In our last post, we explained that Microsoft has discontinued support for Internet Explorer versions 7, 8, 9 and 10. Users should upgrade to IE 11 or choose a different browser platform in order to avoid security threats.

However, older versions of IE aren’t the only Microsoft products reaching end-of-support. On April 12, 2016, Microsoft will no longer support SQL Server 2005, and that could spell trouble for many businesses.

SQL Server is Microsoft’s popular database platform, which is widely used to store data and serve it up for applications and reports. SQL Server 2005 is still being used by as many as 30 percent of businesses, according to Microsoft estimates, even though newer versions have long been available.

As we’ve noted previously, end of support doesn’t mean the software no longer works. It means that Microsoft will no longer release security patches and updates, making systems vulnerable to emerging security threats. The risks are greater with database software than with a web browser — a cyberattack could expose an organization’s sensitive data and potentially cripple operations.

SQL Server 2005 is associated with Windows Server 2003, a Microsoft server platform that reached end-of-support on July 14, 2015. Experts estimate that 13 million to 15 million installations of Windows Server 2003 are still in operation, and SQL Server 2005 is installed on one-sixth of them. Many organizations have not yet migrated from Windows Server 2003 because of the time and complexity involved, and probably won’t do so for several more years.

It is possible that many of these installations are supporting departmental applications and generating reports. Organizations are more likely to have migrated mission-critical workloads to newer Windows Server platforms. However, these organizations may not even be aware that they’re running unsupported software, increasing the risk to the business.

Upgrading to a newer version of SQL Server offers many benefits. The 2014 edition, which is available in Express, Standard, Enterprise and Business Intelligence editions, uses in-memory analytics to deliver up to 13 times the performance of the 2005 edition and greatly improved transaction processing. SQL Server 2014 also offers encryption options to enhance security. SQL Server 2012 is still available but the 2016 edition is being tested and should be released soon. The Azure SQL Database is a cloud-based option that’s offered in three different editions.

By upgrading from Windows Server 2003 to Windows Server 2012 R2, organizations can gain improved virtualization and private cloud capabilities, enhanced security, high availability, and system and storage management. SQL Server 2014 is able to take advantage of many of these capabilities.

Organizations subject to government and industry regulations should upgrade as soon as practicable to meet compliance requirements. Regulations such as PCI and HIPAA require that databases and operating systems be kept up-to-date and patched.

Upgrading server platforms and databases is not easy. It requires a thorough assessment of the IT environment and analysis of workloads and compatibility issues before the migration can even begin., your outsourced IT department, can help you determine the best approach for your requirements and map out a migration plan that will minimize disruption to your business.

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I'm currently a junior at Rutgers University, majoring in Human Resources with a minor in Music. My love for music has already led me to an associates degree in Music from Raritan Valley Community College.