IT Support Blog for Small Business Owners

Ready for the Windows XPocalypse? You have a Reprieve but Beware.

Posted by David S. Mulvey on Tue, Feb 04, 2014

windows XP reprieve resized 600

ANP has been sharing with our clients and friends the need to migrate away from Windows XP. After all, Microsoft has been telling their customers that XP malware updates would stop on April 8th 2014.  Windows XP and Office 2003 are already End-of-life and End-of-support; unfortunately for Microsoft, it is estimated that 28% of PCs in use today are still using Windows XP! So millions of Microsoft customers were going to be without any security patches for their Operating System.

Microsoft has issued a reprieve to XP’s scheduled Death Sentence of April 8th 2014. Microsoft recently announced it would extend anti-virus definition updates for XP antivirus software until July 14th 2015.  On one hand I was surprised they made this announcement, but on the other hand, does Microsoft really want almost one-third of their customers using their operating system with no virus definition updates from the manufacturer?

If you are a corporate User of XP you will need to have System Center Endpoint Protection or Forefront Client security, or Forefront Endpoint protection and Windows Intune in order to deploy and install the virus definition updates.  If you are a consumer, you need to be running Microsoft Security Essentials.

There’s an issue regarding Security Essentials; while Microsoft is going to continue to provide updates for its Security Essentials for at least another year, XP users will not be able to download the software after April 8, 2014, because the applications will be going away and taken offline.  So if you want to get these malware updates, you better first download and install Security Essentials prior to the end date in April.

It is interesting to note that while Microsoft will provide virus definition updates until July 14, 2015, Microsoft’s TechNet blog warns that its research “shows that the effectiveness of antimalware solutions on out-of-support operating systems is limited.” Yikes! In other words, hurry up and complete your Windows 7 upgrades! Microsoft goes on to say, “running a well-protected solution starts with using modern software and hardware designed to help protect against today's threat landscape.”  Okay now they are screaming at us to upgrade to Windows 7!

Did you know that almost all standalone ATM’s are operating with Windows XP? Almost 95 percent of ATM’s (and there are 420,000 of them right here in theUSA) use Windows XP! One would hope that American financial institutions are treating the End-of-life and End-of-support as serious matters.  ANP has a large financial institution customer that is actively migrating 400 XP PCs into Window 7 machines; they do not see the reprieve as a reason to delay! ANP also supports a large car dealership with 75 old XP machines that are currently being migrated to Windows 7; not waiting either!

It would be easy to view this extension in malware support as a gift and delay upgrading XP.  But that would be a potentially costly mistake. The most prudent thing you can do with your Windows XP machines is to create a plan immediately and begin to migrate them to Window 7 PCs.

 

 

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Topics: Windows XP, WIndows XP end of support, Windows XP Reprieve, Windows XPocalypse

Did You Budget for Increased IT Support Costs This Year?

Posted by Michael Silverman on Mon, Feb 03, 2014

Windows XPLast month, I blogged about Technology Management strategies and how to link good IT management back to a predictable IT budget.  This April brings not only its usual tax day, but, crucial for IT management and business continuity, the end of support for the Microsoft Windows XP operating system.  Unless you’re in the minority, look around, you’ll see Windows XP desktops or laptops.  So what’s the end of support for XP have to do with increased network management costs?  It means you’re going to need to upgrade old computers or risk unplanned downtime due to an exploited unsupported operating system.

Microsoft has stated that “after April 8, Windows XP Service Pack 3 (SP3) customers will no longer receive new security updates, non-security hotfixes, free or paid assisted support options or online technical content updates.  This means that any new vulnerability discovered in Windows XP after its ‘end of life’ will not be addressed by new security updates from Microsoft.”  IT security is a leap frogging game between those desiring to attack a computer or network and those tasked with protecting it.

The graphic below illustrates the typical IT management strategy for protecting a computer or network.  Security systems are designed to prevent attacks, but what happens if an attack is not detected? Computer systems can screech to a halt and valuable data can be lost.

IT Virus Detection, Response, Prevention 

For years I’ve expressed to clients that someone needs to be the first to get a new virus, or be the victim of a software security flaw before patches or updates can be introduced.  About four years ago, one of my clients was one of the first to get hit with a new virus.  It was identified by Symantec two days prior and the virus definition update, the response, had not yet been released.  Fortunately, there were good monitoring controls in place and we were able to limit the damage until Symantec got us the interim software release.  The net effect was limited downtime and minimal loss of productivity.

