In April 2014, Microsoft withdrew support for its popular 12-year old operating system, Windows XP. At that time, approximately 430 million personal computers were still running XP. According to Microsoft, “PCs running Windows XP after April 8, 2014, should not be considered to be protected”.
Small and medium sized businesses face several of the following risks if they stay with Windows XP:
Since Windows XP will not receive regular security updates, PCs are vulnerable to dangerous viruses, spyware and any malicious software that can corrupt or steal a person’s personal data. Anti-virus software will be unable to fully protect your PC.
Soon after the April 8 deadline, it was discovered a zero day vulnerability had exploited Microsoft’s Internet Explorer, versions 6 to 11. The bug could allow hackers to gain access to and hijack a Windows computer and steal data. Microsoft, despite the deadline passing for support, released one last security update for Internet Explorer. It is recommended Windows XP customers use another browser other than Internet Explorer since more breaches are expected.
Many organizations are governed by regulatory guidelines and requirements in various industries that will no longer comply under Window XP. For example, businesses using Windows XP may not satisfy HIPPA requirements (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) in the United States. Additionally, legal action from clients could result against companies that don’t upgrade Windows XP that leads to security breaches and compromises customer data.
3. Lack of Independent Software Vendor (ISV) Support
Microsoft works with thousands of software vendors. Most of them will no longer support Windows XP because they are unable to receive Windows XP updates. Most small and medium sized businesses use specialized inventory, accounting or other niche software written for Windows XP. These specialized applications do not work with newer Microsoft Windows operating systems.
Microsoft has a solution. Windows 7, the next version offers Windows XP Mode. This works in two ways. It can open programs in Windows 7 and it can run a virtual instance of Windows XP that can open any legacy software. According to Microsoft, Windows XP Mode is a fully functional and a fully licensed version of Windows XP. It allows the user to access all peripherals, install programs, save files and perform any tasks as if they were running on Windows XP. Windows XP Mode isn’t supported on Windows 8. According to various third party industry publications, this solution does not work 100 percent of the time.
4. Hardware Manufacture Support
Small and medium sized businesses that need a printer, web camera or any other peripheral device will likely be out of luck due to the lack of support for Windows XP. Most PC hardware manufacturers have stopped supporting Windows XP on current and new hardware. This means that drivers that run on Windows XP will no longer be available.
Many new standards exist today compared to the Windows XP period. SMBs running Windows XP will be stuck with slow and obsolete standards. For instance, new technologies like Thunderbolt, USB 3.1, 4K displays only work with modern operating systems and hardware.
What next steps can Windows XP customers take? Microsoft recommends two options:
1. Upgrade you operating system
The short-term solution is to upgrade to Windows 7 or 8.1 on your existing computer. However, most Windows XP computers are more than three years old and are often much older. Old hardware runs the risk of having further incompatibilities not to mention running much slower. Operating systems like Windows 7 and 8.1, that run on newer harder are more advanced, fast and take advantage of many new features not available on Windows XP.
2. Buy new computers
From a cost benefit point of view, small and medium sized businesses are advised to modernize their IT investments. Upgrading to Windows 7 or 8 reduces operational costs and improves efficiency. Upgrading allows SMBs to leverage leading edge applications, better manageability and mobility capabilities and reduce security risks.
According to a 2012 IDC Report, moving to Windows 7 from XP is a good business decision because it reduces costs and makes people happy. Specifically, organizations can spend less hiring additional computer support professionals. Employees, in turn, can be more productive and happy doing their work with fewer computer headaches with less rebooting and downtime.