By Steven Bergman, Director of Information Technology, VMLIP
In 2001 Microsoft introduced the Windows XP operating system. In recent years new PC’s were shipped pre-installed with the Windows Vista, Windows 7, or Windows 8 operating system, however Microsoft continued to provide support for Windows XP.
This April Microsoft will end support for the Windows XP operating system. For those that are unaware of the potential ramifications of not upgrading to a newer operating system, take a moment to understand the impact of this on your entity.
The end of support means that Microsoft will no longer distribute new security updates, patches or provide online technical content updates. In short, this means that any security vulnerabilities discovered after April 2014 will not be addressed by Microsoft. This will turn computers running Windows XP into a hacker’s paradise. Once a vulnerability is found, a hacker can rest easy knowing that it can be exploited with no attempt being made to fix it.
While this should be considered a major concern for current Windows XP users, it is not the only concern.
Most hardware manufacturers create products that are designed to function with operating systems that are currently supported by the operating system manufacturer. For example, many of you have seen the ‘Made for Windows XP’ or ‘Made for Windows 7’ label when purchasing new hardware or software. With Windows XP reaching end-of-life, these manufacturers will change their new product lines to work with the currently supported operating systems, making them unable to handle the Windows XP operating system. People searching for current versions of older software applications will see similar changes. This means that a Windows XP user may not be able to upgrade their software without upgrading the operating system along with it. Also, depending on the hardware, these users may also require a hardware upgrade.
Remote connectivity is another area of potential concern. If someone is using a Windows XP computer to remotely access a business network, it’s possible for any future Windows XP security flaws or other vulnerabilities to be transferred to that network.
There are many reasons to upgrade your Windows XP operating system, in addition to the ones listed above. Newer Microsoft operating systems, such as Windows 7 and the recently released Windows 8, offer improvement in areas such as audio and video capabilities and security, while working wide a much wider variety of other hardware and software products on the market today.
Research conducted by Net Applications last November showed that up to one-third of all computers are running Windows XP. The majority of these may be for personal use, but regardless of the intended use of the computer, the installed operating system should always be one that is supported by its manufacturer.
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