Time’s Up. Replace Windows XP Now.

The Microsoft date for the end of product support for Windows XP is only one week away.  For many IT admins the decision to move all of their hardware from this OS has been a challenge but it is a needed step with the imminent end to security and other updates from Microsoft. No Windows XP resized 600

If you are a user or an admin who still has XP based workstations running then the time to address this is now.  It is not an option which can be ignored any longer.

As late as October 2013, it has been reported by Net Applications that as many as 31.2% of the world's PCs were still running Windows XP.  Of course since that time many will have been replaced or some upgraded to a newer OS.  Many users are holding out and hoping that they can get along with XP for a few more years.  They don't feel threatened by the risks of running the OS even when it is almost thirteen years old.  

For businesses and organizations which rely on their IT infrastructure to survive and prosper the prospects of continuing with XP are really high risk.

  • Security Concerns are the number one reason to upgrade.  Not only will new patches and releases no longer be produced by Microsoft for XP, due to its age and design the newer OSs, Windows 7 and Windows 8 are inherently much safer.  These systems incorporate in their design background features which provide better protection from unauthorized activities on the computers.  Microsoft says that a PC running Windows 8 is 21 times less likely to be infected by malware than a PC running XP.  
  • Cyber criminals hording security flaws waiting for Microsoft to end releases.  This idea suggests that those who look to exploit poorly protected systems are already armed to strike with new vulnerabilities just waiting for the attention of Microsoft and the industry to permanently move away from XP.
  • Reverse engineered flaws. PCWorld suggests in a recent article that those who seek to exploit XP installs will look at the types of security issues that have been addressed in Windows 7 or 8 and the related updates to correct them, then use that information to see if the security problems exist in XP.  This gives new ground to seek out means to attack XP installs without any potential for corrections to come along.
  • Harder to get support.  Of course technical support from Microsoft for XP related issues will no longer be available.  Knowledgeable support for XP issues will also be harder to get from your IT professional as well.  Keeping up to date with the issues related to operating systems is an important part of what a professional brings to the table.  Spending time to enhance or refresh their knowledge on an old OS is not a good use of their time.  There will be historical knowledge but current knowledge will soon disappear.  its like having a thirteen year old car where there are no current parts available.  It gets harder and harder (and costlier) to support.
  • Loss of productivity gains.  As much as we become familiar with the operation of an OS each new generation of software brings with it tools and capabilities which were not thought of or incorporated into the older systems.  Windows 7 has provided this and Windows 8 provides many more.  These new tools are designed to improve productivity of users once they have learned them.  Essentially for a short term effort there are many gains which can be applied each day.

If you have been holding out and have not already addressed the move from XP it is important that you start immediately.  There is work to do to sort out the best process for your installation.  You need to decide how you will do your upgrade, on existing hardware or new.  You will need to decide what you will upgrade to, Windows 8.1 or Windows 7 (which itself is almost 5 years old).  You will need to look at application compatibility as some older applications will not be supported in the new OS.  You will need to look at peripheral compatibility as drivers for hardware like printers and scanners may be an issue.  If your business has specialized systems and software which was interfacing with the XP workstations then you will need to look at what OS they support in an upgrade.

Managing a full upgrade is a special project which may not have been undertaken before and you should consider the use of support from professionals who have gone through the process several times.  Their IT expertise will bring to the table assistance and knowledge which will help you avoid costly errors or mistakes.  This is especially true of SMB companies who do not have the internal IT knowledge to design and manage a full scale OS upgrade.  It is easy to start and find out part way through the process that the time, data migration issues and hardware requirements are much bigger than anticipated.

For some tips and tools which can help you begin this process Microsoft has published some online help tools.  These are designed to help the planning process for migration from XP or Vista to one of the newer OS platforms.  They will not replace the knowledge needed to complete the work successfully.

Its time to retire Windows XP.  It has served users and the IT industry well for 13 years.  Move on and take advantage of the improvements which new systems offer.



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Photo Credit: By Original work: Microsoft Corporation This vector image: BrandsOfTheWorld.com [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.  Windows XP trademark Microsoft Corporation


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