Upgrade now if your business still runs Windows XP

jacobWe’ve come to the end of an era. As of April 8, Windows XP is no longer an actively supported operating system.

People still using XP computers will find that their machines still work. However, Microsoft and industry experts are urging everyone still using XP—including businesses—to upgrade as soon as possible. Anyone who ignores this advice does so at their own risk.

First launched in August of 2001, the venerable XP software was a major hit for Microsoft. At its peak, the operating system surpassed 75 percent marketshare, for years proving more popular than subsequent Windows releases.

Even as XP surpassed a decade of service, Microsoft continued to support the software with updates and security patches. However, Microsoft says that there are no more patches and updates coming for XP. That means that as malicious hackers discover new means to bypass XP security, no one will be working to close the gates.

Microsoft’s online message to XP users is pretty straight forward: “PCs running Windows XP after April 8, 2014, should not be considered to be protected, and it is important that you migrate to a current supported operating system – such as Windows 8.1 – so you can receive regular security updates to protect their computer from malicious attacks.”

While no one knows exactly what will happen to the remaining XP holdouts, continued use of XP is a risk that businesses should not take. Malicious software can compromise passcodes, bank accounts, credit card information, trade secrets and important documents. With no new patches coming, XP users may look like easy prey for online vandals.

While it may still come as a surprise to some users, the death of Windows XP is not sudden nor is it unexpected. Microsoft announced the end of XP support nearly two years before finally pulling the plug this April. Since then, Microsoft has led a number of communication efforts aimed at informing users about the need to upgrade.

But not everyone was quick to respond to the message. As of February this year, just under a third of all computers were still running XP software. Businesses, in particular, remained heavy users of the software. Just months before the end of XP support, a survey of information technology professionals found that three quarters of businesses were still utilizing some XP computers.

It’s not hard to understand why businesses may be reluctant to upgrade. In addition to the cost of a new operating system, many businesses rely on custom software that may need to be altered or rewritten. There is also the question of software and database compatibility. In addition, depending on the age of a business’ computers, an entire system upgrade might be required—no small expense.

Thus, it’s not surprising that many IT professionals expect to continue supporting at least a few XP computers into the near future. Yet, in almost every case, industry experts say the potential dangers of sticking with XP outweigh the costs of upgrading.

For its part, Microsoft has been very public about the need to upgrade and has offered guidance to people still running XP. Microsoft’s advice is simple: Download the Windows Upgrade Assistant (search for it online) and it will tell you if your computer is compatible with new Windows software.

If your current computer can’t handle the upgrade, Microsoft says to buy a new computer.

“The easiest path to Windows 8.1 is with new devices and there are offers and deals from many retailers to help people get a new device,” wrote Microsoft senior marketing communications manager Brandon LeBlanc in a recent blog post.

If you do end up getting a new Windows computer, Microsoft is offering free software called PCmover Express to help transition users from their old computer to the new. PCmover Express is available at WindowsXP.com.

“This tool will copy your files, music, videos, email and user profiles and settings from your old PC to your new device, transferring across your home or work network, and even enables Windows XP users to customize exactly what they want to bring over to their new device,” according to LeBlanc.

Businesses can also reach out to Microsoft for help. Here is the general support line: 1-877-696-7786.

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