Small businesses face end of Windows XP support

Democrat & ChronicleThe end is near for Windows XP.

Microsoft Corp. has said that after April 8, it will cease putting out security upgrades and providing support for the popular personal computer operating system. WIndows XP hit the market in 2001 and was for a time the backbone of multitudes of workplace computers across the globe.

Microsoft quit retailing XP in 2008. Although Windows 7 is now the most-used desktop operating system worldwide, XP still runs millions of computers.

For those users, April 9 won’t see a cataclysmic crash to their computers. But over time, using XP becomes more and more of a security risk, said Cheryl Nelan: “It’s time to make the move (to a different operating system) if you haven’t moved already.”

Nelan, owner of CMIT Solutions, a Penfield IT services firm, discussed the end of support for XP and what that means for small businesses.

What exactly is Microsoft ending and why should users care?

One is the support Microsoft would provide if you had a problem. Most users would say, “I don’t call that often,” it doesn’t worry people too much. But they’re no longer going to be providing the security patches. It opens the door to all sorts of viruses and security risks. If the patches don’t go out, the systems don’t get as protected as they have been. Industry experts are forecasting about 66 percent more infections on XP devices then they would have today.

You know all the viruses out there and hackers continually trying to break the codes? Today if you bought Microsoft Windows 7 or 8, they’re much more secure than XP is even today. (Microsoft) pushes out these patches as soon as they perceive a risk because some hacker has broken their code and opened the door to their system, whether that’s a virus or pulling data off the system. They issue a patch.

Why would Microsoft do this?

This is not an easy decision I’m sure for Microsoft. On the other hand, it’s an operating system 13 years old. Typically most software companies might support an operating system for 10 years. They’ve already done extended support on this one, and extended support is very costly. At some point, you have to cut it.

So is the obvious answer to upgrade to Windows 7 or 8?

You can upgrade your operating system. What we tend to recommend is just get a new computer. If you have a computer maybe two or three years old, it can probably be upgraded to 7 or 8. It’s labor intensive. You’ve spent that time and you still have a computer a few years old vs. the expense of just buying a new computer with the new operating system on it. Bite the bullet.

Eight has been around a year, it’s been tested, it’s working great, people like it. There are still some applications out there businesses use that really aren’t ready for Windows 8, so for them we say stick to 7.

If you have an older computer?

Then you probably don’t have enough storage memory to accommodate the new operating system.

Minus upgrading or replacing the computer, are there other options?

The other thought is, can I protect myself and still use it? I hear a lot of, “My kids are using it at home,” or, “I have this old application and I still need to access it and it only runs on XP.” If it’s not connected to the Internet, you can probably still keep using it for that purpose. As soon as you connect it to the Internet, there are risks. If it’s connected to other computers, a network, we always say your network is only as secure as the weakest ink.

Are there any functions in XP that users will lose by upgrading?

There’s nothing current as what users are using today that needs XP. The problem tends to happen when someone might have migrated to a different software program yet they have to keep records, some of that data may be on their older application that only runs off XP. That’s when we recommend stick the computer in a corner somewhere, not connected to the Internet.

How big a pain in the neck is this going to be for your clients?

Our existing clients, we’ve been talking to them almost a year about this. We put a plan a place, “We’re going to migrate a third a third a third each quarter.” I’m getting new calls from new potential clients saying, “Oh shoot,” recognizing this might be a problem. Now it’s not even a month away. It gets a little more critical.

Do individuals using XP face any different issues?

Really it’s the same process, it’s the same risks. The difference becomes the pain of that risk. If your computer crashes one day, you might be able to deal with not having it for awhile. If it’s your business, generally speaking, one day without their computers can significantly impact their bottom line.


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