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2020 End-of-Support Milestones for Microsoft's Business Products

The new year is bringing all sorts of end-of-support deadlines for IT pros working with Microsoft's business software.

Major business products installed at an organization's "premises" are falling out of "extended support" this year, which means they'll no longer get patches, including security updates, from Microsoft. It's considered potentially risky to continue to use such "unsupported software" after their end-of-support milestones. IT pros may have already reacted to address many of these milestones, but some workloads could remain as problems to address.

Crashing deadlines are very near this month for organizations using Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008, but other important milestones loom, as well.

Windows 7 Client and Server Deadlines
IT pros likely are quite aware about the impending Jan. 14, 2020 end-of-support date for Windows 7. That support deadline also applies to Windows Server 2008/R2.

Also falling out of support on Jan. 14, 2020 will be Hyper-V Server 2008/R2.

As for SQL Server 2008/R2, it already lost support back on July 9, 2019.

Microsoft has an "in-place upgrade" process available for its client and server products that doesn't wipe the data. However, users of the older products (more than two generations away) may have to undergo a two-hop migration to get to the newer 2019-branded server products or Windows 10. For instance, Windows Server 2008 R2 users have to upgrade to Windows Server 2012 R2 first before moving to Windows Server 2019, as described in this Microsoft article.

Extended Security Updates
Alternatively, Microsoft has an Extended Security Updates (ESU) program for organizations that are stuck on Windows 7, Windows Server 2008/R2 or SQL Server 2008/R2. The ESU program adds the rights to continue to get patch support for one year, which can be renewed each year for three years total. However, the ESU program isn't cheap. It costs about $62 per user in the first year of the Windows 7 ESU program, but the price is said to double each year.

The ESU program has various nuances. The patching support varies, for instance. Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008/R2 users get "Critical" and "Important" patches under the program, while SQL Server 2008/R2 users just get "Critical" fixes. Microsoft offers a rationale for the lack of Important SQL Server 2008/R2 patches under the ESU program in this FAQ.

Another ESU program nuance was lately uncovered by Susan Bradley, a Microsoft Most Valuable Professional and Windows patch expert who moderates the Patchmanagement@googlegroups.com forum. It's a known qualification that Software Assurance is needed for the Windows 2008/R2 servers covered under ESU program. However, Bradley also found out that this Software Assurance coverage must be part of an Enterprise Agreement to qualify for the program, which limits options for smaller organizations. Enterprise Agreements are designed for large organizations. About three years ago, Microsoft bumped up its qualifications for an Enterprise Agreement from having 250 licensed users or devices to needing 500 users or devices at minimum.

In contrast, for Windows 7 users, Software Assurance isn't a requirement to get ESU support. Also, having an Enterprise Agreement isn't a requirement of the Windows 7 ESU program. Microsoft's best technical advice on getting ESUs set up for Windows 7 environments can be found in this blog post.

Organizations using Microsoft's volume licensing sales programs are supposed to contact their "Account Team CE" to purchase the ESU keys that will continue patch support for one year. Other and smaller organizations are directed to contact a Cloud Solution Provider (CSP) partner to buy these ESU keys.

An alternative for organizations stuck on Windows Server 2008/R2 and SQL Server 2008/R2 is to run those workloads on Azure virtual machines. In such cases, there's no cost for getting software updates via the ESU program, but organizations still must pay for Azure virtual machine hosting costs.

Microsoft recently recapped migration options for Windows Server 2008/R2 users in this Dec. 17 blog post. What's new this time around is that it's possible to access a "preview of extended security updates." The preview can be accessed using the Azure Portal, "even if you only use on-premises computers," according to Microsoft's ESU how-to documentation

Microsoft has published an optional update that IT pros can use to test if a machine running Windows 7 is eligible to get ESUs after the Jan. 14 end-of-support date. Typically, PCs running the Home edition of Windows 7 aren't eligible. In addition, there's an optional update to check the eligibility of Windows Server 2008 Service Pack 2 machines to use ESUs.

Exchange Server 2010, SharePoint Server 2010 and Office 2010
Exchange Server 2010 will fall out of extended support on Oct. 13, 2020, losing free patch support from Microsoft. The end-of-support date for Exchange Server 2010 was originally Jan. 14, 2020, but Microsoft announced back in September that it was extending it by about 10 months.

SharePoint Server 2010 also falls out of extended support on Oct. 13, 2020, along with the Office 2010 client, Project Server 2010 and Windows Embedded Standard 7, according to this Microsoft support notice.

Exchange Server 2010 upgraders will need to perform a two-hop migration to get to the current Exchange Server 2019 flagship product. They'll need to upgrade to either Exchange Server 2013 or Exchange Server 2016 first before moving to the newest server product.

