Should I upgrade SQL Server 2012, or migrate to Azure?

[Last updated February 27, 2020]

Brent Ozar Unlimited runs a website called SQL Server Updates which comes in really handy for keeping your on-premises SQL Server up to date.

Of interest is that extended support for SQL Server 2012 ends on 12 July 2022, just two years from now.

As we know, SQL Server 2019 has been released, which makes 2012 officially four versions old. But in corporations, time moves both slowly and quickly. By that I mean, planning to upgrade takes a long time, and before you know it, the version you’re moving to is no longer supported and everyone is panicking.

It’s the right time, today, to start your upgrade plan from SQL Server 2012. You should be upgrading to 2017 or 2019 right now. By the time SQL Server 2012 goes out of extended support, SQL Server 2019 will have around eight years of support remaining, with the next version of SQL Server close to a release date.

At the end of 2019, SQL Server 2014 was more than five years old. Despite your best intentions assuming a major upgrade will be quick, and considering that SQL Server licensing costs the same regardless of the version you buy, there’s no practical reason not to go to at least SQL Server 2017, and preferably SQL Server 2019. You need to pretend SQL Server 2014 and 2016 don’t exist anymore. You can still comfortably run your database at compatibility level 110 (SQL Server 2012) if you’re running SQL Server 2019.

I wrote down some reasons to upgrade from SQL Server 2005 in 2015. These reasons still apply, even if the version numbers aren’t the same.

Whither Azure?

Which brings up the big question: what about Azure SQL Database? As you know, my first question when customers ask about moving to Azure SQL Database is “Are you sure?”, followed by “Are you very sure?”.

Azure officially turned ten years old a few weeks ago. Azure SQL Database is a mature platform, and by 2022 most of the kinks with managed instances will be ironed out.

So, if you meet all of the following conditions:

  • you use SQL Server 2012,
  • you plan to upgrade after 2022, and
  • you’re running a database smaller than 1TB,

I would recommend that you consider migrating to Azure SQL Database, instead of upgrading to an on-premises database server running SQL Server. With just over two years to go, there is enough time to develop an appropriate migration strategy to achieve this.

Scary, isn’t it?

Act now.

Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

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