Windows Server 2012 End-of-Life: What’s Happening, Why it’s Important, and What to Do Next
After a decade of service, Microsoft’s Windows Server 2012 operating system is reaching its end-of-life on October 10, 2023.
This means that if any of your business systems run on Windows Server 2012, you have a decision to make soon.
It may seem too early to start planning for its replacement, but with hardware shortages, price volatility, and increasing lead times, now’s the time to start planning, budgeting, and figuring out what to do next.
The good news is you don’t have to go it alone. We’re here to help you get a handle on the situation and sort through your options.
In this article, we’ll cover:
- What’s happening to Windows Server 2012
- Why Windows Server 2012 End-of-Life Matters
- Options for Moving Away From Windows Server 2012
- Start Planning Now to Avoid Missing the Deadline
Let’s get started.
What’s Happening to Windows Server 2012
On October 10, 2023, Microsoft will stop supporting Windows Server 2012.
Why, you ask?
The older an operating system gets, the more exploitable it becomes, making it easier for cyber criminals to gain access. At a certain point, the manufacturer can’t continue to patch and update older operating systems since the fundamental architecture is outdated. Newer versions include things that they can’t retrofit into older versions. That’s why Microsoft (and other software manufacturers) set a defined end-of-support date for versions of their software.
Why Windows Server 2012 End-of-Life Matters
Your server will still work with an unsupported operating system – but you’ll be on borrowed time. You probably won’t notice a difference unless an attack compromises your server or you experience some other technical issue.
There will come a point where you’ll need to make a change, and it’s better to plan that change in advance instead of waiting until you have no other choice.
No more security updates
Microsoft is vigilant about security updates for their supported software. They stand behind their products and are dedicated to maintaining the security of those products. So when an exploit comes out for a supported product, they patch it as quickly as possible.
October 10, 2023, marks the end of security updates and patches provided by Microsoft. This will expose any business still running this operating system to significant security risks.
Once Microsoft stops supporting a product, exploits can easily be found and downloaded from the internet by an attacker almost immediately. The lifespan of this operating system is well-publicized, which means cyber criminals are aware of it too.
No more Microsoft tech support
When an operating system reaches end-of-life, Microsoft no longer offers technical support for that product. Of course, your internal or outsourced IT team can still troubleshoot when issues arise, but you will be out of luck if something requires Microsoft’s intervention.
The older an operating system gets, the more issues it will have. It’s inevitable that one of those issues will be its final demise since there’s no more manufacturer support.
You’ll be out of compliance
If your business has to meet regulatory compliance standards, such as CMMC or HIPAA, running an unsupported operating system means you’ll fail compliance checks. The minute an operating system is out of support, you’re out of compliance and can experience substantial fines.
Think it won’t happen to you? It might not. But when it does, it’s bad.
Here’s an example we’ve seen: An organization was running unsupported software and needed to upgrade. The software licensing would have cost them around $30,000. Instead of upgrading, they opted to stick with the current version they were running. This put them out of compliance. When they were audited for compliance, they ended up having fines levied against them for over $400,000 because there was a hefty fine for each instance of unsupported software.
Your cyber insurance policy might also stipulate that you must be running supported software to qualify for coverage. If a cyber incident happens and you need to file a claim, it’s possible that it will be denied.
Your technology won’t be able to advance
Windows Server is the foundation of your business’s infrastructure, meaning that what’s running on it must be compatible with the operating system.
For example, suppose you have a Sage database on your server. The version of Sage must be compatible with the version of Windows Server it’s running on.
Now, let’s say you’re at a conference and learn about a phenomenal new feature set that will make your inventory scanning process go so much faster. If you’re running an old version of Windows Server, they’re going to say, “I’m sorry – you can’t install it because it doesn’t support Windows 2012. It only works on Server 2016, 2019, or whatever the latest version is.”
Software manufacturers stop writing new features for older operating systems.
Technology is a puzzle, and all the pieces have to fit together to work. When one piece needs to be upgraded, but it’s incompatible with another piece, everything is held back.