Using the Exchange Online service through an Office 365 subscription is alternative solution. Smaller organizations (with fewer than 150 seats or users) can perform a so-called "cutover migration," but the move has to be completed within a week. Other options include a "minimal hybrid migration" to be carried out over a few weeks' time or a "full hybrid migration" over a period of months.

Microsoft also announced in September that "Basic Authentication" in its Exchange Online e-mail service will get removed on Oct. 13, 2020. The reason for its removal is that Basic Authentication is subject to password spray attack scenarios, as Microsoft previously explained.

Office 365 ProPlus Support on Windows
"Office 365 ProPlus" is a suite of Office applications (Excel, PowerPoint and Word) that's sold as part of Office 365 or Microsoft 365 subscriptions, typically renewed on a monthly basis. Microsoft also sells a perpetual-license one-time-purchase version of Office, with its current iteration known as "Office 2019."

Figuring out support for Office products is now more confusing because their support lifecycles are tied not just to the lifecycles of the underlying Windows operating systems, but also to certain Office 365 services.

In February 2018, Microsoft outlined these sorts of support nuances, including that Office 2019 would have its "extended support" phase clipped by three years. Those details were described in this Redmond article, but Microsoft's original February 2018 post on which it was based later got moved, apparently to this Microsoft Tech Community post, which bears an update date of Sept. 6, 2018. Microsoft later altered its original February 2018 support declarations via this Sept. 6, 2018 post by Jared Spataro, Microsoft's corporate vice president for Office and Windows marketing.

These confusing series of posts may have IT pros thinking that there are no 2020 deadlines concerning Office 365 ProPlus support. However, this Office 365 support article (last updated on Feb. 14, 2019) seems to offer the last word. It stated the following concerning OS support for Office 365 ProPlus:

Effective January 14, 2020, [Office 365] ProPlus will no longer be supported on the following versions of Windows and Windows Server -- this will help customers get the best experience by receiving regular updates to both Windows and Office:

  • Any Windows 10 Long-Term Servicing Channel (LTSC/LTSB) release
  • Windows Server 2012, 2012 R2

The support article added that "Office 365 ProPlus will continue to be supported on Windows 8.1 through its end of support date in January 2023, and on Windows Server 2016 through October 2025."

Office 365 ProPlus and Office 2019 connections to Office 365 services are still a consideration for IT pros. Microsoft had specified back in April 2017 that only Office 365 ProPlus clients or Office 2019 clients in their "mainstream" support phase (the first five years of support) would be able to connect to Office 365 services, such as connecting with OneDrive, Outlook and Skype for Business applications. This policy change would have resulted in a product like Office 2016 losing connections to Office 365 services on Oct. 13, 2020, but Microsoft later extended the end-of-support milestone to October 2023 for those Office 2016 users.

Office 365 ProPlus is supported on Windows Server 2019, as Microsoft declared back in July.  

Microsoft has stated that it plans to deliver security updates for the Office 365 applications running on Windows 7 for three years "until January 2023," even with Windows 7 falling out of support on Jan. 14. This peculiar policy, in which supported apps will run on an unsupported OS, is being carried out to help organizations transition to Windows 10, according to this Microsoft support article. Of course, that approach could put organizations at risk, since the OS won't be patched at some point and might be subject to malware or attack.

This odd policy is also seen with Windows 10 Mobile applications, which will be supported until Jan. 12, 2021, even though the Windows 10 Mobile operating system fell out of support on Dec. 10, 2019.

Other 2020 Deadlines and Milestones
Various 2010 System Center products will lose support in September or October of this year. Visual Studio 2010 will lose support on July 14, 2020.

Microsoft plans to replace its Windows Analytics utility for assessing Windows 10 upgrades with its Desktop Analytics solution, staring on Jan. 31, 2020, as announced back in September.

Microsoft expects to deliver its new Chromium-based Edge browser via its Automatic Updates service as early as this month, since it's slated for commercial release on Jan. 15, 2020. The new browser will replace the currently installed EdgeHTML-based Edge browser. The Chromium-based Edge browser will get new feature updates every six weeks.

In addition, Adobe's Flash Player fell out of support last month and will be "disabled by default" in the Chromium-based Edge browser release, according to this Microsoft support article. It added that "Flash will be completely removed from all browsers by December 31, 2020, via Windows Update."

Microsoft also is planning to release a security update in March 2020 for the Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP) that's used for authenticating user access via Active Directory domain controllers. This update will support "LDAP channel binding and LDAP signing hardening" to improve the security of systems, according to a support article. Microsoft wants IT pros to take the steps listed in security advisory ADV190023 in preparation for this change.

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