What does it mean for your business?
Windows Server 2012 was launched in May 2012 and it’s coming to end-of-life support (EOL) on 10th October 2023. Closing-off a 10-year period! How time flies.
As technology continues to advance at a rapid pace, software manufacturers frequently release new versions to keep up with evolving demands. We’ll explore the significance of Windows Server 2012 reaching its End of Life (EOL) on 10th October 2023 and what it means for your business.
Why does it matter?
When a software product reaches EOL, it means that the manufacturer will no longer provide support, updates, or security patches for that version. As a result, continuing to use the operating system beyond its EOL date, poses significant security risks for your business.
One of the main reasons to upgrade from legacy unsupported systems is security. As cyber threats are becoming more common, attackers are seeking vulnerabilities to exploit your systems. Windows Server 2012 will become increasingly susceptible to security and data breaches, which can lead to large financial losses and reputational harm.
There are heaps of benefits for moving over to Windows Server 2022, first and foremost it offers greater cyber protection than previous versions. Features such as Microsoft Defender Threat Protection, Windows Defender Exploit Guard and Virtualisation Security all contribute to this superiority. Windows Server 2022 can also identify and mitigate data breaches, zero-day threats and network-based attacks. Meanwhile, Microsoft’s new secured-core solutions can fight existing and emerging IT security threats at hardware, firmware and operating system levels. All-in-all, moving from the old to the new will improve your business security.
Compliance and Regulations
Compliance is not just a best practice it’s also a legal requirement. As regulations evolve and become more rigorous, running an unsupported operating system like Windows Server 2012 could put your company at risk with compliance standards. Elevating your infrastructure to a supported Windows Server 2022 ensures that your company remains compliant, which will avoid potential legal and financial losses.
The Upgrade Path: Planning for a Seamless Transition
The prospect of migrating away from your current infrastructure when it relies on systems nearing the end of support (EOL) can be a daunting, especially if you’re dealing with multiple servers. But, with careful planning and implementation, it can be a straightforward process.
Here is a step-by-step guide to help you plan your migration:
1. Full Assessment and Software Inventory:
- Document all your existing servers, their roles, applications, and dependencies. This inventory will be crucial for your migration plan. For example, if you’re migrating a domain controller, see what roles have been installed by going into Server Manager. Examples like moving, DHCP, DNS, NPS, Active Directory Certificate Services to name a few. When it comes to migration, remember patience is key. Rather than rushing to move everything at once, address each role individually. This approach minimises complexity and helps pinpoint the source of any issues that may arise during the migration, ensuring a smoother migration for the end users.
- Identify any legacy applications or hardware that may not be compatible with Windows Server 2022. Plan to address these issues before the migration starts.
2. Plan and Design Your Project:
- Create a detailed migration plan that includes timelines, roles, responsibilities, and resources using something like a Gantt chart.
- Determine the migration method you’ll use (for example an in-place upgrade (not really recommended) or building a new Virtual server and moving data/roles one by one. This is always the preferred method (Side by Side Migration) especially with domain controllers.
- Design your new Windows Server 2022 installation, including any server roles, network configurations, and storage requirements.
3. Backups and Snapshots:
- Backups: As with any server migration, it’s important you establish a robust backup system before starting on the project. In typical scenarios, especially when working within virtual environments like Hyper-V or VMware, this step is crucial. Ensuring a comprehensive backup ensures the integrity of your data and provides a safety net for recovery in the event of any unforeseen issues during the migration process.
- Snapshots: While an in-place upgrade is sometimes necessary due to specific circumstances, it’s generally not the recommended path. If you find yourself in a situation where you must perform an in-place upgrade, please do take precautions. Ensure you have a recent Snapshot and backup in place before proceeding. For example, if you’re upgrading from Windows Server 2012 to 2022, plan to execute this process over a weekend and take a Snapshot before starting. This Snapshot acts as a safety net in case the upgrade encounters issues. Be mindful though, that reverting to the previous state might result in data loss if users have been actively using the system. Whenever possible, opt for a Side-by-Side migration, as it’s the recommended and a safer approach. Also you might want to consider only jumping one or two versions up first, for example going to Windows Server 2016 and then 2022.
4. Test, Test and Test:
- Nothing can be more frustrating than going live and not fully testing the system. Install your new server that mirrors your production environment. Test the migration process and applications thoroughly to identify and resolve any issues before the actual migration starts.
5. Executing the Migration:
- Schedule a maintenance window for your migration. To ensure minimal disruption to the end users, choose a suitable time for example out of hours and over a weekend.
- Depending on your chosen migration method, perform the migration steps, whether it’s an in-place upgrade (not recommended) or migrating onto a completely new server (Side by Side migration) the preferred method.
6. Post-Migration Testing, and Backups:
- After the migration, conduct thorough testing in the new environment to verify that all applications and services are functioning correctly.
- Check you have the same data count on your existing and new server. They should match, having the same file sizes, same number of files/folders etc.
- Continuously monitor the system performance to promptly detect and address any bottlenecks or issues that may arise during or after the migration process.
- Make sure you remember to include the new server in your backup process.
7. User Training and Communication to the Business:
- Make sure you inform the end-users and other IT staff about the migration schedule and any changes on accessing the new system.
- Provide training and documentation if required for users using the new system.
8. Security and Compliance:
- Ensure that security configurations are properly set up in Windows Server 2022, including firewall rules, antivirus, and access controls.
- Make sure you verify that your new environment complies with industry standards and internal compliance standards.
9. Rollback Plan In Place:
- Prepare a rollback plan in case the migration encounters unexpected issues. This plan should include steps to revert to the previous configuration while minimizing data loss or downtime.
- Keep detailed records of every step in the migration process. This documentation will be valuable for troubleshooting, auditing, and future reference. Makes sure you also document all passwords used for the new system.
- If you’ve successfully migrated onto the new environment, its now time to fully decommission your old server. It’s always good practise to power off the server for a few days/week before engaging to fully decommission the server. Leaving the old server powered off, will highlight issues and can quickly be resolved by simply powering on the server so you can investigate further, which will limit downtime for the end users.
- If you’ve successfully migrated to the new environment, it’s now time to proceed with full decommissioning of your old server. A recommended practice is to power off the old server for a few days or a week before initiating the final decommissioning process. Keeping the old server powered off during this period serves as a diagnostic tool; if any issues arise, you can quickly resolve them by powering on the server for further investigation. This approach will help minimise downtime for end users and ensures a smoother transition.
Migrating to a new server operating system is a complex task, but with thorough planning, testing, and execution, you can minimize risks and ensure a successful transition to Windows Server 2022.
The journey going from Windows Server 2012 to Windows Server 2022 is more than just an upgrade; it’s a strategic move towards a more secure, efficient, and future proofing your IT infrastructure. As experts in this field, we’re always on hand to support you with infrastructure change. Please get in touch if you’d like to hear more.