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.
Many SMBs still sticking to the tried and true
As has been widely reported, April 8, 2014, marks the official end of Windows XP. This means that Microsoft will no longer provide critical updates for the venerable operating system. And that means businesses still relying on Windows XP are putting themselves at greater risk with each passing day.
Whether out of operational expediency or fiscal austerity, many small/medium businesses (SMBs) continue to depend on Windows XP as their primary desktop operating system. For most SMBs, Windows XP has proven to be an exceptionally capable and reliable — or at least reliable-ish — OS. It’s the old “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mantra.
Why reliable-ish? Although Windows XP still works nicely for many business applications and still runs the software that businesses need, the OS is in fact broken — just not in ways that are obvious.
When Microsoft discovers vulnerabilities in the Windows operating system, those flaws often affect all supported versions of Windows. However, it’s almost always true that flaws are more serious — and more easily exploited — on Windows XP (as reported in a PCWorld story). Obviously, an OS that was developed over a decade ago lacks many of the security features and controls now built into its successors.
PCs running a fully patched Windows XP today are at greater risk of compromise than those running newer versions of Windows. Fast-forward eight months to the end of MS support, and consider how vulnerable those XP systems will be when security patches for the OS cease.
Upgrading all Windows XP systems between now and the April 8 deadline will be a Herculean task. Windows XP still has greater than 37 percent market share on the desktop. (There are more than twice as many PCs still running Windows XP as there are PCs running Windows Vista, Windows 8, and all versions of Mac OS X and Linux combined.)
Many small businesses do not have the time or expertise to transition away from XP themselves. They’ll have to rely on contract IT specialists. To make that connection, a new cooperative service — XPmigrations.com (more info) — was put together, as reported in an SMB Nation blog. Think of it as a Match.com for SMBs and IT professionals.
DIY is typically impractical and not cost-effective
Some small businesses can migrate from Windows XP on their own — if they have someone in-house with the necessary IT chops, if they run relatively simple configurations, if they don’t run into system conflicts and incompatibilities that bring business to a stop for too long a time.
There’s a vast array of jobs and tasks businesses or individuals can, in theory, do themselves — but don’t. A business can do its own taxes, but most hire professional accountants; people might be able to service their own vehicles, but they have an auto shop do it. For their computing needs, business professionals find it sensible to stay focused on running the business and let IT professionals handle IT.
Y2K-like event + Match.com = XPmigrations
In many ways, the end of Windows XP is much like the anticipated Y2K “apocalypse.” It could be an impending crisis that afflicts tens of millions of PCs. But it also represents a huge — albeit short-term — business opportunity for freelance IT professionals. To move those millions of PCs from XP before the April 8 deadline, SMBs must find suitable IT professionals, and IT pros must find SMBs that are still using the OS.
The XPmigrations service claims it has thousands of IT professionals who want to help SMBs. According to its website, XPmigrations checks the qualifications of listed IT pros, runs background checks, and ensures that the IT contractors are insured and certified. Many of IT contractors are themselves small/medium businesses, which gives them a better understanding of SMB computing issues.
The clock is rapidly ticking down for SMBs
With the end of XP support only months away, businesses running the OS really need to plan for the transition to Windows 7 or Win8 — starting now. Problems that arise with the newer operating systems could take more time to resolve than you expect. For example, if a business-critical, legacy application fails and you can’t find a suitable alternative, you might need to run the app in a virtual environment. You don’t want to wait until next April and face a more urgent situation.
As mentioned, IT professionals who want to join XPmigrations go through a vetting process. If accepted, they don’t become XPmigrations employees — the service is simply playing middleman. Those who want to be added to XPmigrations’ database of IT pros start by filling out a form on the XPmigrations site.
Businesses seeking Windows XP IT professionals have a couple options: fill out a form with some basic information so that XPmigrations can match up your business with local IT services, or attend one of the upcoming XPmigrations road shows for more information on why you need to move off XP. Below is a list of the live events being held in the U.S. next month; there’s also an online webinar on Aug. 28 (8 am PDT; more info).
- Auburn, Wash. — Sept. 4
- Seattle, Wash. — Sept. 5
- Bellevue, Wash. — Sept. 6
- New York, N.Y. — Sept. 12
- Chicago, Ill. — Sept. 13
- Houston, Tex. — Sept. 17
- Austin/San Antonio, Tex. — Sept. 18
- Los Angeles, Calif. — Sept. 24
- Irvine, Calif. — Sept. 25
- San Diego, Calif. — Sept. 26
The end of MS support is an obvious reason to migrate from Windows XP. But even without that deadline, it’s well past time to abandon an OS that now is three generations old. If Windows 8 is too much of a change, there’s still time to upgrade to Windows 7. Michael Lasky discussed upgrading to Win7 in the Aug. 15 Best Practices story, “Get a PC with a Win8 alternative — Windows 7.” Or consider switching to an entirely different platform such as Linux or Mac OS X. The clock is ticking!
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