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Are You Ready For April 2014?

posted 7 Apr 2012, 05:22 by Alistair Hamilton   [ updated 6 Sep 2012, 00:47 ]
At the time of writing, twenty four months from now might seem a long time, but it is a date that you should put in your diary. If you are currently using any MS Windows XP based computers, please take note. In April 21014, Microsoft will kill Windows XP stone dead. The extended support will finish on 8th April 2014. There will be no security holes filled; no new patches; no bug fixes.

It is not only Windows XP that is an issue. Third party software developers will essentially cease supporting Win XP versions of their software. Indeed, the focus has already shifted to Windows 7 and the forthcoming Windows 8. Hardly surprising as that is where they will earn their income.

As a result, any machines running Windows XP and software designed for it, will become even more vulnerable to compromise. I fear the criminal miscreants are probably rubbing their hands at the thought of April 2014. It may well prove to be a very productive period for them as many Windows XP based machines around the world are left open to abuse.

Don't let that happen to your business. Please start planning now to replace equipment and upgrade existing machines where possible.

Before you go running off to your local PC World superstore, you might want to take a step back and carry out a complete review of your IT systems. Are you getting value for money? Can you cut your IT expenditure? Is there a better way of doing things?

I'm an advocate of alternative operating systems and the open source model. I'm also passionate about doing things in the 'cloud'. Both of which provide a means to make significant savings in the cost of hardware, software licensing and IT support staff. I'd not normal advocate ripping out existing systems just for the sake of it. However, with that support cut off point approaching, now is an excellent time to consider it.

For example, your existing hardware may well be running perfectly well, providing what you need. Come the deadline though and the need to upgrade to Windows 7 or Windows 8, will that hardware support those operating systems? Very doubtful. So you may very well be forced into replacing hardware as well as upgrading operating system. Much the same argument goes for the application software that you currently run.

The point being, if you are forced into a potentially expensive hardware upgrade process by this deadline, it makes perfect sense to take stock and completely review the way you are currently using IT. By going to an open source based model, you will be able to extend the life of your existing equipment.

By switching to a Linux based operating system those existing computers could be given a new lease of life. Would such a move be the right thing for your business? Only you can decide that, and I can certainly help if you wish to set up a test computer so you can trial it. With its open source licensing structure and the inclusion of virtually every piece of software the average business is likely to need, including an MS Office compatible office suite, significant savings are possible.

Convert your systems to the 'cloud' and moving your operations 'online' further significant savings could be made. Make use of the excellent collaboration services available from Google Apps for Business for example and you'll cut down on IT administration costs, backup costs, software upgrade and patching costs and you'll always have the latest versions of their software.

Using hosted services like Google Apps for Business is independent of the operating system you ultimately choose to run. So if you do not like or want to go the Linux route - and it isn't for everyone - then no problem. You'll still be able to access it through your browser running on Apple, Linux or Windows - just make sure it isn't Windows XP come April 2014.

Combining both open source and Google Apps for Business presents a compelling argument for significant cost saving in the long term.

Whatever you chose to do, I cannot emphasise enough the importance of putting a plan in place to get rid of Windows XP at some point in the near future. If you need any help doing so, I'd be more than happy to talk to you.

Alistair Hamilton