If your business is still running Windows XP, the end of your IT line could be nearer than you think. On April 8, 2014, Microsoft will cut off support for XP users, and the company appears unwilling to grant a stay of execution.
What does that mean for your business? Do you still have time to migrate to a newer operating system like Windows 7? Here’s what you need to know:
Why Are Businesses Are Still Using XP
Since IT pros have known for years that this day was coming, why is XP still in such widespread use? The answer is simple. Following a rapid-fire production of new operating system releases, Microsoft suddenly hit an XP plateau. For six years, it chose to concentrate on adding new features to the same familiar platform, while providing a stream of service packs to deal with any bugs as they arose. This gave users time to get comfortable with an OS that was stable and constantly improving.
Microsoft’s sloppy and restrictive 2007 rollout of Vista only encouraged businesses to stick with the tried-and-true. By the time Windows 7 appeared, these companies had already concluded that they could safely stay the course, ignoring any new releases.
Windows 8 Upsets the Cart
With the release of Windows 8, Microsoft took a major departure. Rather than simply expanding upon what had gone before, Microsoft is pushing its new platform and new way of interacting with technology. As part of that paradigm shift, it appears that the company intends to burn all bridges to Windows XP and end support and service upgrades.
Windows XP Will Become a Hacker’s Dream
Thanks to its widespread presence in the IT world, XP has long been attractive to hackers who prefer to infiltrate where the money is. Why waste your talents on the small stuff when you can hack hundreds of millions with a single stroke?
Until now, users could rely upon Microsoft to keep them safe by issuing a cure as soon as a vulnerability reared its ugly head. As of April, however, those days are coming to an end, leaving millions of PCs and the information stored on them at risk.
New Fixes Will Pose a Danger
Microsoft has already identified 30 security holes in common among Windows XP, Windows 7, and Windows 8. Moving forward, however, it will issue bug fixes for the newer systems alone. This will open the door to hackers, with each new patch for Windows 7 and 8 providing an opportunity to identify and directly target corresponding unprotected areas in XP.
Businesses that cling to XP will soon find themselves in the uncomfortable position of having to support their own infected systems. The expense of keeping up could eventually surpass the expected cost of an upgrade.
What Could Happen?
The potential dangers are many. A failure to migrate will leave unprotected XP systems open to all manner of trouble. This can include:
- Data theft
- Denial-of-service attacks
Personal data will find itself seriously at risk. Stolen credit card information alone will leave issuing banks not only open to federal and governmental fines but also liable for restitution to untold numbers of cardholders.
Will Microsoft Relent?
With users still numbering in the hundreds of millions, many feel that Microsoft will show mercy and continue patching XP’s weak spots as they appear. Others, however, believe that when a system is already ancient at the age of 13, such dreams are of the pipe variety.
Is There Still Time to Migrate to a Newer System?
For those who have left their migration to the last second, there are still some things you can do. Invest in migration software that will make the transition easier. Get in touch with partners who specialize in Windows migration. While most migrations take about 30 months, you can greatly accelerate this time frame by taking the right steps.
If you simply cannot make the upgrade now, there are a few other options: one is to disconnect vulnerable PCs from the Internet entirely. Another is to buy some time by switching to Windows Server 2003. This system shares the same kernel as XP, and Microsoft will continue to support it until April 2015. By then, most users should have succeeded in completing any required upgrades.
The last question, then, may be this: which OS to upgrade to? Windows 8 is new and comes with a number of user advantages designed to make computing easier in the future. Windows 7, on the other hand, has been around since 2009 and is tried and true. It is stable, trustworthy and expected to enjoy Microsoft support until at least the year 2020.
What’s your Windows migration strategy?
Matt Smith works for Dell and has a passion for learning and writing about technology. Outside of work he enjoys entrepreneurship, being with his family, and the outdoors.