If you use Windows® XP, you have to make some decisions over the next month. Microsoft® is putting XP out to pasture on April 8. In computer terms, it will “no longer be supported.”
What is “End of Support”?
Hackers are constantly at work trying to find weaknesses in operating systems that let them insert viruses and other malicious computer code. Remember all those times you booted up and had to wait while Microsoft “updated Windows”? When new weaknesses are reported to the company, they create new code to shore up XP against attacks and install it during those updates. The end of support means Microsoft will no longer make these fixes. The hackers will continue to find ways in, but the company will no longer plug the holes. Your system will become more and more vulnerable.
And as customers move off of Windows XP, the other makers of software find it unprofitable to spend the money it takes to make their programs compatible with XP. So people who continue to use it after April 8 will find it harder and harder to upgrade programs or buy new ones.
What about your ACS Technologies programs?
If you use one of our web-based services, there’s no need to worry*. These include customers on:
- ACS OnDemand
- HeadMaster OnDemand
- PDS OnDemand
- The City
- Access ACS
These services are accessed over the internet using our version of Windows, not yours. However, you will still need to keep your browser up-to-date.
But if you use the desktop versions of ACS, PDS, or Headmaster, you need to make a change. Like most other software companies, ACS Technologies will now focus its resources to support our products running on newer versions of Windows rather than Windows XP. If you decide to stick with XP, we will certainly continue to support you whenever possible. But if a problem develops with an ACS program, and the cause turns out to be an issue with the operating system, we might not be able to help.
What are your options?
1) Take your computers offline. You can continue to use your computer as-is, but by disconnecting it from the internet and your network, you can protect yourself from viruses and malicious software. Of course, you won’t be able to update your other programs or access data via the internet.
2) Upgrade your computers. You can purchase a newer version of Windows and install it without losing your old data. The cost is around $70 per machine if you take advantage of Microsoft’s non-profit discount. You’ll need to decide whether to move to Windows 7 or Windows 8.1. The system requirements (the computer equipment you need) are roughly the same, although our experience has been that machines more than 5 years old might have trouble running 8.1. Another consideration is ease-of-use. The learning curve for your staff will be steeper for 8.1 since 7 is much more similar to XP. But it’s likely that Windows 8 will be supported for longer than Windows 7. So moving to 8 now means more time before you have to upgrade again. And while you shouldn’t lose any data during the upgrade, you should back up all your files beforehand, just in case. Finally, if you want to make the transition to Windows 8 easier, here is an article that can help.
3) Buy new equipment. When you consider the cost of upgrading Windows, the labor required to install it, and the fact that you will eventually need to buy larger and faster computers anyway, it can be cheaper in the long run to go ahead and buy new machines with the latest version of Windows already installed. Consider, too, that when you upgrade to Windows 7 or 8, you might not even be able to find compatible drivers (software) to run your older printers, scanners, and other equipment. Churches that buy new equipment often find it less painful to switch out one computer at a time over a period of months. This spreads out the cost and lets you work out any incompatibilities before pushing the changes out to everybody. The downside, of course, is that all of your programs will need to be re-installed, unless you maintain your software using a networked system. And it goes without saying that you should back up all of your data files before the transition. You probably already make regular backups of the data in your ACS, PDS, or HeadMaster program, so just remember to make one final backup to a removable drive before you unplug your old machines.
Time is critical.
Regardless of the choice you make, please start the transition now. The sooner you begin, the easier it will be. And know that you are in good company. Of all the operating systems Microsoft has moved off support, this affects the most users in history. At the end of 2013, over 25% of Windows customers were still on XP, far in excess of Windows 8 and second only to Windows 7.
Because of this, there is plenty of advice out there. You might want to start with Microsoft itself.
*With one exception: Windows XP only works with version 8 and older of Internet Explorer (IE). These are no longer supported by ACS Technologies. So if you are using IE as your browser, you need to consider either changing to another browser or upgrading your system.
Mark Thompson is a Senior Technical Writer for ACS Technologies.