iStock 17396155 Small

With support of Windows XP being pulled in April, 30% of desktop computers are still yet to change to a newer operating system. Windows XP have announced pulling support in the past and have extended the date. With the recent announcement that they will extend their anti-malware support, a lot of companies are knowingly calling Microsoft’s bluff and sticking with their lot or, in the face of a computer which switches on every day and does the job as necessary, aren’t motivated enough to make the necessary change. Richard Thompson, Sales Director at Central Technology an IT firm based in Chesterfield, says that this time support is going to end and businesses are taking a really worrying risk by not upgrading.

Windows XP: Previous Bluffs

Microsoft were first meant to end support for XP in April 2009, but with popularity enduring they decided to extend their support another five years. Officially we’re all in the “extended support” period and mainstream support died in 2009, although you’d be hard pushed to find any difference between the two.

A lot of people are interpreting this as a sign that Windows can be pushed, and will have to extend the support again. This isn’t something anyone should bank on, especially businesses.

Why the security announcement shouldn’t give you false security

For those businesses sticking to their guns, hoping to force Microsoft into continuing support by sheer force of numbers, the recent announcement further updates will provided to their antimalware may appear to be a sign that Microsoft are buckling under the pressure. In truth, this will help out consumers who use Microsoft Security Essentials, but won’t offer much to the majority of business users.

Updates will apply to System Center Endpoint Protection, Forefront Client Security, Forefront Endpoint Protection and Windows Intune. For those businesses who don’t use any of these programmes (and there are plenty of them) the announcement means very little.

Moreover, the extension isn’t much of a guarantee anyway. It doesn’t mean that security patches will be updated and the antimalware will still be working on an out of date operating system. In essence, this makes a great headline, but it isn’t offering as much as you might think.

What the risks are

The most compelling reason to change is because of the extent of the risk a business takes by sticking. For those organisations still using XP when support has ended, it will be more a matter of when than if with regards to their IT systems being compromised. And don’t think you’ll be okay just because you’re a small business, everybody is at risk.

Just one PC left on Windows XP, just one door open, could be enough for something nasty to get in and take down your entire system or steal confidential information. Keep in mind that there is, on average a 156 day lapse between the time a resource is compromised and the time the compromise is detected – that gives a virus or hacker a very long time to cause damage. But making sure you have sufficient security in place (which means upgrading your OS!) can significantly reduce this time.

Another massive issue is compliance. If you manage personal data there are industry regulations you must abide by. Using a non-supported OS will obviously not meet these regulations.

Say they do move it? You’ll still be better off migrating

Even if Microsoft do relent, which is unlikely, an organisation is not going to lose out by upgrading now. It is true that “Running a well-protected solution starts with using modern software and hardware designed to help protect against today’s threat landscape”. Windows XP is 12 years old, that’s extraordinarily old in technological years and increasingly software is being developed which XP just won’t have the capacity to cope with.

If Microsoft do continue support for XP it can’t be for that much longer and you won’t have lost out by investing in an upgrade. Windows 7 has an XP compatibility mode, so if you do have software which is particularly stubborn and difficult to migrate you can always run it in this. You may also find that the software providers have later versions which are Windows 7 compatible – it’s worth finding this out.

So, in conclusion don’t take the risk! The benefit will be perhaps saving a bit of money (which you will have to spend at some pont anyway) but the potential (and if they don’t continue support, very likely) risks are losing your data, losing client or customer data, total system downtime, loss of time, loss of money and a damaged reputation. It is not worth risking the safety of your business on a gamble that Microsoft will continue support.