SQL Server Upgrades | The Secret To Success Is Planning Ahead

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Why Companies Procrastinate Over SQL Server Upgrades

Ask any Database Administrator about why organizations large and small tend to procrastinate about SQL Server upgrades and you’ll hear similar replies: “upgrades are painful, upgrades are difficult,” “everything breaks.”  So instead of going through the process of upgrading, they ignore it until it creates a roadblock. 

Fortified Data’s, Senior Consultant, Matt Gallentine has heard it all. “Despite there being an end of life to each version of SQL Server that is released, a lot of companies tend to leave their upgrades until the last minute, and that means that they’re approaching the point where it will no longer be supported in any way by Microsoft. Being left without any security patches, or any major bug or performance fixes is a vulnerable place to be – especially with security being such a big focus in the tech world.” 

The consequences of what happens when upgrades are skipped or left to the last minute include the possibility of running out of extended support – an unenviable place to be with news data breaches appearing in headlines every day.

The Key to Success Is Planning Ahead for a SQL Server Upgrade

Extended support for the SQL Server 2012 is ending in about 10 months. For an enterprise, that means that in July 2022, if there were a major security flaw or vulnerability that was found within that version of SQL Server, Microsoft will not be creating a patch for it, and the affected organization will need to migrate off of it. 

That can lead to a lot of vulnerabilities and open an avenue for substantial problems. By planning ahead, a multitude of significant issues can easily be avoided. 

“Sometimes it’s like doing your tax returns,” Gallentine says. “It’s not always something you look forward to, but you know that if you wait until the night before they are due, you’re going to make mistakes and leave dollars on the table. But if you plan ahead, you’ll be more successful and feel more confident about the future.”

Upgrading any version of SQL Server that you know is going away or that you are planning to decommission is still very worthwhile – if only to avoid risks and unnecessary vulnerabilities. The sooner you plan ahead for the upgrade, the smoother and more successful it will go.

Proactive vs. Reactive SQL Server Upgrades

There may be some readers of this blog who are thinking: “But I’m happy with the version I have, why do I have to take the time to upgrade it?”

The answer really comes down to security, and being sure your organization is protected, as your SQL Server is coming up on its end-of-life date or the end of mainstream support date. 

It’s understandable that you may like the version you have and that after going through a previous upgrade or installation, you’re hesitant to go through this upgrade which may lead to changes. But with a known end date of any version of SQL Server whether it be a standard edition or enterprise edition, you have time to plan, so take full advantage of it and be prepared. Proactively get everything set up now, so transitioning to the new version of SQL Server is not last minute.

This will allow time for testing and determining the best architecture, and if there needs to be any changes. 

A rushed, reactive approach too close to the end date of a specific version of SQL Server, leads to the potential for mistakes or not having enough time to test to make sure everything is going to perform without any problems.

Don’t Get to The Point Where You Are Now Out of Support for Your Version of SQL Server

You get your teeth cleaned every six months (even if it is inconvenient) to avoid larger issues down the road. A SQL Server out of support is worse than a cavity. If there is a bug or security flaw that is found, your organization is left high and dry with no means to fix that security vulnerability, unless you’re going to a new version where Microsoft would then be patching and fixing those security vulnerabilities and pushing those patches out to you.

“We’ll hear that upgrades are going to be too much work, or it’s going to be too much time with their application offline, but those concerns are often overstated and don’t come close to the pain that security breaches can cause. All of which can be easily avoided with an upgrade”, Gallentine adds.

SQL Server Upgrades Aren’t Really That Hard

Despite all of the concern about difficulty and hours offline, the reality is a much brighter picture. Fortified Data’s experts find that SQL Server upgrades can be done quickly and easily. With time and planning, upgrades are virtually free of any risk of performance problems after the migration.

“That’s why it’s critical to start thinking about having those conversations earlier, rather than letting it go, or waiting until you’re worried about audit violations,” says Gallentine.

Fortified Data Is Ready When You Are (and even when you aren’t)

Fortified can help with any of your SQL Server upgrade needs. The Enterprise Data Services that Fortified features includes getting you prepared for the end of extended support for SQL Server 2012.

We understand upgrades may not be your favorite thing to do – but it’s our bread-and-butter and our team of experienced DBAs are here and ready to help you plan ahead and ensure that it’s never a challenging or painful process in meeting the needs of any enterprise, no matter the size.

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