Officially announcing and releasing the final patch for Windows XP on April 8, 2014, Microsoft has effectively discontinued any other bug fixes, updates and support for the popular operating system. Companies who rely on Windows XP for their operations, which according to reports make up between 20 and 25% of users, are expected to experience critical problems and issues should they decide not to switch or migrate to a new platform.
The problem with this is that many larger organisations including branches of the US and UK Governments, who are still using XP, have publicly stated that they won't be upgrading any time soon. Instead, they are paying Microsoft untold millions to keep developing security fixes and updates just for them.
While it can be easy to slip into the mind frame of "Well, the big organisations aren't changing, why should I?" smaller companies likely don't have the budgets to pay Microsoft for continued support, and in truth Microsoft likely won't even consider it. What this means for businesses like yours (if you are using XP of course) is that you could face a number of risks if you continue to use this platform.
The Risks of sticking with Windows XP
If you are still using XP, here are three major risks you will likely face in the near future, if you're not already.
- Increased security threats - Software developers like Microsoft release security updates and fixes on a fairly regular basis in order to keep the operating system secure from viruses, malware, hacker attacks, and similar threats. But since this will no longer be an option for Windows XP users, any data on this system could soon be exposed, accessible and unsafe.
- Decreased productivity - As XP ceases to be viable, it follows that Microsoft will no longer produce any software and hardware essential to the platform. The remaining programs that are compatible with the system will eventually slow down due to lack of updates, which will result in the users struggling to work on a system that will soon be riddled with bugs and problems. Businesses running on a system like this will not be able to function efficiently.
- More expensive overhead - While there may be third-party companies - companies that aren't Microsoft - that will offer support for Windows XP users who don't want to replace their system, the costs of correcting any issues in order to keep the system running well may end up becoming too expensive. As it is, three are not many third-party support options around and so they tend to charge a lot for their services.
What you must do if you’re still using Windows XP
If you’re still mulling about migration and can’t make an immediate decision as to what new system to use to replace Windows XP, it would be a good idea to do the following:
- Backup your systems
Before you do anything you should conduct a data back up immediately. This means everything including your files, systems and programs. It would be a good idea to back up your files in numerous locations both on and off site.
Securing your files elsewhere is a good idea so that if and when a system failure or breach occurs, your data will be available. If you use numerous systems there is a higher chance that you can recover your systems quicker. Another advantage to backing up your data is that when you do decide to migrate, the data will be available which usually reduces the time it takes to update your systems.
- Download the last XP update
The last patch, or update, was released by Microsoft on 8th of April. This is all too important and necessary, as it will at least extend the protection of your computers for the time being.
But while the update includes the last security and bug fixes, it would not be a good idea to count your systems as secure.
- Update your antivirus or malware software
Be sure to update your antivirus software solutions on every system. While this will not guarantee complete security for the defunct Windows XP, it’s still important to update in order to discount any kind of threats.
While your antivirus solution may be effective now, there is a good chance that the developer will follow Microsoft's decisions and cease support for the older system. If this happens, your systems will be wide open and vulnerable to attack.
- Switch to a different browser like Chrome or Firefox
Many businesses who are still using XP are likely also using older versions of Internet Explorer. Just like XP, Microsoft doesn't support older versions of Explorer with updates or security fixes.
While newer versions of Explorer are secure, they aren't actually supported by XP so there is a good chance that if you are using XP, your browser may not be secure. In order to ensure that your systems are secure, use a browser like Chrome or Firefox, both of which are compatible with XP and do receive updates on a regular basis.
Long-term solutions for Window XP users
The above suggestions are meant to be only temporary, you will still have to figure out a long-term solution for your company. The best recourse would be to do a system upgrade to a different version of Windows. You have a number of options including Windows 7 which is the closest similar to system XP. But you may also need to explore the possibility of doing an upgrade of other hardware to support the new OS. The problem is, this comes with some expenses, which can be seen as a hindrance.
Upgrades however, can outweigh the cost when they are properly chosen and done. In the long run, upgrading and switching to a more efficient system can help increase staff productivity, and minimise energy and resources consumption. Most of all, the upgrade could sufficiently address latest security breaches and thus, deter any costly recovery and fixes should any attack occur. This would be an investment worth making for any business owner who wants their business to continue to operate well and enjoy a little peace of mind.
If you’re still at a loss as to how to manage without Windows XP, then contact us today on 0845 519 5055 to see how our services and solutions can help move your business forward.