Gartner expects the next batch of security fixes for Windows 2000 SP4 to be released in Q3 2005 but warns that these are likely to be only available for users that have already updated to SP4.
The main disadvantage of Microsoft's decision, according to Gartner, is that there is "no chance" of Windows 2000 being given a major security overhaul - such as SP2 for Windows XP.
"There is now no chance that the security improvements Microsoft delivered for Windows XP with SP2 -- and promised for Windows 2004 SP1 -- will ever make it back to the Windows 2000 platform, even though Windows 2000 is still in its mainstream phase of support," said Gartner.
Another disadvantage, according to Gartner, is that Microsoft is far more thorough when it comes to testing service packs compared with single patches, so future updates for Windows 2000 could be "prone to compatibility conflicts".
Gartner recommends that companies running anything but SP4 for Windows 2000 should upgrade as soon as possible because support for Windows 2000 SP3 will cease on 30 June 2005.
If companies need the security improvements provided by Windows XP SP2, Gartner advises moving to the newer platforms because "Windows 2000 will not see those improvements".