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  1. #1
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    Service helps small businesses move from XP




    TOP STORY


    Service helps small businesses move from XP


    By Tony Bradley

    Despite copious warnings about the official end of MS support for Windows XP, millions of small businesses are not prepared to migrate to Windows 7 or 8.
    A new organization is matching up small businesses with IT professionals who can help with the transition.

    The full text of this column is posted at windowssecrets.com/top-story/service-helps-small-businesses-move-from-xp/ (paid content, opens in a new window/tab).

    Columnists typically cannot reply to comments here, but do incorporate the best tips into future columns.

  2. #2
    Super Moderator BATcher's Avatar
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    The "new organisation" mentioned in the article would appear to be a US-based firm.
    Was any research done to determine availability of such XP conversion services over the remaining 93% (or so) of the earth's land surface?
    BATcher

    Time prevents everything happening all at once...

  3. #3
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    It's worse than that. All my doctors have put their record-keeping systems (including scans of all patient records) on turnkey packages wrapped around XP. That may be (barely) tolerable if the system is completely offline, but I'm a patient at a group practice with a dozen locations. A doctor at one location can pull up patient records created at another location, so they're by definition online and vulnerable.

    BATcher - I think the bartender puts two pints on the bar and says "Guys, you gotta learn your limits."

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    On the face of it this article appears to be a pretty shoddy example of journalism.

    The author uses his own PCWorld article as a reference - an article apparently over 3 years old, since it itself refers to a 'new' Microsoft Security Incident(sic: the report's title actually says 'Intelligence') Report based on data collected in the second half of calendar 2009.

    The timing of this particular data set is interesting in that it encompasses the initial release of Windows 7 and thus reports the incidence of malware found only on new or nearly-new Windows 7 systems purchased by 'early adopters' (a contingent one might reasonably expect to be above-average in keeping their systems 'clean'). By contrast, it includes data on XP systems almost all of which were likely VERY mature and thus quite possibly carrying malware accumulated over a period of years (not to mention the likelihood that many were not up to anything like current patch level, a situation from which the new Windows 7 systems clearly did not suffer). Furthermore, it also encompasses the release of Microsoft Security Essentials in September, 2009, which made it even more likely that previously-unnoticed malware on those XP systems would suddenly become evident as users were strongly encouraged by Microsoft itself to take advantage of this new, free protection software (a statistical perturbation which the Microsoft report itself notes).

    But why limit oneself to such speculation when the report itself strongly suggests that it was not which version of Windows was running but how up to date its patch level was that determined reliability? Microsoft obviously had a vested interest in emphasizing the apparent superiority of its newer operating systems but nonetheless included data demonstrating dramatic reliability increases on systems running later XP service packs - differences which would not exist if the systems running older service packs had still been incrementally updated to current patch level, so clearly many the XP systems in the study (including the SP3 systems, which could have been as much as 20 months out of date) were often NOT up to current patch level (in contrast to the Win 7 systems which being brand new were at most a few months out of date).

    Nonetheless, the author (twice) faithfully parroted Microsoft's conclusion that the newer operating system versions had been demonstrated by this data to be more reliable. I suppose that he could have considered the Vista data to have been persuasive, but then why did he ignore the Windows 2000 data (from systems where the last service pack had been released in mid-2003) which indicated that good old Win2K was not that far at all behind current-patch-level Vista and Win7 in reliability (warms my heart, that)? And why did he ignore the fact that XP-based Windows Server 2003 had such dramatically better measured reliability than XP itself did despite running an older service pack?

    That 64-bit systems (Server 2003 excepted) uniformly enjoyed a reliability advantage over their 32-bit same-service-pack-level siblings only further supports the conclusion that the measured reliability differences arose far less from operating system version (especially when patched up to the same date) than from the kind of people using the systems and/or the uses to which they were being put. Win2K was never primarily a consumer system and even by the second half of 2009 neither were many (most?) 64-bit Vista systems (a break-down of the Vista user base might be interesting, given that Vista acceptance differed so radically from XP's and Win7's), while the new Win7 systems were mostly in the hands of the early-adopter crowd. By contrast, XP use was dominated by the "Security? Yes, I've heard of it..." contingent of normal PC/laptop consumers: of COURSE they were relatively lax about security, and of COURSE this particular measure of 'reliability' reflected that.

