As software giant Microsoft prepares to send its widely used XP operating system off into the sunset, many business owners worry that their computers might crash or will suddenly fall prey to hackers.
Microsoft will end technical assistance for Windows XP and Microsoft Office 2003 after April 8. As part of XP’s planned retirement, automatic updates that fix glitches and protect computers from viruses will also end.
What’s an XP user to do?
Shaun Brown, senior project manager for Morrison-Maierle Systems Corp., a technology consulting firm, says there’s no reason to panic, even though technology experts estimate that about 40 percent of all computers still use Windows XP.
Brown said there’s a fair amount of alarmism surrounding the Windows XP retirement. Most of the information is being spread by companies that are trying to make money on the transition.
Upgrading to a newer operating system requires a significant investment in time and money for businesses that operate many computers in need of an upgrade. For home users, there’s less urgency, Brown said.
“In April, obviously XP won’t just stop working,” he said. “Therefore, most people have a few months before they need to get really concerned.”
Brown said some of his clients use proprietary software that was designed specifically to run on Windows XP, and they may need a little extra help.
“There are a handful of fixes you can do but sometimes it’s not as pretty or not as elegant,” he said.
Brown advises customers who are planning to switch from XP to consider how long they plan to use their current computers. Some older models that were designed to run on XP might not be able to handle newer operating systems, Windows 7 and Windows 8.1, he said. Dell and a few other vendors offer specialized software that can tell you whether your computer can operate on Microsoft’s newer operating systems, he said.
“If you have hardware that’s more than three years old, you need to be looking at an upgrade anyway,” Brown said.
Morrison Maierle Systems has been working closely with its clients for months, and most of them are well on their way to making the switch, Brown said.
“About 70 percent of our client base is upgraded and is good to go,” Brown said.
Companies that have dozens or hundreds of computers in need of an upgrade need to plan well in advance. One strategy is to acquire computer hardware as a service, which is quite a bit like leasing a car instead of buying one.
Leasing computer equipment has some advantages. It doesn’t require making a large down payment. Instead, the lease involves making a series of monthly payments. If the lease is renewed, the user gets a new computer, and the equipment is under warranty, Brown said.
“It’s a good service, but here in Montana many people still like to own their own assets. But for people who are strapped for cash and don’t have an option, that may be a good way to go for them.”