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OK to run XP after April, but experts say it’s risky

Boulder County Business ReportBOULDER — For local businesses worried that their computers or operating systems are going to shut down at the stroke of midnight on April 8, Susan Bateman has some comforting words regarding the so-called death of Windows XP.

“This is not going to be a Y2K,” said Bateman, franchise owner of CMIT Solutions in Lafayette. “After April 8 everything is going to still be running.” That doesn’t mean Bateman isn’t recommending upgrading your operating system.

Microsoft’s planned end of support for XP means the company will no longer provide automatic fixes, updates or technical assistance for the system.

Is there marketing involved? Sure, Bateman said. It’s expensive for Microsoft to keep supporting old systems, and the company no doubt would like users to upgrade.

But Bateman, whose company provides managed information technology services for businesses, said business owners need to be aware of the very real risks involved if they plan to keep running XP after April 8. A lack of security updates is the main threat.

“There’s so many viruses out there, and we see new ones every week,” Bateman said. According to NetMarketShare.com, 31.4 percent of desktops are still operating on Windows XP, which made its debut in 2001. That’s second only to Windows 7 (46.4 percent), and is well ahead of Microsoft’s latest operating system, Windows 8 (8 percent).

Bateman said the final months of 2013 are a particularly good time to upgrade because Internal Revenue Code Section 179 allows companies to write off up to $500,000 worth in new equipment purchased or financed this year. In 2014, that amount is slated to drop to $25,000 unless Congress extends the extra benefit.

In addition to security risks with the end of support for XP, third-party companies are likely to stop making hardware such as printers that is compatible with XP, adding another inconvenience for users. Shaun Oshman, founder and chief executive of Boulder-based iSupportU LLC, another IT support company, agreed that now is the time to upgrade. He said he doesn’t see a lot of money in third-

party companies trying to fill the void left by Microsoft by attempting to provide their own updates or patches for XP.
“If (businesses) are still using XP, then they’ve gotten their full value out of that hardware,” Oshman said.

Oshman said the longer XP users wait to upgrade, the tougher it will be for them to find Windows 7, which is more similar to XP than the newer Windows 8 and will provide a smoother transition for many XP users.

Oshman said many companies put off upgrading because some sort of software they use that is critical to their business operations might not be compatible with newer operating systems. But while upgrading their firewalls and virus protections might help those companies keep XP a little longer, they’re really only masking a larger issue.

“Whatever they may do is only going to be a temporary fix,” Oshman said. “Whatever is causing them to stay on XP, that is what needs to be looked at critically.”

Bateman said cash-strapped businesses also should look at what inefficiencies their old machines might be causing. If their operations are being hamstrung, they should find a way to afford new machines.

Bateman offered a five-point strategy for business owners wanting to upgrade from XP:

  1. Assess how many systems you still have running XP.
  2. Decide whether you want to switch to Windows 7 or 8.
  3. Put together a plan in terms of hardware and software upgrades needed. Microsoft’s online upgrade advisors for Windows 7 and 8 can be helpful in this regard.
  4. Look at your version of Microsoft Office. Microsoft also is ending support for Office 2003, so companies will want to consider upgrading to Office 2010 or 2013.
  5. Evaluate your IT infrastructure and way of doing things, and decide if it’s time for a new path. Does your company still operate best with desktop computers, or would the use of tablets or other devices better serve some of your employees?“We’re just trying to get the word out,” Bateman said.

LINK: http://bcbr.com/article/20131011/EDITION07/131019987/0/SEARCH

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