shutterstock_130358696

By Alan Ritchie, managing director at PC World Business

Since the launch of Windows XP in 2001, the operating system has proved incredibly popular with consumers and business users alike.  Microsoft ended support on Tuesday 8th April, but nearly a third of desktop computers are still using this legacy system according to internet technology statistics specialist NetMarketShare. This figure includes many small businesses, leaving themselves open to the risk of security breaches and system failure by neglecting to update their systems.

Temporary software patches are currently doing the rounds amongst resistant, XP-using businesses, but these quick fixes can’t replace a critical operating system update.  We’ve outlined the four key reasons small businesses need to abandon XP now:

  1. Security: Small business data and customer information becomes increasingly vulnerable without critical system updates.  Before the software updates ended, Microsoft itself stated that XP is more than five times as vulnerable to viruses and other attacks as modern systems.
  2. Downtime: The increased vulnerability of any system still running XP leaves businesses open to targeted attacks and system failure – a crucial problem modern businesses face. Business disruption due to downtime is much more likely with software updates having ended and hardware growing ever older.  An additional problem is that most software and hardware vendors will no longer support products that are running on Windows XP, as they are unable to get XP and Office 2003 updates.
  3. Support: Because updates usually fix problems before they arise, many businesses have never needed tech support from Microsoft.  However, problems are much more likely now that XP updates have ended, and the safety net of tech support has been taken away.
  4. Third party products: It’s not just Microsoft’s own products affected – support for XP on third party products is also ending. This means the applications and devices you depend on, even your printer, may soon be incompatible with your computer.

Not only are businesses failing to update putting their company and customer data in jeopardy, they are also likely to fall behind their competition. The opportunities technology offers businesses have advanced enormously to take advantage of the massive growth of the Internet and mobility.  For example, compatibility with the latest cloud apps, like Microsoft Office 365, allows users to work remotely and collaborate with colleagues on the move.  Modern systems offer great new ways for businesses to reach more customers, and grow faster.

Microsoft has been encouraging XP users to migrate to Windows 8.1 and offers a free data migration tool to help copy files from XP to new PC operating systems.  Unfortunately, very few older computers can run Windows 8.1.  Addressing the situation, however, need not necessarily break the bank or disrupt day-to-day operations.

As ever, the best thing businesses can do is seek expert advice to discern the system migration plan that will best suit the company. This doesn’t have to be expensive – free independent advice is often as close as the local high street.

A great way for smaller businesses to identify the most appropriate operating system is to download the Windows Upgrade Assistant, to check if equipment meets Windows 8.1 requirements, and then follow the tutorial steps to upgrade if possible.  If current IT equipment can’t run Windows 8.1, it’s probably time to consider shopping for a new one.  New laptops and PCs are more powerful, lightweight, and stylish than ever before – with an average price that’s considerably less than 10 years ago.

Some businesses may still be struggling to say goodbye  to XP, but the landscape out there is too dangerous for them to ignore the call to change. Support is out there for businesses that need help migrating or upgrading systems. For more information on the end of XP, visit a PC World store near you, or www.pcworldbusiness.co.uk/whywindows.