Options for Moving Away From Windows Server 2012
So, you know you need to move away from Windows Server 2012. Where should you go next?
The good news is that many companies won’t need to buy new server hardware. Due to the power of virtualization, the software refresh can be separate from a hardware refresh, and they aren’t usually directly tied to each other.
Your options for migrating to the latest operating system include:
- Spinning up a new virtual server using existing server hardware
- Buying new server hardware (if needed)
- Moving to the cloud
Regardless of the path you choose, we recommend starting from a new virtual server instead of going through the “upgrade” process. Starting from a blank slate gives you the best opportunity for a healthy, stable, and unified environment because you’ll have the latest compatible versions of your applications installed, and you won’t have anything from the old operating system lurking around causing issues.
Option 1: Spin Up a New Virtual Server
Moving from Server 2012 to the latest available operating system is a software-level change. So assuming your server hardware has enough resources, you can spin up a new virtual server on the latest operating system, install the latest compatible versions of your applications, migrate your data, and you’re off and running.
Option 2: Buy a New Server
If your server hardware is more than 5 years old, it may need to be replaced due to capacity and age.
The recommended lifecycle for physical servers is 5 years, and with Windows Server 2012 reaching the ripe old age of 10, it’s possible that your server may be approaching the end of its recommended lifecycle (or it has already passed).
Newer operating systems are more robust than their predecessors, requiring more processing power and space on your server. With older hardware, you’ll inevitably experience frustrating performance issues.
Option 3: Move to the Cloud
The cloud is becoming more viable for a wider range of people. If you’re interested in getting out of the hardware refresh cycle, you have better options today than you’ve ever had before.
Whether the cloud is the right decision for your business depends on your applications and goals.
For large organizations with multiple sites or 24/7 operations, such as manufacturing plants and hospitals, moving to the cloud is a great way to ensure your infrastructure is always online, no matter what.
Financially, Azure and AWS are likely in the same ballpark as many companies are already investing. It’s not cheap, but it’s reliable, quick to expand, highly scalable, and every user in every office gets the same great experience. If those are the things that are important to your organization, the benefits of the cloud are unmatched.
The Microsoft 365 platform has allowed smaller organizations with minimal server needs to go serverless. With Azure Active Directory (AD) domain services and SharePoint, you’ll have the security features you need to restrict access to just what each employee needs and give employees a familiar file sharing experience without having a traditional domain controller in the building.
Instead of a $20K capital expense every 5 years, you can have a Microsoft 365 subscription at a certain tier, and it unlocks all of these functions.
Many small businesses can now happily go serverless.
Start Planning Now to Avoid Missing the Deadline
October 2023 seems like a long way off, but with the thorough planning, coordination, and testing involved in successful server migrations, it’s right around the corner.
There can be a lot of pieces involved, and they all take time:
- Your IT team designing and scoping the project
- Working with the application vendor(s) to scope their portion
- Hardware procurement if needed (it’s taking 1-3 months for hardware to come in these days with inventory shortages and supply chain issues)
- Coordinating schedules of all vendors involved
- Installing the latest version of Windows Server
- Implementing all other applications
- Extensive testing
- Rollout and training
Thousands of businesses worldwide are still on Server 2012. As the end-of-support date approaches and more companies begin moving to the latest operating system, resources will become even more scarce.
Depending on the complexity of your environment, the scope of your project, hardware availability, and vendor schedules, this process can take 3-6 months end-to-end.
Talk to Your IT Team About Your Server Migration Today
Now’s the time to start planning with your IT team if you have one or more servers running Windows Server 2012.
If you need any help planning, scoping, or implementing your Windows Server 2012 migration, give us a call. We’d be happy to help you figure out the best next steps for your organization and accomplish your IT goals.
Getting started today will help ease your mind, keep you secure and in compliance, lock in pricing, and avoid any rush fees you might otherwise incur as the deadline draws near. You won’t regret getting ahead.