The end is near. No, this isn’t another Y2K bug situation. On April 8 2014, support for Windows XP will officially end. Sure, the Operating System may be 12-years-old, but almost thirty percent of users (including businesses) currently have XP as their OS. While this doesn’t mean that those computers using XP will start sparking and crash, destroying the internet in its wake, many businesses that use the OS are wondering what will happen.
The Beginning of the End
Microsoft began their efforts of convincing users to switch their OS back in 2005 with the release of Windows Vista, but a majority of the users wondered, “If it ain’t broke, why should we fix it?” Then, Microsoft announced in 2007 the official April 2014 “end of life” date, but users were still reluctant to change. Another update with Windows 7 in 2009 has been slow to get people to sign on to, but may be an easier transition. That being said, there are still thousands of applications that can’t be moved to the newer OS due to incompatibility.
Microsoft has been sending daily messages to those still on XP that reads “Windows XP End of Support is on April 8th, 2014” and also including a link to the end of XP website. With a click of their link, the user is lead to a series of questions and answers, most important being, “How do I stay protected?” The answer is simple: upgrade your current PC. The problem with that is the simplicity of the answer. Users may not have the luxury to afford an upgraded computer and many of those older computers are not fit to handle running the newer Windows 8.1 OS.
The main problem with the OS is that after April 8, those computers will still be connected to the internet, and without continuing updates and patches, hackers will have the ability to launch larger-scale attacks, which includes users with newer computers.
Experts, outside of Microsoft, are also pushing users to end their love affair with XP, and software companies will also be dropping support for it. If you HAVE to continue with XP for any length of time, here are some things that you can do to make sure that it’s still safe:
- Install the final update
- Use an alternate web browser and make sure that Internet Explorer is no longer your default.
- Make sure your Microsoft Office is completely patched and that all of your security options are tightened up. Stay away from document files that you don’t trust.
- Uninstall any third-party software that isn’t needed. Get rid of all of your old software that may be vulnerable to attacks.
- If you keep any third-party software, disable or uninstall the browser plug-ins.
- Make sure whatever security product you are using is up to date with antivirus and firewall software installed.
- Connect your XP computer only to a NAT router, which will work as an additional firewall. Don’t use free Wi-Fi hotspots as they can make your computer more vulnerable to attack.
- If you can, disconnect any PCs running XP from the internet altogether.
If you’re not sure you want to upgrade to Windows 8, many businesses have now been migrating from Windows XP to Windows 7. While you cannot get Windows 7 from Microsoft any more, you can still buy it from many online retailers including https://softwarekeep.com. You can also purchase new or refurbished PCs with Windows 7 installed.
If you want to make the transition as painless as possible, you can look into migration services that will take inventory of your data and software and automate the process of switching. In this way, you can keep your business running smoothly, even as you make the change. This may be an especially attractive option for medical offices, call centers, or other businesses that cannot afford any IT down time while migrating to a new OS.
A positive aspect of migration is opening your technology to new worlds and experiences. XP wasn’t built for cloud computing or other aspects that may help your business run exceedingly smoother and faster. Many companies that have switched are already seeing the benefits of a newer OS.
Don’t ignore anymore warning signs and make sure that your company and its information are protected and secure.
Are you prepared for the end of XP?
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.