On July 9th, 2019, Microsoft will end support for SQL Server 2008 and SQL Server 2008 R2. This doesn’t only mean that Microsoft’s call centers won’t be able to squash bugs and resolve technical issues with your organization. End of support opens the door for serious consequences that could significantly disrupt your entire organization.

If your organization has yet to begin migrating to a newer SQL Server deployment, you’re not alone. In a recent data analysis of 100,000 servers, we found that 43 percent of all SQL Server instances run either SQL Server 2008 or SQL Server 2008 R2. This significant segment of organizations with aging SQL Server deployments must act to upgrade their database architecture.

To assist in this upgrade process, we have compiled the essential considerations that organizations should make before SQL EoS approaches. Read on to ensure your organization is fully prepared to upgrade after SQL Server 2008’s end of support.

The Consequences of Inaction

Some organizations resist upgrading from SQL Server 2008 for a variety of reasons. However, resistance is not a sustainable long-term plan. Unfortunately, organizations that have not yet moved away from SQL Server 2008 are already coming into this process very late. If an organization running SQL Server 2008 doesn’t begin their upgrade process soon, they will be susceptible to a range of consequences. Let’s break those down a bit further:

  • Security Risks – When end of support for SQL Server 2008 arrives, all security updates will come to a complete halt. This could be catastrophic if your organization hosts sensitive data. With more than four billion records stolen by hackers every year, your organization will be at great risk when security updates end.
  • Compliance Risks – It is likely that your organization uses software or follows regulations that require supported database platforms to function. For example, under PCI DSS, many online payment platforms require vendor support and will not process payments until the compliance issue is resolved. This is also true for regulations such as GDPR, HIPAA, and SOX, which carry serious penalties. Organizations should also be prepared for a timely audit following SQL Server 2008’s end of support.
  • Financial Costs – Plenty of expenses can arise if an SQL deployment is not upgraded in time. This can stem from the aforementioned security and compliance risks, where your organization must pay fines or spend labor hours putting out security-related fires. To avoid these consequences, Microsoft will offer extended support, priced at 75 percent of the perpetual license costs. This can be a significant expense – especially since many organizations have hidden, excess SQL Server licenses scattered around their databases.
  • Reputational Losses – Security and compliance concerns can cause serious blowback from customers and key stakeholders. When a cyberattack occurs, 20 percent of organizations report losing a significant number of customers – and 30 percent report revenue losses directly tied to the attack. Parties ranging from shareholders, investors, customers, and even the general public lose trust in your organization if these consequences come to fruition.

Potential Solutions

Rather than being intimidated by the risks and consequences of not upgrading their SQL solution, organizations should view SQL Server 2008’s end of support as an opportunity to innovate. With a new version of SQL Server, your organization will enjoy better performance and productivity, greater data security, and less burden on interpreting analytics. When seeking to upgrade and seize these opportunities, organizations should consider two primary options: Azure SQL Database, and SQL Server 2017.

Azure SQL Database

Azure SQL Database is very similar to previous versions of SQL, except it is designed specifically for the cloud. One of the primary reasons that organizations choose Azure is due to its great scalability and high availability. However, Azure offers more than that – it’s designed for the future of the cloud, with the ability to store and process data on a petabyte scale.

This cloud-based solution is especially enticing for those upgrading from SQL Server 2008. Through their Azure Hybrid Benefit program, Microsoft offers free extended security updates for up to three years to help users ease into their Azure deployment. Using this benefit program, organizations have to potential to save up to 55 percent on database costs. For organizations seeking to implement cloud-based solutions as part of a digital transformation effort, Azure is likely the ideal choice.

SQL Server 2017

An upgrade to SQL Server 2017 is a very straightforward process that will be familiar to organizations that previously utilized SQL Server 2008. SQL Server 2017 runs on-premises in a similar way as its predecessors, but with significant quality of life upgrades. It introduced a new graph database structure that enables users to add graphs and nodes, and a range of new technical functions that SoftwareONE can discuss with you.

However, many organizations that upgrade to SQL Server 2017 are especially excited about the integration of Python code and its compatibility with systems that run on Linux. The integration of Python enables organizations to customize their deployments and enable machine learning and advanced analytics. SQL Server 2017’s compatibility with Linux is also significant, allowing a greater amount of standardization within organizations with Linux deployments.

Building a Roadmap

Once your organization has decided which type of SQL database is best suited to their needs, they should create an IT roadmap. A road-mapping process allows organizations to predict the demands of their SQL Server environment over time, allowing them to predict changes and challenges. The details of a roadmap will vary depending on which version of SQL Server is chosen – however, a few basic considerations will remain static.

  • Involve the Right Stakeholders – Ensure that parties such as members of IT leadership, database administration, and upper level management are involved. These parties have in-depth knowledge about goals that could be helped or hindered by upgrading instances of SQL Server.
  • Consider Long-Term Business Goals – Consider where your organization is now, and which goals key stakeholders are aiming to accomplish. For example, an organization that takes digital transformation efforts seriously may want to consider how Azure SQL Database will impact that initiative.
  • Identify Sources of Overspending – Be sure that there are no current licensing or compliance issues that will be exacerbated by moving to a newer SQL database solution. As well, identify any future concerns that could result in additional expenses. Otherwise, spending will continue to grow uncontrolled.

When to Use Advisory Services

It’s not easy to overhaul your organization’s database infrastructure, especially on a limited timeframe. Even just the process of road-mapping can be extremely complicated, depending on the complexity of your organization’s software deployments. For this reason, many organizations choose to rely on third party experts to assist in their upgrade process.

Take inventory of your organization’s current knowledge involving an SQL upgrade. Ask your IT team the following questions to get a very general idea of their current SQL Server knowledge:

  • Do you know how to leverage clustering and virtualization?
  • Do you know how to create a failover strategy?
  • What is your current knowledge of Microsoft’s licensing rules?

Do you have the skills to optimize licensing spend while maintaining compliance?

If your organization falls short of one or more of these considerations, you’re not alone. The process of upgrading a Microsoft product like SQL Server is too complex for many organizations. This is why third-party migration services are key to a seamless upgrade process. Organizations that try to handle an SQL Server upgrade on their own without the proper expertise often end up spending too much money to be compliant, or fall out of compliance entirely.