    Finally, in 2H 2009 XP was specifically targeted (compared with Vista; Win7 was too new to have been specifically targeted much at all yet) for the same reason that Willie Sutton allegedly said he robbed banks: because that was where the money was (or in XP's case, where the vast majority of the targets were); the same observations apply to the 'CCM' XP vs. Vista 'reliability' figures over the longer period 1H2007 - 2H2009. To claim that a system is 'more reliable' simply because far fewer bad guys find it worth bothering to attack (the same could apply to the 64-bit system variants at that point in time, come to think of it) seems more than somewhat questionable to me.

    Later portions of the report demonstrate that IE6 was more vulnerable than IE7 (duh), but do not make it clear that any increased browser vulnerability on XP (as compared with Vista/Win7) was due to anything other than this difference (i.e., user failure to have updated the XP systems to IE7).

    In sum, while Microsoft did its usual slick job of interpreting data to its own marketing advantage, and Mr. Bradley apparently swallowed it hook, line, and sinker (right up to offering up ridiculous end-of-the-world Y2K comparisons), this report simply does not substantiate what he claims it does in the area of relative reliability (even using the chosen metric) of Microsoft's operating system versions. XP is not in fact 'broken', nor will it suddenly become so when security updates cease next April - rather, as XP market share continues to decrease it will become just that much less interesting a target for those seeking fame and fortune in the malware arena, while we can probably expect Microsoft to continue to offer up enticing new vulnerabilities in its newer systems just as it has for decades. In fact, there may be somewhat of a race between the eventual discovery of some major new and unmitigatable vulnerability in XP and the point in time when XP use has become too insignificant for anyone to bother trying to exploit it.

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    I'm not used to seeing thinly disguised advertisements presented as WS articles.

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    Shorter: IF your business requires Internet connection, you MAY be safer to upgrade from XP next year sometime. If your business PCs running XP are "air-gapped" from the Internet (e.g. proprietary & standalone applications), or use the Internet only as a medium for an intranet between workstations within your company (e.g. you have good VPN security), this may not be important for awhile. In any case, practice safe computing!

  7. #7
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    some biz will want to use such a service

    but many of us are still running 98se quite well along with xppro

    we have no intention of changing just cause ms wants us to

    our aps run
    they are paid for
    we have the experience and training with them

    when *we* have a *need* then we may get a new win9 machine to add to the mix

    but change for change's sake to help ms make more money is not going to happen

    we would still be running a 95 and even dos machines if they had not died and it was not practical to fix them


    Quote Originally Posted by Kathleen Atkins View Post



    TOP STORY


    Service helps small businesses move from XP


    By Tony Bradley

    Despite copious warnings about the official end of MS support for Windows XP, millions of small businesses are not prepared to migrate to Windows 7 or 8.
    A new organization is matching up small businesses with IT professionals who can help with the transition.

    The full text of this column is posted at windowssecrets.com/top-story/service-helps-small-businesses-move-from-xp/ (paid content, opens in a new window/tab).

    Columnists typically cannot reply to comments here, but do incorporate the best tips into future columns.

  8. #8
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    Having bad Win Update experiences here,
    with XP and W7 machines in our small business.
    (user of Windows for decades...).

    But now, it's time to change our OS,
    if we want to continue operating our small business.
    Not "upgrade" to Win 8
    ...sorry Microsoft and "Windows Secrets".
    Why do we want to go from one MS-nightmare to another MS-nightmare?
    That's enough!

    If the latest and previous BOTCHED Win Updates,
    are not ***total convincing evidence***
    to finally move AWAY from Windows
    to either Linux or Macs,
    I don't know what will...

