Microsoft will end support for Windows Server 2003 on July 14, 2015. Without a supported server operating system, your company will be exposed to some serious security vulnerabilities.

In order to properly prepare for this change, you need to understand the challenges surrounding the end of support for Windows Server 2003. Here are 4 steps you can take to overcome these challenges and successfully change your server operating system.

1. Recognize the Problem

The end of support for an operating system means that Microsoft will no longer provide security updates for it. Running an operating system after support ends is very risky. Outdated operating systems are susceptible to all sorts of remote attacks and malware.

Additionally, even after problems are discovered, they won’t be addressed by Microsoft. This means unsupported operating systems remain permanently vulnerable.

2. Assess Your Infrastructure

This is an IT problem, so to solve it, you need to know your IT infrastructure. Make a list of all of your computers, and find out what operating system each one is using. Then figure out each computer’s workload.

Microsoft recommends identifying which servers are mission-critical to your business, so that you can focus on upgrading those servers first. Non-essential assets can wait until the end of the process.

3. Find A New Server Operating System

Now that you know what your IT infrastructure looks like, you can determine which new server operating system will work best for you. The server operating systems that Microsoft currently provides are Windows Server 2008, Windows Server 2008 R2, Windows Server 2012, and Windows Server 2012 R2. Some of these options may require you to purchase new hardware, while others will let you reuse the hardware that you have.

Companies should have a new server operating system in place before the Windows Server 2003 end of support. They can also move services to the cloud in order to cut costs and reduce the reliance on physical infrastructure.

4. Make the Change

After selecting a new server operating system, companies can begin migration. Migration is the process of moving from one server operating system to the next. Migration can take several months, so companies should start as soon as possible.

For help with migration, or any other concerns related to the end of support for Windows 2003, consult an IT service provider.