Prepare for Windows Server and SQL Server end-of-life. What are my options?

Does your business rely on Windows Server 2008, 2008 R2, 2012 or 2016, or SQL Server 2008, 2008 R2, 2012 or 2014? If you’re using any of these products, then they’re rapidly approaching end-of-life (EOL). 

If you continue to use any of these versions of Windows Server or SQL Server after the EOL deadline, then you’ll no longer receive security updates, even for critical security threats. To avoid exposing your business to data breaches, malware and even potential legal ramifications, it’s vital that you take action before the end-of-life deadline. 

So, what steps should you take, if you’re currently using any of these Microsoft products? 

In this article, we’ll be exploring all of your options, and weighing up the positives and negatives of each approach. By the end of this article, you’ll have the information your business needs to successfully navigate the end-of-life problem - regardless of whether your priority is minimizing the risks associated with continuing to use EOL software, or turning this potential security nightmare into the perfect opportunity to digitally transform your business. 

What if I can’t migrate away from my EOL system? 

Ideally, you’ll migrate away from software before it reaches end-of-life, but it’s not always possible to simply shift your entire business to a new system. 

Perhaps your organization relies on legacy applications that are closely tied to the EOL software; maybe you need to upgrade your hardware to make it compatible with the new software; or perhaps your organization has strict procedures that must be followed before you can move to a new system. 

If migrating simply isn’t feasible at this particular moment, then there’s steps you can take to minimize the risks associated with continuing to use software after it’s reached the EOL deadline: 

1. Negotiate a custom support contract

Microsoft has a history of continuing to produce security patches for software that’s entered the EOL phase, but these updates are rarely made available to a wider audience. 

If you’re a larger organization with a significant budget, then you may be able to negotiate a one-on-one, custom support contact with Microsoft, which will include security updates for your EOL software. However, these custom support contracts are designed to encourage clients to migrate away from unsupported software as quickly as possible, so they’re notoriously expensive and have a habit of becoming even more costly with each passing year. 

According to Gartner analysts Michael Silver and Stephen Kleynhans, Microsoft’s quotes for custom support can stretch to millions of pounds, with the UK government reportedly paying £5.5 million for a single year of custom support for the Windows XP operating system. 

While custom support contracts may be a viable short-term solution while your business prepares to migrate to alternative software, you shouldn’t plan to remain on a custom support contract for any significant period of time. 

2. Try to mitigate the risks associated with EOL software

Although it’s not recommended, you could continue using software long after it’s entered an EOL state, and without negotiating a custom support contract. 

If you do decide to continue using end-of-life software, then you’ll need to invest additional time, effort and budget into keeping your systems secure, as you’ll no longer receive any security patches from Microsoft. 

To help minimize the risks, you could install extra third party software, such as anti-malware and antivirus programs, or invest in ongoing training to ensure your workforce is kept up-to-date on new and emerging security threats. 

Just be aware that security isn’t the only negative associated with EOL software, as you’ll also need to contend with increased maintenance costs, loss of productivity, and potential compliance violations. 

For more information about the risks and disruptions associated with using EOL software, ​check out Windows Server and SQL Server End of Life: What should I expect?

Modernize your business 

Rather than viewing EOL as a major headache and potential security nightmare, you can approach it as an opportunity to digitally transform your business. 

When migrating away from Windows Server and SQL Server, the biggest benefits lie in a cloud solution, such as Microsoft Azure. 

Migrating away from unsupported, EOL software to a fully-supported, modern cloud solution such as Azure, can have the following benefits: 

1. The latest security innovations  

Increasingly, technology companies are focusing on developing security features for the cloud, rather than for traditional on-premise architecture. 

Microsoft invest an annual $1 billion into ensuring that Azure remains one of the most secure cloud platforms currently on the market, making it an attractive solution for any business that’s serious about security. 

2. Reduced maintenance costs

Cloud solutions such as Microsoft Azure typically provide automatic updates, which immediately slashes the amount of time and effort you need to invest into maintaining your systems. 

