Microsoft is ending support for its Windows XP operating system on April 8, 2014, meaning that the company will stop issuing patches to fix bugs and mending any vulnerabilities that may arise. Although PCs running XP won't cease to work on that date, they will be effectively obsolete.
Two months before Windows XP's "End of Support" date arrives, the company is reaching out to both small and midsize businesses (SMBs) and consumers, providing them with guidance on some of the steps that they can take to avoid the risks of running unsupported software. Efforts include an SMB checklist penned by Jay Paulus, director of Windows Small Business Marketing for Microsoft. He cautioned that "businesses still running the old operating system face increased security risks, increased costs and lack of technical support."
Among the biggest challenges facing SMBs are limited IT resources and personnel, argued Paulus. "For many small and medium-sized businesses with little to no IT budget, the process may fall on one employee or the owner themselves and upgrading 5, 25 or 250 computers can seem daunting."
What follows is a guide pointing to several resources that SMB technologists can use to research, plan and implement an upgrade strategy. For starters, Microsoft encourages the use of its Upgrade Assistant to help businesses determine whether their current systems can run Windows 8.1.
Since not all hardware released in the XP era will pass, Microsoft suggests exploring new options that offer a variety of form factors, from sleek Ultrabooks and mini-desktops to tablets. To lessen the impact of new PC purchases, the company points to several special Windows and Office offers tailored for SMBs.
In terms of moving data, Paulus suggests using cloud services to back up and transfer files. The company's Application Compatibility Toolkit helps businesses determine if their apps will run on the latest version of Windows.
Clearly, the end is coming for XP, indicated Paulus as he closed out his post. "We are proud of the value that Windows XP has offered to businesses for more than a decade and we are excited to help companies reach the next level of productivity with Windows 8.1 Pro," he wrote.
In a separate Feb. 7 blog post titled "Help your friends and family get off Windows XP," Microsoft spokesperson Brandon LeBlanc points readers to a new page on Windows.com. It warns that XP users may be getting left behind in the technology race. As hardware vendors "continue to optimize for more recent versions of Windows, you can expect to encounter greater numbers of apps and devices that do not work with Windows XP," said the company.
Naturally, the "easiest path to Windows 8.1 is with new devices," wrote LeBlanc. He also said that Microsoft will continue to step up its campaign as April 8 draws closer. "As we get close to April 8th, we'll continue to publish blog posts about the latest offers on new devices and resources to help people get off Windows XP."