Prepare for SQL Server 2008 end of life by leveraging the cloud

End of life (EOL) is fast approaching for SQL Server 2008 and SQL Server 2008 R2, with extended support officially ending on 9 July 2019. After a decade of faithful service, Microsoft's regular cumulative updates and service packs for these versions will cease.

Does your business have a data platform modernisation plan in place to ensure your SQL transition is seamless? 

We speak with many customers that feel a lack of time is the reason they can't achieve their digital transformation goals, but it's highly important for your decision-makers to understand the business impact of not acting at all.

It's true - your SQL Server 2008 and SQL Server 2008 R2 databases won't suddenly stop working when the support period expires. However, the business consequences of modernising your platform too late is potentially disastrous.

  • Higher operational expenses: Costs for your applications and workloads running on SQL Server 2008 and 2008 R2 will sky-rocket immensely without official support and security patches, and you'll have to be prepared to invest in other costly and complex solutions just to keep them online, secure and functional past the EOL date.
  • Compliance and governance risk: If your databases aren't up-to-date with the latest official updates, there are serious compliance and governance risks associated with data integrity and safety. Infrastructure has to keep compliant with regulatory standards, otherwise there are many legal and financial penalties if things go wrong.
  • Increased security threats: Without the latest patching, EOL databases will face higher vulnerabilities to cyber-attacks, system bugs and other unforeseen issues, making your workloads an unacceptable security risk.

We get it - modernising your infrastructure takes change, time and money. But change doesn't have to mean chaos, especially with the right plan, the right options and time still on your side to assess and modernise your data estate.


Preparing for a modern data platform

Data platform modernisation isn't just about upgrading databases - it's about driving digital transformation.

Migrating from SQL Server 2008 and SQL Server 2008 R2 EOL is a major opportunity to promote the business and technical benefits of the cloud, and how it can align with organisational objectives and modern infrastructure needs.

One common mistake is approaching the data modernisation initiative as merely a long overdue upgrade to overcome; take the time to get the team to understand both the high-level business advantages and technical capabilities of hosting your SQL Server workloads in Azure, and you can better leverage the new platform.


Business benefits of Azure SQL Database

  • Broad SQL Server engine compatibility
  • Familiar SQL tools with the added bells and whistles of Azure
  • Faster data migrations 
  • Fully managed service (no infrastructure to install or maintain)
  • Increased ROI and reduced costs
  • Integrated business intelligence (BI) and data analytics tools
  • Scalable, on-demand compute and storage resources


Technical benefits of Azure SQL Database

  • 99.99% up-time Service Level Agreement (SLA)
  • Azure AD authentication and single sign-on support (SSO)
  • Automated backups
  • Built-in high availability (HA)
  • No ongoing SQL licensing costs with pay as you go model
  • Point-in-time database restore capability
  • Threat detection (alerts)

The scalability of the cloud alone and the elimination of ongoing licensing costs in favour of 'pay as you go' billing future proof your business considerably, so that another end-of-life migration won't be on the cards for a long time.

Upgrading from ageing on-premises hardware reaching EOL isn't just about keeping up-to-date with fancy new technology; it's about ensuring your business is competitive and fully capable to drive smarter data-driven decisions.


Assess available Azure SQL service tiers

Before you can migrate your SQL Server databases to the cloud, the most important thing to do is assess all of your available data platform modernisation options, define their capabilities and make the benefits clear for your team.

In 2018 alone, Microsoft has expanded the number of Azure SQL service tiers to better suit a wide range of business needs, budgets and objectives - we've written up a handy guide for you to use as a resource on their differences.

Read more: The go-to Azure migration options for SQL Server end of life


Understand the compliance risks of EOL

SQL Server 2008 End of Life Compliance Risks


As we pointed out, running SQL Server 2008/SQL Server 2008 R2 past the end-of-support date won't immediately lead to ruin, but there are compliance considerations to acknowledge and address to avoid unnecessary risk.

For starters, running business critical applications on a data platform with lapsed support is a recipe for disaster. With the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) now in effect since May 2018, there are major implications on the use and management of customers data and over 160 new requirements - not to mention other standards to meet, such as PCI compliance for processed purchase transactions, or adhering to HIPAA and ISO 27001/27002.

Australia's own Notifiable Data Breaches (NDB) scheme also makes it crucial your organisation is prepared to respond to data breaches and notification obligations - making that EOL upgrade all the more important than ever.

The big case for migrating SQL Server to the cloud is, quite simply, Azure can help accelerate your path to GDPR compliance with ready access to the latest processes, resources and tools that can better optimise data management, data security and data privacy practices. Azure is one of the best cloud data platforms that meets regulatory standards, and moving things over only helps you better monitor and manage data in the long-term.

You're already worrying about outdated infrastructure - increased risk is easily avoidable and key to plan around, especially with the right cloud experts on hand to help guide you through your data estate modernisation.


Leverage Extended Security Updates (ESU)

If you've been holding off your data platform modernisation planning, Microsoft's newest incentive makes a compelling case to prepare for the move sooner rather than later - and it's important your team knows all about it.

Extended Security Updates (ESU) gives three more years of official support and security patches for businesses still running operational workloads on SQL Server 2008 and SQL Server 2008 R2 (and Windows Server 2008) - and the biggest benefit of the program is you can get it free if you move old workloads to Azure Virtual Machines (VMs).

Businesses who insist on running legacy SQL Servers on-premises can also claim the new ESU plan by buying the plan and its three years of extended support outright, but you will need to pay 75 per cent of the full license cost per year, which is similar to expensive support plans like Premium Assurance. You also need Software Assurance (SA) or Subscription licenses under an Enterprise Agreement enrolment to be eligible to buy the ESU plan.

Take the lead and educate your decision-makers on the massive benefits of the ESU to drive your data modernisation plan forward; it's cost-effective (free is free) and it enables your business to have three more years to prepare for a full move away from legacy SQL Servers into Azure's full platform as a service (PaaS) capabilities.


Prepare for SQL Server end of life with the experts

Transitioning from SQL Server 2008/SQL Server 2008 R2 to the many service tiers of Azure SQL Database can be a complex undertaking that requires extensive planning and expert consultation. While your business can continue to run past the end-of-life date, this poses serious compliance and financial risks.

With the number of cost-effective migration paths and discounts on offer from Microsoft, there's no better time than now to plan for a transition to Azure - so you're ready as an organisation when the time comes to move to the cloud.

Oour recommended next step is to read our free, detailed white paper report - 3 Ways To Reduce Cost & Complexity with Azure SQL Database - and discover the benefits of modernising your on-premises EOL SQL Server with Azure Cloud, including further information on the platform's many cost-effective and scalable options fit for different types of business needs.