Now let’s fast forward to April 2014.  You’re a small business, say 40 employees, all with Windows XP desktops.  One of your employees innocently goes to a web site with a corrupt display ad designed to exploit a Windows XP flaw.  It attacks their computer and begins spreading throughout your network.  What might you expect?

  • IT Productivity could drop to a crawl; 40 employees times $100 an hour burden rate will cost the business $4,000 an hour.  Can the technicians eliminate the issue in an hour?  Probably not; could take a couple of hours just to identify the root cause.
  • Do you have a solid business continuity plan addressing these kinds of issues?  If you have a remote worker strategy leveraging Citrix, you might be able to get partially back in business in a few hours; now maybe up to $20,000 in lost productivity.
  • The IT team says, “We’ve got no choice but to upgrade to a supported operating system like Windows 7 or Windows 8.”  Ugh, now you’re hitting cash flow.  The upgrade could cost $6,000 to $12,000 to purchase, but how much longer to deploy it?  Couple of days to get everyone back on-line? There’s $60,000 in lost labor, but what about lost business?
  • Maybe your computers are too old to run the new operating system.  Now you’re spending $32,000 in new computers, another couple of days lost labor, $60,000 plus labor to deploy the new machines, and more lost business.

Get the picture?  It’s just not worth it.  The pennies saved while everything works can cost you thousands without any advance notice.  Talk to your IT support company, IT consultant, and your peers.  The gamble just isn’t worth the price.

And it’s not just Windows XP.  Every piece of technology linking your network exposes you to some degree of risk as it reaches its end of life.  Do you have an IT strategy or lifecycle management plan in place to mitigate these risks?  Want perspectives?  Check out my recent blog about technology management or just drop me a line.  

 

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Topics: IT Support, Windows XP, IT Productivity, IT Strategy

Dreaded Deadlines April 15 “Taxes” and April 8 “End of XP IT Support”

Posted by Scott Persechino on Sun, Jan 19, 2014

no xp support resized 600The deadline we are typically concerned about in April is the 15th – Tax Day.  Here in calendar year 2014, business owners, IT personnel, and IT outsourcers are also preoccupied with another deadline, this one on April 8th – the end of Microsoft XP Support.  If you have not already heard, on April 8th, 2014, Microsoft will officially end Windows XP operating system’s life cycle. Microsoft has stated that it will no longer sell or support Windows XP and Office 2003.

There will be no automatic fixes, updates, free assisted online technical support, or security updates.  And if the statistics are anywhere near correct, experts are stating that for businesses with 5-250 employees, only 55% of them know about the end of XP, and 70% have no idea what migrating off XP will involve, or how it will impact their business!  This is pretty scary stuff—today is January 19th!  How many employees are in your company?  Do you have a plan?  If not, please take this situation seriously, because if any of your computers are still running XP, your business could be negatively impacted, with some very serious consequences.  Consider the following items and the potential impact to your business:   

  • Security Risks: Without question, XP security vulnerabilities present the greatest threat to your business. Without the security enhancements provided by an updated XP operating system, all of your business data and personal information are subject to harmful viruses and spy ware.  On April 9th, hackers will very likely have more information about vulnerabilities in Windows XP than the IT folks who are trying to protect the computers still running this operating system.  In fact, there is a strong likelihood that malicious viruses will be unleashed on XPs on April 9th, leaving unprotected computers “dead in the water.”  Viruses will very likely be spreading quickly over the Internet, and potentially onto your internal network, to any PCs still operating on XP.  Please don’t be that business owner consumed with thinking about a virus spreading through all the computers that keep your business running. Take proactive steps with your IT provider instead, and “Be Off Microsoft XP.”
  • Compliance Issues: For many businesses, continuing to operate XP could result in compliance issues leading to the suspension of certifications, and potential public notifications of an organization’s inability to securely maintain its systems and customer information.  Think about what is happening to Target and Neiman Marcus currently. Do you want to run the risk of compliance problems placing your business in legal peril and seriously damaging its reputation?  Your business has only one reputation. Don’t run the risk of tainting it by ignoring the XP issue.
  • Upgrade Expenses: As a business owner trying to control costs, are you concerned that an upgrade will be too expensive? If so, please reconsider. Some experts are viewing businesses that continue to run XP as irresponsible, and a serious liability. There is no doubt that problems are going to arise, and they may end up costing your business significantly more than the prudent XP upgrade, not to mention the potential downtime of your operation.
  • Custom Support Available for a Price: Many business owners are in denial about the end of XP, hearing that support will actually remain available after April 8, 2014.  True…but beware, as that support will be very expensive, and the reality is that it will be only a temporary band-aid.  Please don’t ignore this situation. This is not going to be another Y2K “non-event.” This one is real, and it will bite you if you don’t take action.

