July 14 marks the end of an era, and your business could face disaster if you’re not properly prepared. The era to which we’re referring is the end of service and support for Windows Server 2003, a server platform heading out to pasture in 2015. Proper preparation consists of upgrading your server platform to Windows Server 2012.

What Happens if You Don’t Upgrade

Despite the quickly approaching deadline, The Register reports about 8 million instances of Windows Server 2003 OS are still in operation. An estimated 1.6 million of those, or 20 percent, are expected to continue business as usual past the July 14 deadline.

Ignoring the deadline means ignoring the fact that Microsoft will no longer be issuing any security fixes or extended support for Windows Server 2003. This leaves any business still using the system totally on its own when it comes to hacks, attacks and other vulnerabilities. Most at risk is any data on your server system, which could end up easily accessed from the Internet.

Top Tips for Making the Migration

These projects require lead time and appropriate scheduling, and that could take months. Yes, that means you should get started pronto. A handful of tips can help.

Make a game plan. Your plan begins by getting a good handle on your existing environment. Figure out what applications, data and other components need to be moved to the new environment. Do your research on Windows Server 2012 so you know exactly what you’re getting into.

Do your testing. Double check applications and other components you need to move are compatible with the new server. If they’re not, make the necessary changes to ensure they will be.

Back up your data. No further explanation necessary on this one, as you want to ensure nothing gets lost during the transition.

Don’t forget the downtime. Every migration comes with downtime when resource-intensive tasks are going to slow down or altogether halt your system. Schedule those tasks for off-peak hours, such as evenings and weekends, or whenever your business is at its slowest. Do your best to ensure your business remains up and running as regularly as possible.

Make a transition plan. Here you want to make sure people can easily access and use the information required while you’re moving between the two environments. Ensure information is properly synchronized and all permissions remain intact.

Fine-tune your management. You want your new environment to be as compliant, secure and efficient as your previous one. Achieve this by ensuring your have the proper management team at the helm to get a firm grasp on intricacies, streamline the workflow and truly make the most of your new system.

Even if you’re not fully entrenched in Windows Server 2012 by July 14, you should be well on your way. The sooner you can make the switch, the sooner you can once again enjoy continuous security and support.