03 April 2014

Should businesses still use Windows XP?

Microsoft will soon stop providing security updates and technical support for Windows XP and Office 2003. What do you need to consider for your business?

From next week - Tuesday 8 April to be precise - Microsoft will no longer provide any security updates or technical support for their Windows XP operating system or Office 2003.

What does this mean for your business? To summarise, you’ll still be able to use the software and update any existing security patches Microsoft has released, but if a new flaw is found, there will be no patches to cover this. Therefore, this could mean you’re more at risk from new viruses and malware. In addition, Microsoft won’t be providing technical support for these systems.

Of course, this only applies if you’re using Windows XP or Office 2003, although it’s estimated that nearly 30% of Microsoft users are on Windows XP. That’s quite a high percentage, but if you’re using a later version e.g. Windows 7 or Office 2007, you don’t need to do anything.

Look at your options

While Microsoft gave plenty of warning – indeed we highlighted it in our blog in April last year, many businesses will still be unaware or unsure what to do. So here are a number of options.

One of the options (that cynics suggest Microsoft is hoping you choose) is to upgrade your operating system – e.g. to Windows 7 or 8. First, you also need to check that your computer has the relevant specification to be able to run Windows 7 or 8. If you’re not a techie, unless you have a member of staff or outsourced team to do this for you, it could be quite a daunting task. However, Microsoft offers a tutorial to help. This option balances the costs and effort involved, with the knowledge that your software will be secure.

This option may not be viable to some companies – it may be too costly, you may have other applications that aren’t compatible with the newer operating systems or your computers may just be too old. In this case, you could look at switching operating systems entirely, e.g. to Linux. This is free and is much more newbie-friendly than it used to be, although it won’t be an option for more design-orientated businesses.

Another option is to use the deadline as an opportunity to invest in new technology. This may appeal to businesses whose IT is already rather dated, but you will need to factor this into your company’s budget. Depending on how many pcs you have, this could be quite expensive.

Is it really a big deal?

Doing nothing is also an option. Some experts are keen to point out that Microsoft’s software is just one of many on your pc, so just because the security updates are ending doesn’t mean you should suddenly panic.

If you do decide to stick with Windows XP for the moment, there are some things you should make sure you do:

  • Update your antivirus software. There are free versions available, but look at reviews comparing software and choose the best that you can afford (which may be free.)
  • Don’t click on any suspicious links on webpages or emails – see our information on scammers below.
  • Update your other software to make sure they are all as secure as possible.
  • Don’t use Internet Explorer as your browser. Firefox and Chrome will both be updating their browsers for XP for at least another year.

However, bear in mind that the XP system is already known to be vulnerable to cyber-attacks. Whatever you decide, make sure your decision is informed and that it’s the best option for your business.

Don’t fall for scammers

Scams from cybercriminals have been around for a long time. However, it’s possible that some hackers will try to take advantage of the fact that Microsoft is pulling its security updates.

See this example of a tech support phone scam where the caller claims to be from Microsoft and make sure you and your staff are on the alert.