Windows Server 2008 will reach end of support in early 2020
Windows 7 is not the only Microsoft product hurtling towards its end. Extended support for Server 2008 will expire on the same date, January 14, 2020, which may pose an even bigger security risk than end of support for the desktop OS, especially to internally hosted web sites and internet-facing client servers like Microsoft Exchange.
In general, Microsoft’s policy is to provide five years of extended support for its enterprise products once they reach the end of their mainstream support periods. Server 2008 was supposed to go into extended support in July 2013, but Microsoft extended the deadline to January 2015 (to align with the launch of Windows Server 2012), making January 2020 the official cutoff for extended support. During the extended support period, Microsoft continues to provide free patches and fixes. For support beyond that, customers must sign separate agreements and pay extra. Once extended support ends, however, Server 2008 users will neither receive support nor patches.
End of support is concerning mainly because it will leave Server 2008 vulnerable to malware and hacking. While patches will no longer come out for Server 2008, Microsoft will continue, as usual, to release fixes for bugs in current versions that might also affect Server 2008, basically providing hackers with a map of security holes to exploit. Servers that are connected to the internet, in particular, will be under threat. We have witnessed the ramifications of this firsthand when onboarding new clients. Unpatched client web servers get hijacked and used for storing pornography and illegal movies. Even if a server isn’t accessible from the Internet, an infected workstation can spread malware to any unpatched servers on the local network. And, of course, Microsoft will not be able to provide support past January 2020.
How to upgrade Windows Server 2008
Windows Server 2016, if possible, should be the replacement. Otherwise, Windows Server 2012 R2 will still be supported until 2023, and could be an option for servers running applications that do not yet support Windows Server 2016. Or it might be time to start thinking about the cloud and Azure. In any case, whether you decide to upgrade on-premises or go to the cloud (a separate discussion with which we can help), the key is to start planning now.
SQL Server 2008
On a somewhat related note, Microsoft SQL Server 2008 and 2008 R2 have already reached end of support, as of July 9, 2018. While this upgrade would be independent of the server operating system, older SQL servers could potentially require upgrades to SQL as well.
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