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If your organization is still using SQL Server 2005, this might be a good time to begin mapping out your strategy for replacing the 10-year-old relational database management system.  Come April 12th of next year, Microsoft is pulling the plug on extended support for SQL Server 2005.

This means that unless your company has secured a custom support agreement through Microsoft Premier Support, you won’t be getting any product updates or security patches.

Migrating can come with a hefty price tag. A Microsoft-commissioned study conducted by Forrester Research estimated that an organization with some 30,000 employees and 300 SQL Server databases that needed to be moved will likely shell out $1.5 million in initial software licensing fees, and about $1.8 million in training, data migration, planning, and other professional services.

So, what are your options?

Do nothing

For many organizations, SQL Server 2005 has been storing data for applications and making information available to business groups reliably and cost-effectively for more than a decade. It will likely remain doing so even without support. However, taking the, “if it ain’t broke, don’t replace it,” route will expose organizations to security risks. Many businesses, especially those in the financial sector, are required to maintain support for the system as part of regulatory compliance and their business continuity strategy.

Move to a different platform

Data in SQL Server 2005 can be replicated onto a whole different database. There are many relational databases platforms that can replace SQL Server 2005, but there are some risks associated with moving to a different platform. However, organizations can mitigate this through business continuity planning and careful planning of their extract-transfer-load process for migration.

Move to a later version of SQL Server

Newer versions of the system offer much higher levels of performance. Microsoft is currently promoting SQL Server 2014 as an ideal migration destination. The company claims that SQL Server 2014 is 13 times faster than SQL Server 2005. According to Microsoft, an in-place upgrade from SQL Server 2005 to SQL Server 2014 is possible. A side-by-side upgrade that allows the migration of all or some of the data is also possible. Additionally, a side-by-side upgrade also allows two SQL Server instances to coexist on the same server.

Head for the cloud

Hosting SQL in the cloud removes the restraints associated with running systems side-by-side or worrying about the underlying infrastructure. IT departments considering this option need to determine if migrating to the cloud is appropriate for their organization.

While there are costs, risks, and complications associated with replacing SQL Server 2005, there are some compelling benefits as well.

For example, the Forrester study estimates that organizations that migrate from SQL Server 2005 can achieve up to a 113 percent return on investment for the expenditure within 9.5 months. Some IT departments that undertook an SQL Server migration reported 20 percent improvement in IT resource time, 12 percent reduction in help desk calls, and an 11 percent dip in security issues.

Technology Writer Nestor ArellanoNestor Arellano is a Toronto-based journalist who specializes in writing about technology and business news. Nestor reports on IT trends, new products and best practices, and how these can be of use to business and IT decision makers in the enterprise, small and medium size business space, and government.