A decade after it’s release, Microsoft鈥檚 venerable Windows Server 2012 operating system is approaching its end-of-life on October 10, 2023.

What does this mean?聽 If your business still runs workloads on Windows Server 2012 (or Windows Server 2012 R2), then you have a decision to make soon.

With ongoing supply chain issues, low computer hardware inventory, and long delivery times, now is the time to start planning to move away from the soon-to-be obsolete operating system.

The good news?聽 GenCare and our expert team of Microsoft-certified engineers are here to assist you in navigating your choices for migration or upgrading.

What鈥檚 Happening to Windows Server 2012

Changes are coming to Windows Server 2012 as Microsoft has announced that support for it will end on October 10, 2023.

The reason for this change: as an operating system ages, it becomes more vulnerable to cyber attacks, and the manufacturer is unable to continue patching and updating it due to outdated architecture.

Newer versions of the software include features that cannot be retrofitted into older versions, which is why Microsoft and other software manufacturers set end-of-support dates for their software versions.

Why Windows Server 2012 End-of-Life Matters

Your server may continue to operate with an unsupported operating system, but it will be at risk. You may not encounter any problems unless there is a security breach or technical issue.

However, it’s important to prepare for the inevitable need to make a change in advance, rather than waiting until there are no other options.

No more security updates

Microsoft is known for being proactive in providing security updates for their supported software. They stand behind their products and are committed to maintaining their security. Hence, as soon as an exploit for a supported product is discovered, they quickly release a patch to fix it.

However, on October 10, 2023, Microsoft will cease to provide security updates and patches for its Windows Server 2012 operating system. As a result, businesses that continue to use this operating system will be exposed to significant security risks.

Once Microsoft ends its support for a product, attackers can easily find and download exploits from the internet. This is due to the well-publicized end-of-life date, which means that cybercriminals are also aware of it.

No more Microsoft tech support

After an operating system reaches its end-of-life, Microsoft no longer provides technical assistance for that particular product. Although your internal or outsourced IT team can handle troubleshooting when issues arise, you will be out of luck if the issue requires Microsoft’s intervention.

As an operating system becomes older, it will likely encounter more issues. Since there is no longer manufacturer support, one of these issues will eventually cause its final demise.

You鈥檒l be out of compliance

In case your business needs to comply with regulatory standards, such as CMMC or HIPAA, using an unsupported operating system implies failing compliance checks. Being out of compliance can result in significant fines once an operating system is out of support.

While it may seem unlikely to happen to your business, it can still occur and have dire consequences. For instance, a company was in a similar situation and decided to continue using the unsupported software, rather than upgrade to the licensed version, which would have cost them about $30,000. This put them out of compliance, and when audited for compliance, they were fined over $400,000 for each instance of the unsupported software.

It’s worth noting that your cyber insurance policy may require running supported software for you to qualify for coverage. If a cyber incident occurs and you need to file a claim, it’s possible that your claim may be denied.

Your technology will get stuck

The operating system on your server must be compatible with the applications running on it, as the server is the backbone of your business’s technology infrastructure.

For example, suppose you have a Sage database on your server. In that case, it needs to be compatible with the version of Windows Server it’s running on. When an old version of Windows Server is used, new feature sets that could improve your inventory scanning process may not be available as software manufacturers stop writing new features for outdated operating systems.

Technology is like a puzzle, and all the pieces must fit together to function. When upgrading one piece causes incompatibility with another, it can hold everything back.

Options for Moving Away From Windows Server 2012

If you are currently running on Windows Server 2012 and need to migrate to a newer operating system, there are several options available that don’t necessarily require buying new hardware. Thanks to virtualization technology, you can refresh your software without having to upgrade your hardware.

Your choices for migrating to the latest operating system are:

  1. Setting up a new virtual server using existing server hardware
  2. Purchasing new server hardware if needed
  3. Moving to the cloud

Regardless of which path you choose, it is best to start from a new virtual server instead of going through the upgrade process. Beginning from a clean slate offers the best chance for a stable and healthy environment, as you can have the latest compatible versions of your applications installed without any remnants from the old operating system causing issues.

Option 1: Spin Up a New Virtual Server

Upgrading to the latest operating system from Server 2012 is a software-based transition.

Assuming that your server hardware has adequate resources, you can create a new virtual server on the newest operating system, install the latest compatible versions of your applications, migrate your data, and start operating.

Option 2: Buy a New Server

In the event that your server hardware is over 5 years old, it might be necessary to replace it because of limited capacity and its age.

Physical servers typically have a recommended lifespan of 5 years, and since Windows Server 2012 has already hit its 10-year mark, it’s possible that your server may be approaching or exceeding its suggested lifespan. More recent operating systems are generally more advanced than their predecessors, which necessitates more processing power and storage space on your server. Using outdated hardware will most likely result in frustrating performance problems.

Option 3: Move to the Cloud

The cloud has become a feasible option for a larger audience. If you’re looking to avoid the hardware refresh cycle, there are now more and better options available to you than ever before. The suitability of the cloud (Microsoft Azure) for your business will depend on your applications and objectives.

Large organizations that have multiple sites or require 24/7 operations, such as manufacturing plants and hospitals, can benefit greatly from moving to the cloud. It ensures that their infrastructure is always online, regardless of any circumstances. While the cost of using Azure might be in the same range as what many companies are currently investing, the benefits of the cloud are unmatched in reliability, scalability, and a consistent user experience across all offices. If these factors are critical for your organization, moving to the cloud can be a wise decision.

For smaller organizations with minimal server requirements, Microsoft 365 has made going serverless possible. With Azure Active Directory (AD) domain services and SharePoint, you can have the necessary security features to restrict access to only what each employee needs and offer them a familiar file-sharing experience without a traditional domain controller on-premises.

Instead of a $20K capital expense every five years, you can subscribe to a particular tier of Microsoft 365 and unlock all of these functions. As a result, many small businesses can now operate without an on-premises server.

Start Planning Now to Avoid Missing the Deadline

The deadline for successful server migrations is fast approaching, and it requires thorough planning, coordination, and testing. Despite this, thousands of businesses worldwide are still using Server 2012, and resources will become scarcer as more companies move to the latest operating system.

The time required for the migration process can range from 3 to 6 months, depending on various factors such as the complexity of the environment, the project’s scope, hardware availability, and vendor schedules.

This process involves several tasks that can be time-consuming, including:

  • Designing and scoping the project by your IT team
  • Working with the application vendor(s) to determine their scope
  • Procuring hardware if needed (which can take up to 1-3 months with inventory shortages and supply chain issues)
  • Coordinating schedules of all vendors involved
  • Installing the latest version of Windows Server
  • Implementing all other applications
  • Conducting extensive testing
  • Rolling out and providing training

Talk to Your IT Team About Your Server Migration Today

If you have one or more servers still operating on Windows Server 2012, it’s time to start planning with your IT team.

If you require any assistance in planning, scoping, or executing your Windows Server 2012 migration, feel free to contact us. We’re pleased to help you determine the best course of action for your organization and achieve your IT objectives.

Beginning the process now can alleviate concerns, ensure compliance and security, secure pricing, and prevent rush fees that may arise as the deadline approaches. Taking proactive measures will benefit you in the long run.