    The reality is this is the _end of line_
    not only for XP,
    but for the MS-Windows monopoly as a viable, usable OS.
    Unstable, insecure,
    ..and expensive to buy and maintain.

    Pls, reason with me, for a minute:
    we moved most (not all)
    of our PCs to Linux Ubuntu and Mint.

    It took ***less time*** to install Ubuntu / Mint Linux (15 min/PC),
    than to "fix" all our screwed-up Win machines,
    (and they are all still unusable after the latest Win Updates !).

    Most apps running well under Linux = super-stable OS.
    Users happy...

    So, that's what we are doing in practical terms,
    about this needless MS nightmare.
    We finally moved most PCs to Linux.

    The bottom line, (in our case):

    Our small business needs to get work done,
    not spend countless hours fixing Microsoft Windows,
    and their expensive and horribly botched OS mess.

    We'd rather spend that time in OUR business...
    Last edited by SF99; 2013-08-22 at 12:53.

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    I vomited when I read this article. It is truly sad that in 2013 a typical small business computer user will need to hire "specialized consultants" to help them move to a newer PC environment. Why are computers still so hard to use that what should be a relatively simple task is so greatly feared?

    As an industry, we've been through these migrations a few times. The real wake-up call isn't the impending threat of Windows XP cessation of support, it should be to look for alternatives and ways to throw off the shackles once and for all.

    I'm not going to mention specific options because I don't want this to digress into a Microsoft fanboie versus others "religious" discussion, but there really is something wrong with the computer industry when we still face such a self-inflicted "crisis" in this day and age.

  10. #10
    Lounge VIP bobprimak's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by spiv View Post
    I vomited when I read this article. It is truly sad that in 2013 a typical small business computer user will need to hire "specialized consultants" to help them move to a newer PC environment. Why are computers still so hard to use that what should be a relatively simple task is so greatly feared?

    As an industry, we've been through these migrations a few times. The real wake-up call isn't the impending threat of Windows XP cessation of support, it should be to look for alternatives and ways to throw off the shackles once and for all.

    I'm not going to mention specific options because I don't want this to digress into a Microsoft fanboie versus others "religious" discussion, but there really is something wrong with the computer industry when we still face such a self-inflicted "crisis" in this day and age.
    First, let me ask you -- have you tried to find non-Windows substitutes for your business software? Even the time it takes to research that question is time taken away from core business operations.

    Second, as stated in the article, it is not a lack of sufficient tech proficiency which deters business owners from doing their own upgrades and testing. It is the time which is taken away from running the core business functions.

    For me as a home user, I know enough to run almost any software and upgrade or migrate to almost any version of any OS. What makes me not migrate or upgrade just any time, is the time and effort required to do the job right, back it all up, and test that everything works, then fix what breaks during the migration. Businesses would likely have my issues and manifold more.

    Personally, I will be trashing my Windows XP laptop due to its age and condition, as well as system limitations which make even a Linux conversion inadvisable. If I finally reject Windows 8, as I now believe I will soon do, I will retain Windows 7 on my modern laptop, and add Ubuntu Linux as a second part of what will still be a dual-boot system. Probably use EasyBCD to tweak the Windows 7 boot manager setup.

    (GRUB 2 will thus be relegated to only serving as the Linux bootloader, and will be installed into the Linux Partition ahead of the Linux System installation. Letting GRUB control a Win7/Linux dual-boot has for many folks caused the Win7 ntbootloader not to be found, so Windows 7 won't boot. That to me is an unacceptable risk. Just adding Linux to the Win7 boot manager's list of available OSes doesn't always work for similar reasons. Hence the use of EasyBCD as a tweaking agent.)

    But hold the phone! My modern laptop is a Toshiba Satellite, and Toshiba religiously refuses to issue Linux drivers. This could be for anyone not willing to take a long, hard road through the Linux Command Line, unsupported proprietary download sources (or open sources) and online forums, a real show-stopper. Not to mention all the software and online services which will never be ported to work with Linux. (Netflix, anyone? Silverlight?) Who knows how many businesses will find that dropping out of the Windows Upgrade rat race has at least as vexing a series of pitfalls as I am finding?

