It’s the End of the Line for SQL… So Where To Next?

With Microsoft set to discontinue SQL Server 2008 and 2008 R2 support, what are your options?

It is a truth universally acknowledged that humans love an upgrade – to have the very latest and the very greatest that is on offer. So that being said, it may come as no surprise that Microsoft is no exception. Having been in service for an entire decade, their tried and tested SQL Server 2008/2008 R2 has reached retirement and it is almost time for all users to alight.

But how soon, where to and why should you care?

SQL patrons have until July 9, 2019 before Microsoft no longer supports either version and we will discuss some alternative options below. But first, let’s take a look at the risks your data will face come the deadline.

Security and non-compliance

The first thing to realise is that yes, there are serious implications for your business and that yes, you absolutely do need to take action to ensure you’re not left vulnerable to security threats. Unpatched servers are an organisations’ biggest security risks today; the largest data breach ever recorded was caused by that very threat. And SQL’s “end of life” deadline means that your data will face the following risks if not alighted in time:

Security: Once SQL Server 2008 and SQL Server 2008 R2 move out of Extended Support, security updates are no longer issued. This means that your data will be more vulnerable and more susceptible to breach risks. There are more than four million records stolen across the globe every year, so having a huge gaping hole in your security is ill-advised. And while physical security measures such as firewalls and antivirus software may provide some protection, they are unlikely to instil enough confidence to businesses hosting sensitive data.

Customer loss: Because of an increase in data breaches, customers will simply not work with an organisation that doesn’t keep their systems up to date and others will be forever lost in the event of a breach. In fact, a study by Microsoft itself states that 20% of companies lose customers through security attacks and 30% lose revenue as a direct result of that.

Reputational damage: Having to admit that you simply do not keep your systems up to date can cause major and even irreversible reputational damage. In the event that data loss occurs, your organisation is not only accountable to its shareholders and investors, its accountable to customers, the public and some instances, even the courts.

Compliance: Companies must comply with the appropriate regulations and standards, such as GDPR and PCI-DCC, which require them to utilise supported platforms. Retailers who accept online or card transactions are required to maintain vendor support and an inability to demonstrate this can render them unable to process card payments in line with their obligations. Your company could be in breach of compliance requirements if it fails to plan for full, uninterrupted security support.

Alternative routes

Thankfully, SQL users have both time and options and the upcoming end of support milestone should be seen as a great opportunity to transform business applications and infrastructure by leveraging cloud computing and the latest versions of SQL Server and Windows Server.

In addition, the ever-intuitive Microsoft knows that there is no one size fits all approach, and as a result, has allowed for various scenarios depending on what is best for your business, its current state and its future state. So let’s take a look:

Upgrade: Many SQL 2008/2008 R2 servers can be upgraded to the latest version, although unless you have Software Assurance this can be quite expensive

Transform:
 Refactor or rebuild your applications to leverage Platform as a Service (PaaS)

Pay for Extended Support: Whilst this is an option, this should be seen as a last resort as the typical costs are exponentially higher than the other options and can be short-term focussed

Migrate to Azure

A forward-thinking approach is what’s needed here; viewing it as an opportunity to innovate using a multitude of options – which are only made truly possible by leveraging Microsoft Azure.

Upgrading everything before the end of support timeline is no easy task but Microsoft acknowledges this and is therefore extending SQL Server 2008/2008R2 support for a further three years for servers that migrate to the Azure platform without an application code change. This ensures that workloads are kept secure for enough time after the deadline to allowing businesses more time to plan their future path.

Such paths may include upgrading to newer versions of SQL such as SQL Server 2017 or Windows Server 2016, and utilising the rich set of platform and data services available in Azure. Additionally, there is opportunity to move SQL Server 2008 and 2008 R2 deployments to Azure SQL Database Managed Instance – again with no application code change – and zero downtime. This fully-managed database as a service (DaaS) solution offers industry-leading SLAs, requires no future upgrades and is expected to be available early Q4.

Next steps

The SQL and Windows 2018 end-of-support might be nearing, but you have options and your data doesn’t need to be vulnerable. Whether you are looking to quickly mitigate your risk or using SQL end of life as a catalyst for business innovation, Daisy can help.

As a leading partner of Microsoft, we’re ideally placed to combine the globally available Microsoft Azure cloud service with the advanced capability of our own data centres, bringing you a bespoke way to deliver software-as-a-service, infrastructure-as-a-service, unified communications, better collaboration and much more.

About Ian Clarke

Ian Clarke is Product Manager for Cloud & Hosting at Daisy Corporate Services