The interesting thing is that the “XP Lack of Support” also opens up other questions and opportunities for discussion.  Microsoft is assuming their XP customers will migrate to Windows 7 or 8.  Well, is this the time for your business to look more seriously at Apple MACs?  How about Linux?  Or do you do away with all of this, and move entirely towards tablets? 

All of these options come with a list of your standard “pros” and “cons.” It’s never easy.  All of these options are viable depending on your circumstances. Now is the time to be talking seriously to your IT provider about this important decision. You can file for an extension if you cannot meet the April 15th Tax Day deadline. There is no such option available for the XP deadline of April 8th.   Please take action now. ”Get Off Microsoft XP.” would you like to learn more? Register for our 30 minute webinar held this week to educate business owners on what the risks are and what your options are.

 

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Topics: End of support for windows XP, Windows XP, End of Windows XP Support, End of 2003 support, Security threats facing small businesses

Do you have a potential IT Time Bomb in your office?

Posted by David S. Mulvey on Sat, Jan 04, 2014


Windows XP IT Time BombIn 90 days, on April 8, 2014 Microsoft will end extended support for Windows XP. This means that no additional security patches, bug fixes, or service packs will be released and that users will no longer have access to free or paid technical support.  Systems running XP won’t suddenly stop working on April 8, but they will become increasingly vulnerable and the source of additional problems to your company.  I doubt you have called Microsoft for XP support for years, so why is this a big deal? 

Well it’s not that Microsoft will no longer take a support call for Windows XP; the real issue is that new security exploits that come along for XP will no longer be corrected by Microsoft.  Microsoft finds and corrects hundreds of security exploits within their operating systems every month; when your PC downloads a new Microsoft Patch; you are receiving the security corrections to harden your system from attack.  On April 8, 2014, Windows XP will be open season for security hacks, data hijacks and other vulnerabilities.  You simply must protect yourself and your company data by removing all of your Windows XP machines from production!

IT Security: The sudden absence of support for XP leaves a void that will likely be filled by a slew of old or soon to be exploited vulnerabilities that will subsequently give rise to a new crop of security exploits that target Windows XP systems.  Without continuing security updates; older operating systems like Windows XP typically have more exploit activity due to the fact that the malicious code will have ample time to mature, circulate and infect your machines.  There are also other reasons for considering removing your XP machines from production.

IT Performance: Todays modern PCs have features that were nonexistent when service pack enhancements for Windows XP were discontinued.  Today’s PCs include WIFI, Bluetooth, faster USB ports, and high resolution video graphics and touchscreen capabilities.  Many of these features are either poorly supported or not supported at all by Windows XP Professional.  Converting your old Windows XP machines over to Windows 7 can bring a huge performance boost.  You will get the benefits of better device drivers, high speed WIFI, faster USB 3.0 ports, and double software speed execution with 64 bit software support. 

Office 2003: Unfortunately, Office 2003 is at the end of support with Microsoft. So, much like Windows XP, you need to determine if your company is still using Office 2003 which includes 2003 Word, 2003 Excel and 2003 Outlook.  With all of this software becoming essential obsolete and worse than that, a liability to have on your network, what should you do? 

Windows 7 or Windows 8? Peter Klein the CFO for Microsoft said, “If enterprises are holding off on Windows 8, they are still embracing Windows 7 as an upgrade solution.”  He continues, “This quarter we saw continued progress from the transition of Windows XP to Windows 7.  Now, two-thirds of all enterprise desktops are running Windows 7.” ANP agrees that Windows 7 is the perfect replacement for Windows XP.  Windows 7 will be supported by Microsoft until October 13, 2020, which is far more time than a new PC bought today will be in service.

Next Steps: Take a careful look at your Windows servers and desktops and determine if you have any Windows XP still running on your company devices.  If so, upgrade the machine and operating system at the same time.  If you are not sure or don’t know how to take inventory of all of your Microsoft software you can reach out to ANP; we would be happy to help you in the assessment and also in the upgrade process.

Attend our IT Webinar: During our free 30 minute IT webinar we will dive deeper into the potential risks of not migrating out your old Windows XP machines and explain three Windows 7 migration strategies and why one might be perfect for your company. Sign up for the 30 minute webinar below: 

FREE IT Webinar Prepare for the End of XP Its Time to Take Action Click Here to Get Started

Topics: Windows XP, End of Windows XP Support, IT Time Bomb, Microsoft Windows 7

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