Helios IT Technology Matters

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April 8th 2014, marks the end of Windows XP support: what it means for your business

Chances are you may already know that in less than 6 months, Microsoft will stop supporting Windows XP (bit.ly/IKJVu5) 

What you may not know though is that on that same day Microsoft will also discontinue support for the following 2003 products: Exchange Server 2003, Small Business Server 2003 and Office 2003.  At the moment Windows Server 2003 will continue to be supported until July 2015.

Although you can continue to use these products for as long as you like Microsoft will no longer be producing those regular security updates and patches that you see asking for your permission to be installed around the second Tuesday of every month, the famous ‘Patch Tuesday’.

From April 8th onwards the 2003/XP product line will become increasingly vulnerable to hackers and viruses as no further improvements will be made by Microsoft to thwart them. Given that it is thought that up to 30% of the World’s computers are still XP any vulnerability found will unfortunately be all too easily and readily exploited as there will be no forthcoming security update.

Besides Microsoft pulling their support you will increasingly find that other software suppliers may use this as a convenient time to announce that they will no longer support their applications running on 2003/XP platforms. Time will tell on that one but you can probably hazard a reasonably safe guess as to how this will pan out. In fact, we have already seen some small network and software products becoming incompatible with XP and we expect that to accelerate rapidly post April 6th.  
If you do indeed recognise any of these Microsoft product names and the ‘2003’ moniker then if you are a small business ie less than 50 PCs it is still, even at this eleventh hour,  not too late to upgrade but you will need to get a shift on !

What can I do?

Whilst it is tempting to think ‘Oh I’ll just get a Windows 7/8 upgrade disk and perhaps add a stick or two extra RAM job done’, statistics show that nearly 75% of XP hardware will be incapable of being upgraded. Besides even if you were in the ‘fortunate 25%’ to be able to upgrade you will have spent around £200 on the Windows 7/8 upgrade license and still be left with the same old hardware performance from a 5+ year old PC you’d been cursing all year anyhow.  

Our advice is that it would be far better not to buy into obsolescence and take the £200 you could have spent on an upgrade and put it towards a brand new PC/laptop with a i5 processor, 4Gb of RAM that should cost you between £450-500.

The good news is that 64-bit operating systems (OS) such as Windows 7 and 8 are substantially more secure than their 32-bit predecessors. Windows 8 goes one better in this respect than Windows 7 as it comes with real-time protection built in and turned on by default, so its infection rates from viruses/malware are incredibly low – you’d have to consciously turn off Windows Defender to reach any significant infection rate.

If you think you’re capable of handling the OS upgrade yourself, go ahead. If you don’t, or you’re not sure what’s involved, find yourself a local IT consultant who can examine your setup, advise you what it will cost and complete the job for you.

One final good bit of news is that, in our experience having now replaced well over a hundred Windows XP PCs/laptops and having spoken to the clients afterwards the overwhelming comment we hear is ‘Wow, what a difference ! Why did I wait so long ?’…why indeed.

Garry MacDonald is Managing Director of Helios IT. To discuss your own specific needs for a ‘XP/2003 Migration Plan’  please contact Helios IT by phone on 028 9094 5542, online at www.heliosit.co.uk or to garry.macdonald@helosit.co.uk

The content of this article is provided for information purposes only and does not constitute professional or other advice.

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