On 8 April 2014, Microsoft is ceasing support for Windows XP. So what does this mean to small businesses that have legacy software, or devices that rely on XP for their business?
It could easily be argued that Windows XP has to be one of Microsoft’s most successful products ever. After 12 twelve years, 30% of PCs in the world still run Windows XP. This is pretty much unheard of in the IT industry. Home users who have never bothered to upgrade, as well as large corporations (including but not limited to most Australian banks) are still tied to this operating system. It has proved to be secure, stable, and met the basic needs of households and corporations alike.
When Microsoft stops support for the XP operating system, there will be no more security updates or bug fixes. This probably won’t be of concern to the majority of SME customers, as we can assume that most of the issues have already been fixed. What should concern business owners though is what happens when that old PC dies? We all know that old computer hardware will eventually fail or need repairs, but once it is obsolete getting parts can certainly be a challenge, so it is best to have a plan well in advance.
Surprisingly quite a few of our customers have old applications, and even hardware accessories that will only work with Windows XP, and/or the older hardware platforms. So the small business owner now needs to decide, do I replace this very expensive piece of manufacturing or medical equipment with something that supports a newer version of Windows, or are other options available to keep the old systems running? When such equipment costs tens if not hundreds of thousands of dollars, the need becomes even greater. Fortunately all is not lost. Any good Managed IT Service provider should be able come up with creative solutions to keep you running.
One option is to stockpile spares of whatever components you may need. Old computer parts can also be sourced from specialist providers if you know where to look. Even if you need to pay a premium price for 10 year old technology, it still may be cheaper than replacing an entire system. The key here is to plan ahead, because in the worst case, parts may need to be sourced from overseas, and can take days if not weeks to get here.
If it is just an application that needs to be kept running, the solution is likely to be simpler. We would suggest using a technology called ‘virtualisation’. This involves taking an image of the operating system and its application on the physical XP machine, and then run this machine within a virtual environment on a new, more powerful desktop or server. Tools like VMware Converter and ShadowProtect make the process quite painless, but it always best to consult your local IT support provider to ensure this is a viable option.
So if there is a business case to keep those older machines running, it’s a good idea to include these machines in your Business Continuity and Disaster recovery plan. Call us on (02) 8412 0000 if you’d like more information on this or any other aspect of your IT infrastructure!