By the DynaSis Team
[featured_image]After 12 years, Microsoft will end support for Windows XP on April 8, 2014. Once support ends, Microsoft will issue no further security updates and will not offer any technical support for the Windows XP operating system (OS). Although Managed IT Services firms like DynaSis can continue supporting Windows XP, they will not be able to provide the same level of protection for their customers that they offered in the past. They won’t be able to apply anymore patches or fixes, because there will not be any.
Malware experts predict that Windows XP will become a prime target for cybercriminals, and having even one Windows XP system in a company’s network will put the entire firm’s IT infrastructure – and its intellectual assets - at risk.
If your company is still running Windows XP on some of its desktops, you are not alone. Estimates for the number of companies running the OS range from 30% to as high as 45%. Last year, one survey found that 20% of companies planned to continue running Windows XP after its “sunset” date of April 8, 2014. We urge all companies – our customers and others – not to take this dangerous path.
Consider Your Options
The most current version of Windows is Windows 8.1, and it offers numerous benefits for corporate users, including a common interface across desktops, laptops, tablets and smartphones. Windows 8.1, while powerful, works differently from Windows XP, Vista and 7 and does require a learning curve. (We’ll talk about this in our next blog.)
For companies that want a more traditional Windows experience, Windows 7 is a stable, well-respected OS with an interface very similar to that of Windows XP. It is still available for purchase both as software and preinstalled on business machines. In fact, Microsoft recently announced that although it would stop selling Windows 7 for pre-installation on “home” computers in October 2014, it did not have any current plans to stop selling Windows 7 for business machines.
Migrating to a modern OS will give companies dramatically enhanced security, increased productivity, and a lower total cost of ownership. If that’s not enough to persuade you, consider this. Microsoft quit selling retail copies of Windows 7 (both home and professional versions) On October 31, 2013. However, a number of retail outlets are still selling it, so it is currently an option for companies that are hesitant to move to Windows 8 due to the learning curve or any other reason.
Companies that do not upgrade now, and wait to end their usage of Windows XP until their systems are compromised or obsolete, may be forced to migrate all their users to Windows 8.1 or it successor at once, with no time for their users to become accustomed to the differences in this intriguing OS.
Our virtual CIOs can evaluate your company’s needs and determine which users would be better suited to Windows 7 and which would benefit from the jump straight to Windows 8.1. We can also perform a network assessment, with a complete software inventory, to identify and let you address every instance of Windows XP running on your network. To learn more, fill out our inquiry form or give us a call.
[featured_image]Microsoft hailed Windows 8 as “a modern computing experience for businesses that helps professionals stay connected to their colleagues and clients from anywhere, anytime.” This is a realistic assessment, but in making Windows 8 more compatible and workable on mobile devices, Microsoft did away with some features Windows users loved (the Start button, for one).
With the release of Windows 8.1 in October 2013, Microsoft brought the Start button back and made other tweaks that will increase the comfort level for users of earlier versions of Windows. It rolled numerous other enhancements into the release, which qualifies as more than an update, in our opinion.
Windows 8.1 has garnered some good reviews—and it represents the future of Windows computing for desktop and mobile users. Here’s a taste of some business-related features you can expect in the release. For more details on the user experience of the operating system, visit http://windows.microsoft.com/en-us/windows-8/features#personalize=startscreen. If you want to dig more deeply into the “under the covers” features, start here: http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/dn140266.aspx.
Mobile Device Management
Enrolled devices are connected to the Windows Intune management service, which provides users with a consistent experience for access to applications and data and enables them to manage their own devices.
NFC Tap-to-pair Printing
Users can tap their Windows 8.1 devices against an NFC-enabled printer (any printer with an NFC tag attached) and print. Wi-Fi printing is just as easy. No more hunting for printers on a network.
Remote Business Data Removal
Companies now have more control over corporate content, which can be marked as corporate, encrypted and then wiped when the relationship between the corporation and the user ends.
All versions of Windows 8.1 include end-to-end biometric capabilities that enable authenticating with a biometric identity anywhere within Windows (Windows sign-in, remote access, User Account Control, etc.).
With the release of Windows 8.1, which tweaked Windows 8—and addressed some user complaints about the excessively "mobile-style" interface—many companies may be wondering if it is time for an upgrade. After all, Windows 8 gives uses a near seamless experience from the desktop to mobile devices, and Microsoft touts it as the most productive and stable user operating system, ever. (For more about Windows 8 features, read this month's newsletter.)
Whether or not that's enough reason to upgrade depends on which version of Windows your company is running. Support for the hugely popular, widely deployed Windows XP ends in April 2014. Despite rumored pleas from corporate users to give it a softer landing, Microsoft will likely stick with that date, or something close. As a result, Windows XP usage is plummeting—from nearly 40% of businesses and users in July 2013 to 31% in October 2013 (per statistics firm NetMarketShare).
The end of support means more than not being able to pay Microsoft for phone assistance. After Windows XP's official "end of life" date on April 8, 2014, Microsoft will stop providing patches and security updates. Patches are crucial to system security, and be assured that hackers follow how many Windows XP machines are still in operation. After that time, they will likely start targeting them aggressively—and successfully. To avoid extreme exposure to malware and other nasties, companies should upgrade to a current version of Windows. (There is no sense in moving to Windows Vista or any other version of Windows before 7.)
Windows 7 has the largest Microsoft OS install base (near 50%, per NetMarketShare) among Windows users. However, Windows 8 is gaining ground, quickly—it has a nearly 10% install base within the first year, which puts it on a trajectory close to that of Windows XP when it debuted.
More importantly, Microsoft has made Windows 8 very affordable to all companies running any version of Windows, enacting no pricing "penalty" for upgrading, no matter how old the version of Windows it is replacing. It is keeping this approach with Windows 8.1, which will cost $119.99 per user for companies running Windows XP, Vista or 7; $199.99 for the Pro version.
Best of all, Microsoft is offering full-version software at these bargain prices. In other words, the purchase conveys a license for Windows 8.1 on any machine, previously running any operating system (OS). Each OS install is completely fresh, so there will be no upgrade "glitches" to work through. (All data stays intact; but existing software must be reinstalled.)
Of course, you may need hardware and possibly software upgrades, depending on the age of your equipment and applications. Nevertheless, the situation is only going to get worse, and companies that start the process now can budget and plan for avoiding danger before April 2014 rolls around.
With Windows XP support ending—and the OS already being a target of hackers for its less-than-robust security—we strongly recommend all our customers move to Windows 8.1. It's a bit different from what you are used to, but you'll be able to stick with it longer than you can Windows 7. If you don't upgrade, you won't perish, but you will be left standing in the cold, with you and your IT provider unable to fully protect your systems from the attacks that will ensue.
To discuss the upgrade process or start creating your plan, give us a call.