You know what they say: “Nothing lasts forever.” Few industries adhere to this statement like the tech industry does.
Recently, we noted the April 2023 end of life for Windows Exchange Server 2013. Although a bit further out, Windows Server 2012 and 2012 R2 will reach their extended end date in October 2023.
Microsoft offers a variety of options for upgrading, along with replacement versions for the OS. However, the number of critical business services run on Windows servers complicates the migration process.
To ensure a smooth transition, you and your IT managers should start preparing now.
Let’s take a look at what this all means for you and your business, and how to prepare.
Windows Server 2012 End Date Details
The mainstream end date for Windows Server 2012 and 2012 R2 occurred October 9, 2018, with the extended end date of October 10th 2023.
If you’re determined to retain your current versions as long as possible, extended security updates can be purchased for 1-3 years for customers with Software Assurance. This will occur under an Enterprise Agreement, at 75-125% of the original license cost.
Microsoft also supports migrating 2012/2012 R2 servers to Azure. Additionally, Microsoft will waive the charges for extended security updates.
However, upgraded versions of Windows Server won’t support some 2012 or 2012 R2 features. As a result, IT managers need to review the removed or deprecated features.
From there, you’ll need to determine how the removal of these Windows Server 2012 features will affect your business.
If you don’t want to move to the cloud or pay extra fees, now’s the time to select your next Windows Server Version for an upgrade.
Windows Server Migration Options
The usual options for upgrades include clean installs, Cluster Operating System (Cluster OS) rolling upgrades, migration, and in-place upgrades. Each method comes with advantages, disadvantages, and costs.
Microsoft portrays clean installs as the simplest way to install Windows Server. However, this can be the most disruptive to many businesses, since services supported by that specific server will be unavailable for the duration of the upgrade.
This method will be least disruptive on unused backup or fail-over servers. But, even in this scenario, it puts the resiliency of your organization at risk.
Cluster OS rolling upgrades apply to organizations running Hyper-V virtual machines and Scale-out File Server workloads on clustered server hardware. The cluster can be operated continuously through multiple upgrades, with the critical business processes run within containers.
Although Cluster OS upgrades are the least disruptive, they require cluster architecture to be in place. Unless your organization already operates, or plans to operate, a cluster configuration, this option remains too complex and expensive to develop.
For the third option, you can perform in-place upgrades without additional hardware, and retain settings, data, server roles and features of the original OS.
Some IT managers prefer to use this method to minimize server setup after the upgrade. But, this method also comes with several drawbacks.
First, there are limited pathways for upgrade between Windows Server OS versions:
- Windows Server 2012 – Upgrade to Windows Server 2012 R2 or 2016 Only
- Windows Server 2012 R2 – Upgrade to Windows Server 2016 or 2019 Only
- Windows Server 2016 – Upgrade to Windows Server 2019 or 2022
This means if you’re running 2012 or 2012 R2, but want to upgrade to the newest Windows Server 2022, you must perform two separate upgrades.
Second, the hardware requirements and drivers may be different for upgraded versions of Windows Server. When planning for the migration, you not only need to perform thorough backups, you also need to verify each hardware component is sufficient for the upgrade and will work for the newer version.
Microsoft notes that in-place upgrades work best on virtual machines that don’t need to worry about drivers for specific OEM hardware.
Which is the Best Upgrade Path for You?
Determining the best upgrade method and the best version of Windows Server requires significant knowledge of both your business and the various versions available.
For example, an upgrade to Windows Server 2016 will be short-lived, because it will lose support in 2027. But, for some organizations, a short-term upgrade to 2016, or migration to Azure, might make sense.
Windows 2019 and Windows 2022 contain many upgraded security, management, and cloud-friendly features which enable more modern infrastructure options. However, you’ll also need to have the personnel, hardware, and strategies available to take advantage of such features.
As you can see, there’s simply not a one-size-fits-all solution.
Leaning on expert assistance can help you to truly understand your options, plan effective transitions, and minimize costly business disruptions.
Ideal Integrations, along with the added support of Blue Bastion Cyber Security, can help. Simply contact us at 412-349-6680, or fill out the form below, and our experts will provide a no-obligation consultation regarding best practices and next steps that suit your needs.