Dec 28 2023

What SMBs Need to Know About October’s End of Support for Windows Server 2012

Support for Windows Server 2012 and 2012 R2 ended in October. Here’s what it means for small businesses — and what they can do about it.

Support for Microsoft Windows Server 2012 has ended. As of October, both Windows Server 2012 and Windows Server 2012 R2 will no longer receive security updates, non-security updates, bug fixes, technical support, or technical content updates. In other words, if your small business is still using Windows Server 2012, you’re on your own. 

Here’s what this means for small and midsize businesses, and what they can do to reduce the risk of unsupported server OS issues.

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Why Its Vital to Update Windows Server

Windows Server is an OS for servers. These servers can be on-premises, in a colocated data center or managed by cloud providers. The latest version is Windows Server 2022. Before that was Windows Server 2019, then Windows Server 2016; this means that businesses still using Server 2012 are three versions behind the latest release.

So, what’s the big deal? If servers are working as intended and staffers are comfortable using the 2012 version, why make the switch? With the OS now out of support, several pitfalls could prove problematic.

The first is security. Without security updates, servers aren’t protected if new vulnerabilities or exploits are discovered. More recent releases will receive patches to fix possible vulnerabilities, but IT teams are responsible for identifying and addressing security issues on their own for Server 2012.

Compliance is also a potential problem. As regulatory expectations evolve, it may be necessary for businesses to change how they collect, store and use data. Without ongoing support, Server 2012 puts companies at risk of noncompliance.

Additionally, there are operational benefits that come with a move to Windows Server 2022, such as Microsoft Defender Advanced Threat Protection, improvements to the Windows Admin Center, and Azure Arc-enabled servers that allow organizations to seamlessly manage on-prem and cloud-based resources.

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Put simply, staying with Server 2012 is like driving a car without a seatbelt. While the vehicle will still work, drivers are putting themselves at serious risk.

The Best Windows Server Options for SMBs

So, where does this leave SMBs? Depending on current use cases and existing IT infrastructure, businesses have several server options.

In most cases, the best option is to make the transition to Windows Server 2022. Just like its predecessors, it can be deployed on-premises or in the cloud. Along with new functions and features, mainstream support for Server 2022 runs until Oct. 13, 2026, and extended support doesn’t end until Oct. 14, 2031.

Still, some businesses find this solution inadequate due to compatibility issues between the more recent server OS versions and their own workloads. In such cases, there are often just one or two unique workloads that may struggle to operate correctly on the newer software. Businesses with this issue have other options beyond just sticking with Server 2012 and hoping for the best. These organizations can:

  • Lift and shift to Microsoft Azure. SMBs can also choose to shift their Server 2012 deployments into Azure. Making the move to Azure comes with free extended security updates until 2026, which are automatically applied to Server 2012.
  • Purchase extended security updates. Companies can choose to purchase ESUs, which provide three years of security updates. ESUs are renewable annually and continue until Oct. 13, 2026, for Windows Server 2012. Businesses can use Azure Arc to deploy purchased ESUs (Extended Security Updates) on-premises. With Azure Arc, SMBs extend their Azure platform and can build applications and services across data centers. Eligible customers with Software Assurance under an Enterprise Agreement can purchase and deploy ESUs with Azure Arc for on-premises or hosted environments.

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While both of the above options address server security issues, SMBs are still limited by the nature of Server 2012 itself. Even with ESUs, businesses don’t get bug fixes, tech support or online technical content updates.

No matter which option SMBs choose — purchasing ESUs, moving to Azure with Server 2012, or upgrading to 2022 — it pays to be prepared.

CDW can help small businesses set the stage for server success. From an evaluation of current IT needs to recommendations for new technology adoption, deployment and implementation, CDW’s small business services have you covered.

This article is part of BizTech's AgilITy blog series.

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