On April 16, 2016, extended support for Microsoft SQL Server 2005 ends. As we become closer to the end-of-life, what are businesses risking by delaying migration?SQL_Server_Migration (1)

If a business has not migrated by that time and continues to run an outdated server, the implications can be dire: loss of access to critical security updates; higher costs to maintain legacy IT products; compliance issues due to obsolete infrastructure; critical applications running in an unsupported environment; and inability to upgrade outdated hardware.

More seriously, if there is an emergency situation and infrastructure goes down, there will be no one to call for help, and that creates a significant risk for a business.

Why would a business not have migrated by now?

For many, SQL Server 2005 insures their critical applications or data; it’s embedded in their day-to-day operations, so they continue to use it.

Some businesses need to migrate decades of data – multiple terabytes at one time – and are hesitant to even begin the process for fear that some data won’t migrate properly; others may have attempted a migration that failed, and they are afraid to try again. A new business may have never had to deal with a data migration, and fear of the unknown is keeping them from getting started.

Cost is another stumbling block; some businesses may feel like they need to choose expensive migration software or risk a different kind of cost in the form of data loss or unplanned downtime.

Our predicament at Vision Solutions was that we were in a complex environment, with older SQL databases supporting older applications that needed to be updated as well. We also had to consolidate data centers and legacy applications and migrate to a single environment, which created an additional complication. At the same time, we could not afford downtime.

What keeps you up at night when planning for large-scale migrations?

Downtime to critical infrastructure is a big one; in a scenario in which your customers need to get to your products and can’t, you’re hurting your business.

Another fear is loss of data integrity. If data do not synchronize correctly, the database hasn’t replicated, and even if core data are replicated, ancillary data – like user credentials and passwords – need to move over as well, and behave the same way after migration. If this doesn’t happen, the migration has failed.

There is also the fear of the unknown. If you’ve developed your own processes internally to deal with issues in your infrastructure, moving to a new server means you’re in uncharted territory.

What are the cost implications of migration software?

Migrations are a necessary expense for IT infrastructure developments, but the monetary cost can create trepidation. However, when looking at migration software and its overall cost, the entire context of the migration needs to be considered. This can include licensing costs; upgraded hardware; resource time required; cost of any downtime; and any migration software.

Some free software does not allow zero or near-zero downtime, and so the cost of downtime – which can be substantial, and can include costs incurred due to business disruption, lost revenue, end-user productivity and more – may trump any savings if a business cannot absorb that cost.

Where should a business start?

Due diligence is key. Many businesses already have an annual review process in place, but diving into the business’s infrastructure may show a much more complex picture than expected. For example, an application may be using SQL Server 2005 behind the scenes, but have tertiary applications or front-end portals that will also need to be migrated at the same time. Likewise, if a business is running older hardware supported by the SQL Server 2005 environment, then that hardware needs an upgrade.

Determining all infrastructure that needs to be updated, and all data/databases and servers that need to move, and figuring out a way to do everything all at once will make the best use of the business resources devoted to migration. If you are planning to consolidate data centers and migrate to a new or single environment, for example, this will add to the overall time and resources required. 

What are considerations for a business looking for migration software?

For many businesses, data are the heart of their operations, so maintaining data integrity while keeping the lights on 24/7 is the most important consideration when looking at any migration software. Most businesses simply cannot afford a data loss during migration to a new database. It also is essential that data are synchronized as well as transferred, so applications function the way they did prior to the migration.

At Vision Solutions, we were trying to eliminate downtime entirely because of the applications we were running. Knowing what is and is not affordable in terms of downtime is of paramount importance when looking at migration options. If a business is in a complex environment with SQL databases supporting multiple critical applications, they need to keep operations running on a 24/7 basis and cannot afford downtime; this is the case with many businesses that run externally facing applications such as portals or email.

Also, the ability to test the upgrade without impacting the production database will simulate the actual migration experience without affecting operations and is invaluable to easing fears about downtime and data loss and any uncertainty about the migration process itself. Completing a dry run to thoroughly test the new version of the database is a must. If a migration solution does not allow the option to see a comparison on a test server, as well as provide minute-to-minute backup, then the test becomes less reassuring because data are old.

Finally, determine what learning curve is associated with the migration option. Staff may need to learn a new process, which will add to the total migration time, as does incorporating other services to manage the migration. A migration solution that is intuitive and straightforward, with little to no learning curve associated with it, might be a better option for a business that does not have a lot of time built in for migration.

What other advice do you have for a business to ensure a smooth migration?

For us, planning at a very granular level helped mitigate a lot of the risks and also made the process easier in all aspects, including with executive buy-in. An organization’s executives look at how much impact a migration will have on a business, and once you can show a plan for each step and prove that you can get downtime to near zero, it becomes a much easier sell.

 

About Suchita Nagale, VP of information technology for Vision Solutions
Suchita Nagale is the VP of Information Technology for Vision Solutions and is responsible for leading Vision Solutions’ global IT strategy and managing overall IT operations. Suchita joined the Vision Solutions team in 2007.  Prior to joining Vision Solutions, Suchita worked for Lakeview Technology as the Director of Information Technology, and prior to this, she worked for several other companies including Macquarie Bank and Breakaway Solutions in technology and management roles.  She holds a Bachelor’s of Information Technology from the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia, and a MBA from Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management.

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