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FAQ: How the end of support for Windows XP will affect your business

Small businesses need to act now to avoid problems after XP support is withdrawn next April

Windows XP Logo

Headline

XP support ends on 8th April 2014. So does that for Office 2003.

You need to start taking action now!

Introduction

Something big is going to happen on 8/4/2014 that will affect a large number of businesses in the UK; particularly small ones. Unless you are a very big company and prepared to pay loads-o-money, Microsoft is ending all support for Windows XP and Office 2003. It’s important that all those responsible for IT Support in businesses are aware of this and start to take appropriate action now!

I’ve chosen to represent this information in the form of an FAQ in the hope that it will make it easier to consume and understand. Please feel free to distribute this information as widely as you can so that nobody gets caught out.

If there are questions I’ve missed and that you’d like answered, please respond in the comments and I’ll update the main post.

What actually happens on 8/4/2014

Microsoft stops providing extended support for Windows XP and Office 2003.

Some more detail on what this actually means

Microsoft defines a product life cycle for all it’s products:
* General Availability

General Availability means that the product is on sale; support for technical problems is available from Microsoft; and fixes for technical problems are produced automatically in the form of patches and service packs.

These are then deployed automatically through Windows Update Services.

  • End of Sales

    End of Sales means that the product is no longer on sale but is still supported.

  • End of Support

    Once a product moves past the End of Support date, no fixes are produced for newly identified problems; there are no updates; and there is no online technical support (unless you are a very large commercial customer who has paid a lot of money).

  • XP entered the General Availability phase in December 2001

  • End of Sales for Windows XP was October 2010

  • Microsoft ceased mainstream support in April 2009

  • Microsoft will cease extended support on 8th April 2014

So what does that mean to my business?

  1. No bug fixes.
  2. No support for tricky problems (You may not call Microsoft, but your IT Support Provider probably does when they come across a particularly tricky problem).
  3. No more fixes for bugs in IE 6.
  4. Crucially, No security patches.

How could this affect my business?

  • Newly purchased software may not work because the developer is not targeting Windows XP.
  • The same could apply to updates of existing applications.
  • Newly purchased hardware may not connect because the manufacturer hasn’t developed a Windows XP driver.
  • Critical – You are exposed to new zero-day attacks.
  • You may be contravening other license agreements or regulatory regimes.
  • Shareholders and other stakeholders in your business may take a dim view of your seeming lack of due diligence.

What’s the worst that could happen

The worst that could happen is that a new exploit could arise and your systems would be defenceless. XP has been around since 2001 and it was written before there was any real focus on desktop operating systems security. It was not written to be particularly secure and that’s why so many security holes have been uncovered over the years.

The exposure rate has diminished over the years but it hasn’t approached zero. In fact, it is even possible that hackers have held back from exploiting a defect until after Microsoft has withdrawn support: knowing that Microsoft will not patch the operating system.

What do I need to do, and by when

In simple terms, migrate all users to PCs running either Windows 7 or Windows 8 by next April. This may involve new hardware, but it may well not.

In several respects, Windows 7 is less resource intensive than XP. That said, Windows 7 also fails to support a lot of old devices (particularly rapidly evolving devices like Wi-Fi cards).

Do I really need to do this? We know all about XP and we never use Microsoft’s support

In my opinion, Yes you do

Microsoft will no longer be producing patches and the hackers know this. An unsupported operating system will be a very tempting target after next April.

But we have a number of core applications that will only run properly on XP

If you really cannot update or migrate to new applications, then you need to explore being able to deliver these applications across some form of Virtual Desktop Infrastructure, via Terminal Services, or something similar. That way, you can isolate the legacy applications on dedicated machines and deliver them to newer PCs. (We can help you. Contact Me and have a chat).

But we don’t have a budget for doing this

  • IDC produced a report last year which showed that companies spend, on average, four times as much on Windows XP support compared to an equivalent Windows 7 machine (£554 pa versus £107 pa Source) www.itpro.co.uk
  • If you’re an IT manager reading this, then shame on you. This date has been known for years and should have been factored into your planning.

  • If you’re a non-IT business manager or owner, then I sympathise. However, you must take this seriously. To not do so would be abrogating your duties as a major stakeholder in the business. It really is that important.

OK, you’ve convinced me. So, how do I go about doing this?

Within the next 2 months

  1. Perform an audit of all your computers and determine the size of the problem

  2. For each affected computer

    • Run the Windows 7 suitability test (??)

    • Decide whether it may be time to buy a new computer anyway

    • Perform an inventory of all software running on the PC

    • For each application

      • Will it run under Windows 7 or Windows 8

      • If not, what is the upgrade path?

    • For each piece of attached hardware

      • Is this device still supported under Windows 7 or Windows 8?

      • If not, what is the device replacement strategy?

  3. Prepare a plan to update/replace as necessary

  4. Prepare a training plan for your staff so that productivity doesn’t suffer after the change.

After that

Execute the plan, with the objective of getting everything done ahead of the April 2014 deadline.

Won’t this be very expensive?

That depends:

  • You may need new hardware.
    You could consider leasing rather than purchasing (I can help you with this. Contact Me.)

  • You may need to buy licenses for Windows 7 or Windows 8.

    Consider Volume Licensing and Software Assurance to avoid this problem again when Windows 7 goes End of Life at some, as yet undefined, date in the future.

  • You may need to purchase new peripheral equipment.

    e.g I needed to replace the document scanner and label printer that were attached to my PC

  • You may incur training costs.

What about Office 2003

All of the above also applies to Office 2003, so you need to plan to migrate to Office 2013 sometime this year. I recommend that you actively consider moving to Office 365 Productivity Plus as a way to spread the cost of this upgrade. (I can help you. Contact Me.)

Conclusions

This is a deadline that must not be ignored. Your business is at risk if you do not take action before April 2014.

Actions to be taken Now

  • Start to prepare an inventory of your PC devices

  • Start to prepare a plan of action

  • Or, call me on 01480 476297. I can help you do this with the minimum of disruption to your business.

Good Luck!

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