Small Businesses are Faced with a Hobson-choice Problem.

By Donald Mazzella, Special forUSDR

Microsoft is ending its support of XP products at the end ofMarch.

The impact will be particularly hard on the smallestenterprises.

They will need to either move to other software basis or face possible disruption as updates will no longer beavailable.

Although Microsoft will continue to provide updates against hackers, this too will end nextyear.

SWC Technology Partner’s Deployment Expert Jeremy Alt says “additional efforts will be needed to protect sensitive company data on XP machines. Unfortunately, there are not many options for keeping XP in the environment without introducing significantrisk.

A recent survey of 1034 small businesses under 50 employees by Information Strategies, Inc. indicated 78% ran their operations on XPplatforms.

Of those queried, only 57% were highly aware of the impending loss of support fromMicrosoft.

As of mid-January, only 41% had plans or already implemented solutions. The 11% of those who already acted moved to Apple products, primarilytablets.

But as the date for ending support grows close, many smaller companies have notacted.

According to Jay Paulus, Director of SMB Marketing for Microsoft, “the company has spent millions of dollars educating XP users of the upcomingchange.”

He points out the system is 13 years old and newer offerings have many features which will allow small businesses to be moreproductive.

“When XP was introduced, the environment was much different and newer systems such as Windows 8.1 are more versatile and configured for this much more mobile time. When small businesses see how these products allow them to do more, faster and with easierinterfaces.”

“We spent time with our certified dealers and at two thousand events to get the message across,” headds.

Microsoft has set up a site www.go2modern.com to help XP users’transition.

Cloud services provider, Evolve IP, recently conducted a survey to gain insight into what decision makers are going to do to address the XP end-of-life.
Some of the findings include:

  • 7 in 10 will select Windows 7 while just 13.5 percent will go with Windows 8

  • Nearly 8 in 10 expect to support XP internally while 1 in 10 will go with a third party. The rest are still finalizing a plan with 22 percent saying they haven’t fully flushed out a support plan yet.

  •  64.5 percent of those surveyed will incorporate some level of virtual desktops into the mix

According to Scott Kinka, CTO, of Evolve IP, “It’s clear that XP EOL will be a catalyst for tech makeovers, sooner or later, with one of the most notable being that more businesses are now considering using the cloud for the first timeever.”

Wolfgang Kandek, CTO, Qualy said the percentage of Windows XP users since January 2013 as gathered from hundreds of millions Qualys QualysGuard  scans has seen a steady decline from 35% in January to 15% in December,2013.

“In our statistics, we see that migration away from XP has actually slowed down in the last two months, and we are now expecting over 10% of the machines of our customers to still be on Windows XP byApril.

The major issue associated with the loss of support is the ongoing efforts by Microsoft to protect the XP installed base from hackers. With these efforts soon to end and given the vulnerabilities of XP, most tech specialists agree users will be exposed to a greater risk ofhacking.

As Jason Kennedy, Intel’s Director of Marketing and Platform development warns: “the hackers are out there just waiting for the support to go away. We can see them there anticipating thechange.”

Kennedy argues the costs of maintaining and protecting XP systems can outweigh the sums expended on newer, faster and more efficientmachines.

“We here at Intel think the productivity gains far exceed the costs for the new equipment and/orsoftware.”

Tim Hegedus, Senior Managing Analyst at Miro Consulting is of the opinion that current XP users need to upgrade as an unsupported operating system is toorisky.

Joe Silverman, owner of New York Computer Help, a computer service company that specializes in Windows XP, Vista, 7, 8, and other operating system platforms believes “those small businesses who still want to continue using Windows XP without Microsoft support may certainly doso.”

He adds, “Just because Microsoft does not support it doesn’t mean their computers will stop working.  It just means Microsoft will not be providing any more software updates to the Windows XP operating system, that’s all.  Typically, these updates will come out to mesh well with other software updates, such as those from Microsoft office.  Occasionally, Microsoft will also release updates to patch up vulnerabilities that may lead toviruses.”

“To cover all bases, it would behoove smaller businesses to seek out a local computer service company to have in case disaster strikes.  If the computer does go belly up, then they’ll be forced to move onto the latest Windows operating system on a new computer,” hecontinues.

“At that point, it makes sense to move ahead to using the new operating system.  If there are any costly legacy programs used from Windows XP, then virtual software may be set up on the new computer to access such old software.  That way, the best of both worlds are attained, a new operating system along with not paying again for expensive Windows XP software,” headvises.

No matter what choice is made, small businesses need to invest additional dollars at a time when there are still recessionary challenges facingthem.

Donald P. Mazzella is COO & Editorial Director of Information Trategies, Inc., publishers of Small Business Digest and other newsletters for enterprise leaders; healthcare sector participants and HR managers. He is a nationally known journalist, author and radio personality. He can be reached atdmazzella@is-incorp.com

All opinions expressed on USDR are those of the author and not necessarily those of US Daily Review.

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