Small businesses: Stay safe, get up to date before Windows XP, Office 2003 support ends April 8

The Windows XP standard desktop wallpaper, Bliss.

The workplace has changed – we’re all more mobile and more social, and to stay competitive, small businesses need the right tools to compete. If businesses are running Windows XP or Office 2003 after April 8, they not only won’t have the right tools, but they run the risk of falling victim to malware because security updates and support for Windows XP and Office 2003 will cease.

That’s why it’s important for small businesses to upgrade their technologies to Windows 8.1 and Office 365 now, before April 8. Ending support doesn’t mean that as of April 8 Windows XP and Office 2003 will suddenly stop working. However, there will be no more security updates or technical support for Windows XP, which may lead to serious problems, including:

Higher costs and lower productivity. Reducing operating costs and improving employee productivity are among the top business priorities of small businesses. So it’s not surprising that 47 percent of small businesses said that lack of budget is a big reason they don’t replace older PCs, despite frequent issues and lost productivity (Techaisle, 2013). However, replacing older PCs and getting current on Windows and Office will likely cost less in the long run. According to the same report, small businesses are spending an average of $427 on repairs for PCs that are four years or older, not to mention hours of lost productivity while troubleshooting issues.

Exposure to security and compliance risks. Security is, of course, a huge concern for all businesses. Unsupported and unpatched computers are vulnerable to security risks. In fact, a recent report by Microsoft’s Trustworthy Computing team showed that Windows XP is five times more susceptible to viruses and attacks than Windows 8.1.

Lack of new apps. After April 8, app developers and independent solution vendors that build solutions for Windows XP won’t issue any updates for existing apps, and they won’t build new solutions either. In other words, whatever solutions are on your current Windows XP, that’s essentially it in terms of new features or other advancements. Your PCs won’t evolve with changing customer, market and competitive demands.

A recent study by Techaisle, a global analyst and research organization for small and medium businesses and channel partners, found that businesses using outdated technology on just three PCs spend an average of $1,683 a year on maintenance and upgrade costs above and beyond an up-to-date PC, and that an average of 42 hours of productivity is lost per employee, per year because of older PCs needing repairs.

“Technology has evolved rapidly over the past several years — hardware is cheaper, operating systems are faster, cellphones are smarter, cloud services are affordable and workforces are mobile,” said Thomas Hansen, vice president of Worldwide Small and Medium Business at Microsoft. “Small businesses using old technologies are missing an opportunity — from better protecting their data and reputation to being able to acquire and serve customers better. The good news is that upgrading to newer technology has never been easier.”

For tech-savvy and non-tech-savvy businesses alike, upgrading is easy — provided they know where to turn for help. Here are two ways to upgrade:

Find a technology partner: A partner, also referred to as an IT consultant or IT provider, can offer a tremendous amount of support to small businesses that need help deciding which device and software combination will best meet their needs. In many cases, a partner will also help businesses set up their new technologies and even train employees on the software tools.

To locate a Microsoft Certified Partner to help with technology upgrades, small businesses can:

  • Contact their current IT provider.
  • Request partner help from Microsoft’s Get2Modern website.
  • Use Microsoft Pinpoint to locate a local technology partner that meets their needs.

Do-it-yourself: Tech-savvy small businesses can also upgrade their current PCs if they are compatible with the newer operating system and productivity tools. To find out if your current PCs will work with modern operating systems such as Windows 8.1, visit the Windows 8.1 website.

Alternatively, small businesses can download the Windows 8 Upgrade Assistant to see if their existing PCs can run Windows 8.1 and follow the steps in the upgrade tutorial — including backing up important settings and files — to install the new operating system. Once a small business has upgraded to Windows 8.1, it can choose the right Office 365 subscription to meet the needs of the business.

Microsoft also offers resources to help businesses safely transfer their files and data to their new devices, as well as free tools to help determine whether their applications will be compatible with the new technology.

For more information on the benefits of upgrading to modern technology, and help to do that, visit the Retiring Windows XP site, the Windows 8 Pro site and the Office 365 for Business site. There’s also more general information and resources on the XP end of support page, the Windows 8 Pro site and the Office 365 for Business site.

You might also be interested in:

· Free file transfer tool available if you’re moving from Windows XP to a new PC
· Support for Windows XP and Office 2003 ends April 8, 2014 — what’s next?
· Say goodbye to Windows XP and hello to more flexible and secure ways for health professionals to work

Suzanne Choney
Microsoft News Center Staff