Moving on from Windows XP, Office 2003 and Exchange 2003

Several weeks ago, Microsoft ended support for Windows XP (unless you work for the UK government which is paying Microsoft over £5m to extend support for a further year).

This doesn’t mean computers using XP have stopped working – they will carry on running as they did before. What it does mean is that Microsoft stated they will no longer release security updates and software patches. The main result is that when hackers notice security vulnerabilities in the software, Microsoft will not move to issue patches to XP computers. Security vulnerabilities are found on a regular basis and hackers won’t sit back and leave XP alone so this was never going to be a case of ‘if’ a security weakness was found, but ‘when’.

A vulnerability was discovered in Internet Explorer recently and on that occasion, Microsoft did release an update to users of XP. They reasoned that as they had only just withdrawn support, it would be a little unfair not to include XP users.

However, Microsoft has now issues the latest round of updates for various versions of their software and on this occasion, XP users were not included.

This may not immediately have an effect on the way you work, but as time moves on and a larger number of security issues are identified, there is a greater chance that your computers may become compromised.

You may think that if you have anti-virus software installed you are not susceptible to an attack from anything malicious. However, protecting IT systems from hackers and viruses is a team effort comprising a regularly-updated anti-virus software, a firewall and a well-patched operating system. With the removal of support from XP, one of the team members will start to look a little jaded and a substitution will be required.

The problem with this is that if you have computers that work and you don’t have any problems, then it is harder to make a case for spending your hard-earned money to replace them. If Windows XP was unreliable and people couldn’t wait to move on to something better, there would be little reluctance to upgrade to the latest equipment. Indeed, statistics show there may be approximately 20% of PC users still running XP so there are many, many people who have not updated their computers.

However, moving on is something that should be considered. As Microsoft is now not supporting XP, other software developers will follow its lead and over time stop supporting products that run on XP. It is therefore worth investigating replacing your equipment over the coming months.

If you are going to continue to use XP for a while, do ensure you make your IT systems as safe as possible. Ensure your anti-virus software and firewalls are up-to-date and educate the link in the chain that can have the biggest influence on what gets installed on your computers – the users. People need to be reminded they should not open email attachments, or click on links unless they are absolutely sure it is known who sent the email and what the attachment or link is. Do not allow users to bring in USB devices from home and plug them into work computers without authorisation (USB ports on computers can often be disabled to prevent problems).

Microsoft is also removing support for Exchange 2003 (also sold as a constituent of SBS 2003). Similarly with the ending of support on XP, Exchange will not stop running but over time will become increasingly vulnerable, so the opportunity to upgrade should be considered in the near future. Although Microsoft will no longer offer support, Vantage IT will continue to offer customers all possible assistance.

We appreciate upgrading computer hardware and software is a big step to take for a business but it can be made as painless as possible with the right planning. Please contact Vantage IT to learn more about moving on from Windows XP, Office 2003 and Exchange 2003.