Windows Server products basically run the world. According to the website statista some variety of Windows server accounts for slightly over 75% of the global server market in 2019. The next closest is Linux with a touch over 12% of the market.  While most users have at least heard of Windows 10 desktop operating system server products quietly toil away in server closets across the world in anonymity.

Server operating systems are blessed with very long product life cycles – 10 years on average. It is easy to easy to miss key dates in serve life cycles.  Windows Server 2012 R2 is approaching its “true” end-of-life status.

When does Windows Server 2012 R2 go end-of-life?

Unlike its higher-profile software offerings, (ie Microsoft 365), Microsoft has a specific lifecycle for its Windows Server products.  Server operating systems are released under what’s known as Microsoft’s Long Term Servicing Channel (LTSC). This means that each product is supported for 10 years: the first 5 of which are known as mainstream support, and the second 5 known as extended support.

Microsoft Server 2012 R2, having originally been launched in October 2013, completed its mainstream support phase in October 2018. At this point it technically became an “end-of-life” product, because it was no longer being fully supported or feature-enhanced by Microsoft.

As of October 2018, Server 2012 R2 entered its “extended support” phase, which will end in October 2023.

Mainstream Support vs. Extended Support

The main difference between the two phases of Microsoft’s product life cycles under the LTSC program are the level of support Microsoft provides to end users.

The two bullet points below provide a quick outline of mainstream support vs. extended support the Windows Server range of operating systems:

  • Mainstream support is the first phase of  a Microsoft product. It’s the first 5 years of the product’s lifespan> This means constant updates;  new features, service packs, updates, fixes, and more. Microsoft also offers real-time support (i.e. phone support) during this phase.
  • Extended support refers to the latter 5 years of product support. It’s no longer the of the Microsoft team. By this point the server operating system has been succeeded by at least one newer version.  During extended support only critical security updates and reliability patches are rolled via updates. Non-security hotfixes are only delivered to customers that have purchased an extended support agreement with Microsoft. These come at a significant cost.

What happens when Extended Support ends?

The key takeaway about extended support is that, once it’s expired, the product will be almost entirely unprotected by Microsoft.

After October 2023, Windows Server 2012 R2 will no longer receive any security updates or critical patches for key exploits. At this point you cannot even pay for support anymore. The product will still function, but the product is completely unsupported going forward. You can bet that cyber attackers will be lurking patiently for the product’s extended support to end. Once this occurs new exploits will be developed by the bad guys. If you continue running the server operating system, you’re exposing your data and your network to potential breaches. A very bad decision if you are a covered entity under HIPAA.