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Some of Microsoft’s most popular products are nearing the end of their supported lifecycle: MS Windows 7, Server 2008 and SQL 2008. Is your business ready?

Posted June 28, 2018
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Avoid the famous phrase: “Sorry, your product is no longer supported”. Follow our Microsoft end of support guide and ensure your business won’t be impacted.

By Zubair Khan

When a critical software bug or security vulnerability impacts your business, the last thing you want to hear from your helpdesk is “Sorry, your product is no longer supported”. That’s why it’s so important to keep your software up-to-date and under support. However, this isn’t always as straightforward as it sounds.

Microsoft products typically remain under mainstream support for five years after general availability. Upon completion of those five years, the product moves into extended support for another five years, meaning that Microsoft will still release patches and security fixes for bugs or any vulnerabilities, however, only the most critical security vulnerabilities will be patched at no cost and you must pay for non-critical patches and telephone support.

This situation was made more complex when Microsoft started releasing Service Packs, which are basically Windows updates that make the Operating System (OS) more reliable. When a Service Pack was released, the mainstream support period for the unpatched OS would end two years after the release of the Service Pack, while the patched OS would retain its original 5-year mainstream support period. Service packs are no longer an offering. Windows 10 and the new Server 2016 are now based on feature update versions and the lifecycle is much shorter than 5 years.

To further complicate matters, Microsoft also offers a Modern Lifecycle Policy support model, which means the product will be supported indefinitely if you pay for Software Assurance (SA). However, Microsoft charges a premium price for this service and can terminate this support policy with only 12 months’ notice.

To help guide you through this policy maze, we’ve identified the three high priority Microsoft products that will go end-of-life in 2019 and 2020, along with the support and security implications you face if you become unsupported and the steps you should take to ensure your business is not disrupted.

1. Microsoft Windows 7 (or any version of Windows before Windows 10)

Support for Windows 7 (released in October 2009) ends on 14th January 2020. After this date, technical assistance and security updates will no longer be available. If you continue to use Windows 7 after support has ended you will be vulnerable to malware and security threats. This is particularly relevant in light of the Notifiable Data Breach scheme (Australia’s new cyber-security laws).

If you’re still running Windows 7, then it’s likely your PC is old and outdated, meaning upgrading to a new computer would be the most sensible solution. A new PC with Windows 10 will be faster, more powerful and more secure.

With the increasing number of attacks documented in Australia per year and the severity of the consequences, this is considered a basic security measure and it just doesn’t make sense to keep an outdated Operating System that will expose your business to threats. If you are a Bremmar client, your Client Information Systems Manager will be in contact to discuss the possible options for your business and guide you in the right direction so you are prepared before the cut-over date and can avoid any possible risks.

2. Microsoft Windows Server 2008 (on-premise and cloud)

Support for MS Windows Server 2008 (released in February 2008) ends on 14th January 2020. After this date, Microsoft will no longer accept warranty claims, provide bug fixes and security patches, or offer any type of technical assistance. If you’re running a business, this leaves your data vulnerable to hackers and cyber-criminals.

Your available options are to either pay for Microsoft premium support, which is not the most cost-efficient solution in the long run, or upgrade to a new operating system. You might also consider updating your infrastructure to benefit from the powerful new virtualisation features available in the latest Windows Server 2016 operating system.

For Bremmar clients, the optimum approach will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis depending on your business infrastructure. Your Bremmar Information Systems Manager (ISM) will be in touch to discuss your options and help you determine the best way to proceed. Planning and implementing these changes can be a lengthy and complex process, so we recommend allocating at least six months to allow for unexpected delays and challenges.

3. Microsoft SQL Server 2008 and SQL Server 2008 R2

Mainstream support for SQL Server 2008 (released in June 2008) ended on 8th July 2014, and extended support for SQL Server 2008 R2 will end on 9th July 2019. After this date, Microsoft will release no further patches or security updates for any version of SQL Server 2008 or 2008 R2, which means you may no longer comply with data protection and cyber-security regulations.

Upgrading your SQL Server will ensure that your product remains fully supported and you will also benefit from a range of product enhancements, bug fixes and security improvements that come with the latest software version.

For Bremmar clients, the best upgrade path will be assessed on a case-by-case basis depending on your business infrastructure and applications. For example, ConnectWise may be incompatible with SQL Server 2008 after the extended support period ends. Your Bremmar ISM will be in touch to discuss possible options and help you determine the best way forward.

Premium Support

While it’s not an approach we recommend due to the high cost, Microsoft does also offer a Premium Assurance plan for Windows Server and SQL Server. This support offering provides patches for critical bugs for a six-year period following the end of extended support, meaning Windows Server 2008 R2 can be supported until 2026 and SQL Server 2008 can be supported until 2025. The fee for Premium Assurance can be up to 12% of your current licence costs, depending on when you place the order.

Conclusion

As we approach the second half of 2018, it’s essential to prioritise these critical Microsoft upgrades to ensure your business data remains secure and compliant in the years ahead. Some of these updates can be lengthy and complex, so your business should start preparing for them now and avoid any last minute, rushed decisions.

To discuss your options, call Bremmar today on 1300-991-351 or email help@bremmar.com.au.

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By Zubair Khan

NOC, Process and Systems Head Engineer

Known as ConnectWise, Labtech and reporting “guru”, Zubair has built Bremmar’s monitoring system from the ground up and revamped the company’s internal systems. Zubair is known for finding quick solutions for tricky situations and loves doing that with a smile on his face. His skills, together with his positive attitude, even got him a slogan within the company: Keep calm and let Zubair handle it.

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