    So, the exit strategy from Windows XP has got to be considered very carefully, with the full range of options and the true costs of each in time, effort, training and ongoing support, etc. being considered. If I were a business, I would definitely leap at the offer of a match-making service with pre-screened IT professionals.

    Maybe that's just me.
    Last edited by bobprimak; 2013-08-24 at 12:32. Reason: Error in software name and function.
    -- Bob Primak --

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by - bill View Post
    In fact, there may be somewhat of a race between the eventual discovery of some major new and unmitigatable vulnerability in XP and the point in time when XP use has become too insignificant for anyone to bother trying to exploit it.
    So you're betting on the latter beating the former? Even after eight paragraphs of why XP may not be as insecure as it appears; meaning people don't need to rush away from it?

    Bruce

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    There are absolutely no doubts that the most recent operating systems are the ones that include the most security features, no matter how much XP may be loved or not. This is shown clearly the comparison between the most recent OSes, but starting with Vista and this includes not only the operating system, but also the browser, which is probably the most common attack vector, today. This article, which I linked elsewhere, clearly illustrates such differences:

    http://blogs.technet.com/b/security/...port-ends.aspx

    It also shows data, from Microsoft's own Malicious Software Removal Tool stats, that show XP SP3 is, by far, the OS version with more infections removed. The MSRT is a tool included in the monthly updates from Microsoft, which means we can easily conclude that the computers included here are computers that are regularly patched, otherwise the MSRT wouldn't be run (the scenario of a manual download of the MSRT is possible, but I don't think it has the chance of being meaningful, percentage wise).

    We can always interpret data as we see fit. We can even deny it, if we so please, and claim Microsoft is nothing but chasing the money. The different infection rates will still be there. The article raises one more compelling reason to consider the security implications of keeping XP computers connected to the internet - the possibility that patches for newer OSes will raise attention to vulnerabilities in XP, which will no longer be patched, if they occur in XP as well. I think it makes a pretty compelling case for an upgrade or just to disconnect any XP systems from the internet when support is no longer available.
    Rui
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    Quote Originally Posted by BruceR View Post
    So you're betting on the latter beating the former?
    I'm not sure how you managed to read that into what I said: it was simply a casual closing observation about why one MIGHT not need to worry about XP's security even AFTER the point some years down the road when it has become legitimately dubious.

    Even after eight paragraphs of why XP may not be as insecure as it appears
    You don't appear to have read that correctly, either: those paragraphs were criticism of the author's claims that the material he cited supported his thesis that XP was CURRENTLY seriously 'broken' (by comparison with later systems - and, as I noted, apparently by comparison with Win2K as well, at least if you use the author's logic, though of course he didn't seem to have noticed that) and would become far more so as soon as Microsoft ceased issuing security updates (when in fact that citation suggests quite the opposite when analyzed more carefully).

    Of course, it is also the case (as I've explained elsewhere) that as long as one applies rather minimal care to security (as people who do choose to continue to use XP would be well-advised to do, though in truth even people using later systems would be well-advised to as well) XP *IS* not (and over the next few years will not be) nearly as insecure by comparison with later systems as people (who have a vested interest in doing so) are trying to MAKE it appear. You are of course welcome to try to refute that should you care to do so specifically.

    meaning people don't need to rush away from it?
    That part you got right.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by ruirib View Post
    There are absolutely no doubts that the most recent operating systems are the ones that include the most security features, no matter how much XP may be loved or not.
    That last phrase does not appear relevant, but just to be accurate in many cases it's likely less a case of XP being loved than a case of later systems not being.

    As for the more relevant part, the real question (in the context of whether XP is still and will likely remain reasonably secure) is whether XP itself and/or third-party products provide sufficient features to make the lack of the newer security features largely irrelevant. For example, I've noted elsewhere that running browsers and other potentially attackable software in non-administrator accounts and/or in third-party sandboxes (Online Armor 'run safer', Sandboxie, etc.) largely obviates the need for User Account Control.

