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Windows Server 2012 is reaching “End of Life.” What does that mean for practices?
Why end of support for Windows Server 2012 matters for your practice servers, including security risks and decreased functionality. Discover what steps you need to take to ensure server security and operational continuity.
We know Windows Server 2012* is still in use on practice servers around Australia. Some practices are already in the process of migrating to a newer version, which is great. But sometimes these things creep up on you, and migrating at the last minute can be painful. So we wanted to talk about what “end of life” means and what practices need to do to keep their servers secure and operational.
* Includes all versions of Windows Server 2012/R2 Foundation, Essentials, Standard, and Datacenter
[Extended support for] Windows Server 2012 and Windows Server 2012 R2 will end on October 10, 2023. After this date, these products will no longer receive security updates, non-security updates, bug fixes, technical support, or online technical content updates.
What is “end of life” for software?
Just like physical products often come with a warranty that lasts a certain number of years, software companies usually put a limit on how long they will support each version of their product. This support usually entails bug fixes, security improvements, and trained technicians who can help you with any issues you’re facing. End of life is a common term for when that support period ends.
Why does this matter?
For practices, the main concern is security. Most software receives security-related updates at some frequency. These updates are usually in response to newly discovered attacks and vulnerabilities, and aim to plug holes in a program’s security as quickly as possible. Installing these updates is one of the key ways you can protect your practice server from attacks.
Once a program has reached its end of life, it no longer receives security updates.
After October 10 this year, any server still running Windows Server 2012 will be vulnerable to any new attacks — and will stay vulnerable, since it won’t receive updates.
This is the main reason practices need to upgrade their server’s Windows version.
The other reasons, while not as dangerous, can be just as annoying.
When Microsoft drops support for a version of Windows, so do a lot of other companies.
After all, it is hard to justify fixing bugs that only affect a small number of your customers who are running a Windows version that Microsoft itself no longer supports. And it saves those companies time and effort — every version they support means more testing, more test environments, more version-specific code… It can add up.
In fact, some companies appear to have already stopped fully supporting Windows Server 2012. We are already seeing issues with certain programs failing on Windows Server 2012, and we expect the frequency of these kinds of problems to increase in the coming year.
Microsoft is no longer fixing non-security bugs in Windows Server 2012.
In fact, they haven’t since October 2, 2018. That’s the main difference between what Microsoft calls “Mainstream Support” and “Extended Support”.
- Mainstream Support includes new features, general bug fixes, security updates, and free and paid technical support.
- Extended Support only includes security updates and technical support.
For more information, see Microsoft’s article about their Fixed Lifecycle Policy.
When Microsoft stops fixing bugs in a version of Windows, that version tends to slowly — albeit very slowly — decay in terms of its functionality and performance. This can potentially affect every program you run, causing all kinds of weird bugs and quirks. And for all those programs, these bugs can be unfixable, since Microsoft itself won’t do anything about them.
What do practices need to do?
We'll keep it simple...
Check what version of Windows is running on your practice server.
If it’s Windows Server 2012 or Windows Server 2012 R2, discuss upgrading with your IT provider.
There are several editions of Windows Server 2012 — Datacenter, Essentials, External Connector, for Embedded Systems, Foundation, and Standard. All of them have the same end of life date.
If you do a server migration, especially if anything needs to be reinstalled, make sure to contact anyone who might need to know. This could include:
- Best Practice Software
- Halo Connect (if you have Halo Link installed)
- Any other integrations you have enabled
Why might Bp and integrators care about a server migration?
Because it can interrupt communication between your practice server and the integration’s systems, or some part of the integration might be tied to the old server (possibly for security reasons) and shifting it to the new server might require another couple of steps
Other versions of Windows…
There are a lot of versions of Windows out there. If you ever want to check what lifecycle stage yours is in, you can always Google the name of the version plus “lifecycle”. Or visit Microsoft’s docs for the big list of everything changing this year.
Here’s a few highlights:
Windows Server 2016
If you’re using Windows Server 2016 for your practice server, note:
- Mainstream Support ended: Jan 11, 2022
- Extended Support ends: Jan 12, 2027
For more information, see Microsoft’s Windows Server 2016 lifecycle page.
Pre-2022 Windows 10 versions
Windows 10 is under a different support and lifecycle policy to the other Windows versions mentioned here because of its ongoing updates. However, support for specific versions of Windows 10 still have end dates and in June this year the last 2021 version will reach its end of life. So if you’re running Windows 10 and it hasn’t updated in a while, you might want to check you’re running a 2022 version.
See the following pages for more information:
Windows 8 and 8.1
If you’re running Windows 8 or 8.1 on your practice server or staff computers, they also reached end of life recently, even for extended support.
For more information, see Windows 8.1 support ended on January 10, 2023.