Support for SQL Server 2005 ends this week - are you ready?

At this late hour, the key is to minimize your exposure

Tomorrow marks the end of support for Microsoft SQL Server 2005, and that means companies relying on it are just about out of time. There will be no more updates from Microsoft, so staying with the software could open you up to a host of risks.

Microsoft encourages users to move to SQL Server 2014 or Azure SQL Database, but those aren't the only options. Either way, the transition is going to take some time. If you haven't already been working on it, the most important thing now is to act quickly to minimize the amount of time your company is left exposed.

"The biggest risk stems from continuing to use the product when there is any kind of uncontrolled or external access to that database," said Tim Hegedus, senior manager of the analyst team with Miro Consulting. "Any security breach can be damaging not just monetarily but also reputationally."

Compliance problems can also be a result for organizations in financial services and other industries where regulations require the use of supported software, noted David Mayer, vice president of product management for software with Insight.

Unfortunately, upgrading SQL Server is typically not a matter of simply plugging in the new version; the apps built on the database can be the much bigger challenge. They may need to be reconfigured or upgraded as well, Mayer explained.

Organizations that haven't planned ahead for Tuesday should begin by assessing their legal, financial and reputational exposure, Hegedus said.

Emergency funds for the project may have to be found.

Companies should also look closely at all deployments and classify them into one of the following categories: 1) purely internal and not needing any action; 2) requiring an upgrade; or 3) needing some level of additional support from Microsoft, he said.

"My guess is that it will be some combination of at least two of those for the majority of companies," he said.

Mayer encourages companies to consider the cloud-based Azure option seriously.

"Not only is this an excellent opportunity to dip into the Azure pool, but it solves the problem quickly and easily," he explained. "Instead of buying a new server, installing a bunch of software and then moving the data, an Azure SQL VM can be spun up in just a few minutes."

Microsoft offers an open-source migration tool to help companies taking that route.

Whatever you do, the project clearly needs to be a priority for IT.

"IT is all about competing priorities, and triaging IT projects has become an art form," Mayer said.

Looking ahead, "don’t go through this again," he urged. "SQL 2008 goes off support in July 2019. Start looking at instances of SQL 2008 now to give yourself plenty of time."

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