    This is shown clearly the comparison between the most recent OSes, but starting with Vista and this includes not only the operating system, but also the browser, which is probably the most common attack vector, today.
    Indeed. And this is one of the more compelling arguments that XP can, and will continue to be able to, provide quite respectable security, because most current browsers, and firewalls, and anti-malware products - much of them high-quality and available in free versions - still support XP and provide excellent security in preventing malware from getting a foothold before XP's own security even comes into the picture.

    This article, which I linked elsewhere, clearly illustrates such differences:

    http://blogs.technet.com/b/security/...port-ends.aspx

    It also shows data, from Microsoft's own Malicious Software Removal Tool stats, that show XP SP3 is, by far, the OS version with more infections removed.
    One of the more interesting things that it shows is that Windows Server 2003 SP2 (which is basically XP SP3 with a year's fewer updates included) has infection rates equal to Vista's and Win7's and only about 1/3 those of XP SP3 (using 32-bit versions of all to try to eliminate that variable; note that Windows Server 2008 R2 has far less disparity with Vista despite Vista's apparently anomalous 64-bit rate). I pointed this anomaly out earlier with respect to the earlier similar citation: there is clearly something other than base OS security in play here, and therefore drawing conclusions about relative base OS security from this data is questionable.

    The MSRT is a tool included in the monthly updates from Microsoft, which means we can easily conclude that the computers includes here are computers who are regularly patched, otherwise the MSRT wouldn't be run (the scenario of a manual download of the MSRT is possible, but I don't think it has the chance of being meaningful, percentage wise).
    Actually, all you can reasonably infer from this is that the computers are SOMETIMES patched: it is hardly rare for people not to allow automatic updates every month but rather to decide when to apply them (in fact, that's what the regular Windows Secrets patch column advises). For that matter, I've never run MSRT despite doing relatively regular patch updates: I'd only run MSRT if I had some reason to think I needed to (which would DEFINITELY skew the data toward finding more infections per run).

    We can always interpret data as we see fit. We can even deny it, if we so please, and claim Microsoft is nothing but chasing the money.
    Or we can cherry-pick the data that seems amenable to being used to support our position and cheerfully ignore what doesn't seem to fit, as I just noted above.

    The different infection rates will still be there.
    Yes - see Win2K3 Server in your own citation and Win2K in the author's for examples to which you should perhaps have paid closer attention.

    The article raises one more compelling reason to consider the security implications of keeping XP computers connected to the internet - the possibility that patches for newer OSes will raise attention to vulnerabilities in XP, which will no longer be patched, if they occur in XP as well.
    That's an entirely legitimate concern. However, to make it concrete one would have to analyze what percentage of patches correct vulnerabilities that will not be mitigated by normally-installed higher-level security software when not patched in the OS. In fact, the cited article explicitly refers to this, but then attempts to hand-wave it away with no quantitative argument whatsoever.

    I think it makes a pretty compelling case for upgrade or just to disconnect any XP systems from the internet when support is no longer available.
    Opinions obviously differ on this point. It's possible that back-and-forths such as this one will cause people to think a bit more about the details and that some degree of convergence may occur, but I'm not holding my breath.

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    The problem here has and is that one side is stuck on literal, intra-comparisons and based on that very small partial tale, it's obviously true, later versions, barring any future of what are called undiscovered showstoppers, are more secure.

    The other side; yes, but what does more mean? You now can run router, firewall and antivirus-free? Funeral at 6 for layered security? If not, one can look at it pragmatically in two directions then, if XP is broken so are the other OSes, or, if the other OSes are pretty good, then so is XP, case closed.

    That said, as long as these IT professionals are well-vetted and earnest about the job, it's a really good idea, IT tech podcasts have been pushing this idea for many months now, to migrate to Win 7 before it's no longer available. Anyone looking to migrate should because they fall into the uncertain category and this should give them more peace of mind...as long as they don't then assume they can relax on security once they are migrated.

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