By removing much of the maintenance pressure from your IT department, they’ll have more time to focus on new initiatives, potentially increasing your revenue while reducing your maintenance costs. 

3. Generate an additional $40k of revenue per employee

For staff who are forced to work with outdated tech, completing their daily tasks can feel like an uphill battle. Research from Sharp indicates that the average UK office worker wastes 40 minutes every single day due to slow or outdated technology, potentially costing your business over £2,100 per employee, per year. 

By migrating to the latest and greatest software, you can eliminate all of this dead time, and potentially generate an additional $40k of revenue per employee, according to Keystone Strategy.

4. Better employee retention levels

An employee who spends their workdays battling with outdated software is going to be an unhappy employee! Eventually your staff may even start looking for employment elsewhere - perhaps with a company who has the tech they need to do their job effectively? 

According to Sharp’s research, 14% of employees said they’d stop looking for a new job if their current employer updated their technology. By migrating to the cloud, not only will your employees stick around for longer, but they’ll also be more productive, as a report from McKinsey Digital found that digital transformation can boost employee motivation by up to 40%. 

5. Outperform the competition by embracing digital transformation

Remaining on end-of-life software will put your business at a significant competitive disadvantage. While your competitors are benefiting from the latest performance improvements and technological innovations, your outdated systems may be putting you years behind - practically a life-time in the fast moving world of technology! 

The longer you remain on EOL software, the more negative effects you’re going to encounter. In the worst case scenario, you may wind up with critical company data trapped in legacy systems that you cannot easily access or migrate to other systems. 

To remain competitive, it’s vital that you migrate away from EOL software as soon as possible, and cloud solutions such as Microsoft Azure offer the greatest competitive advantage. Cloud solutions are faster in terms of deployment, operation and scalability, and enable new application scenarios that are either not possible, or would be expensive to achieve using on-premise infrastructure, including big data storage and machine learning scenarios. 

By migrating to the cloud, you can ensure you’ll always have access to the latest application scenarios and innovations, helping you gain the competitive advantage that your business needs to thrive. 

6. Save money and boost performance, with scalable architecture 

Imagine your business experiences sudden growth, such as acquiring a new client, gaining funding for a huge project, or managing to lure some great new hires away from your biggest competitor. 

These are all positive developments, but they also require additional resources. To maximize these opportunities, you’ll need an IT infrastructure that can scale to meet your changing requirements. 

Modern cloud solutions are designed with scalability in mind. If you migrate to Microsoft Azure, then you’ll have the flexibility to scale up when your business needs additional resources, and then save money by scaling down as soon as these resources are no longer required. 

Azure offers near-instant provisioning, so you’ll be able to launch new projects without investing time and budget into over-provisioning resources in advance. You could even use Azure’s scalable architecture and near-instant provisioning to quickly test multiple solutions, measure their impact, and then scale in the areas that offer the best possible return on investment (ROI). 

By migrating to the cloud, you can ensure you’ll always have access to the latest application scenarios and innovations, helping you gain the competitive advantage that your business needs to thrive. 

7. You’ll remain GDPR compliant  

When your systems reach EOL, you may no longer be compliant with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) privacy regulations. 

GDPR requires organizations to take appropriate steps to secure personal data, which includes installing the latest security patches. When software reaches EOL, it’ll typically never receive another security update, so by continuing to use EOL you run the risk of violating GDPR. 

If you’re found guilty of violating GDPR, then your business can be fined up to €20 million and you may even face additional legal ramifications, including jail time. 

By switching to the cloud, you can help ensure your business remains compliant, and avoid the significant financial penalties and other legal ramifications associated with violating GDPR. 

8. Hit the cloud running

If you migrate to Microsoft Azure then your staff can continue to use the tools and apps they’re familiar with - you could even run SQL Server on a virtual machine inside Azure! 

Since your employees don’t have to get to grips with any new tech, they can hit the cloud running, and you should immediately start to see the benefits of your cloud migration. 


Ready to digitally transform your business? 

Schedule a free 15 minute chat with one of our Microsoft Azure experts.

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