The good news if you’ve successfully migrated off of Microsoft’s Windows Server 2003 operating system is that you no longer need to worry about the fast-approaching date when support for that product ends. The bad news is that you may have a whole new upgrade process awaiting you.

That’s right, there’s another Microsoft end-of-life deadline approaching. Support for Microsoft SQL Server 2005 expires on April 12, 2016, and if you think that leaves you plenty of time to get ready, think again. Here are answers to some common questions about what lies ahead:

Why should I upgrade?

Once support ends, Microsoft will stop issuing patches for newly discovered security vulnerabilities. That will leave data in SQL Server 2005 databases vulnerable to cyber thieves and malware, and could knock you out of compliance with data privacy regulations.

Plus, as Microsoft is quick to note, the newest version of its flagship database application, SQL Server 2014, is more scalable and reliable than the 2005 edition, as well as 13 times faster based on publicly posted benchmark studies. Thanks to benefits like those, large organizations that adopt SQL Server 2014 collect a 113 percent return on their investment and achieve payback on migration costs in just 9.5 months on average, according to a Microsoft-commissioned study by analyst firm Forrester Research Inc..

What should I upgrade to?

An “in-place” upgrade to SQL Server 2014 will usually be the fastest and easiest way to go, but now might also be a good time to cut your hardware spending by migrating onsite databases either onto hosted virtual machines from providers like dinCloud, Amazon, and Microsoft or into Microsoft’s cloud-based Azure SQL Database service. Using hosted virtual machines typically results in quicker, simpler upgrades, but using Azure SQL Database will ultimately save you more money by sparing you from having to manage your virtual machines’ operating systems.

When should I upgrade?

As soon as possible. Creating an upgrade plan will take time, and executing it will too. “Depending on the type of application, the migration destination, the scale of the move and resources allocated, migrations can take several months,” wrote T.K. Rengarajan, Microsoft’s corporate vice president for data platform, in a blog post this April.

How do I get started?

Begin by locating all of your SQL Server 2005 databases using the Microsoft Assessment and Planning Toolkit. Then plan and execute your migrations with the help of Microsoft’s SQL Server 2014 technical upgrade guide, the Azure SQL Database Migration Wizard, or a qualified SQL Server migration partner.

A veteran writer and editor, Rich Freeman has over 20 years of experience in the IT industry. Rich was founding editor and is currently senior consulting editor of ChannelPro magazine. His work has also appeared in Redmond Channel Partner magazine and on the Web sites of Computerworld, Network World, CIO, and InfoWorld magazines.

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