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Why Support Matters: Thwarting Data Loss Through Upgrading Windows

[This is a sponsored article written by IDG Creative Lab, a partner of PCWorld, and not by PCWorld's editorial staff.]

Still think your business can survive on Windows XP? Even if your PCs and apps are still chugging along for the time being, Microsoft will stop providing patches and bug fixes for XP as of April 8, 2014. That date is approaching faster than you think, and if you procrastinate too long, you’ll be putting your business and your customers at risk.

Imagine if you could no longer get parts or service for your company’s fleet of trucks -- and it’s pothole season. In this case, those potholes threaten to swallow not just worker productivity, but also company data. Without updates, Windows XP will become less and less secure, meaning you’ll have declining defenses against the newest crop of spammers, hackers, and other cyber criminals.

And consider the damage that could result from a security breach. Your customers expect you to keep their information safe, but if you’re running XP on outdated hardware, it’s anything but. What’s more, if a hacker cracks his way into your systems, he could steal or destroy vital company data. If you’re wary of the cost of upgrading, try operating your business without the files that make it go, or while someone else is taking control of your system. It only takes one incident to destroy your credibility, drain your bank account, or cripple your operations. 

The good news is that the latest versions of Windows offer vastly superior security and productivity features. Options for backing up, restoring, and encrypting in Windows 7 and 8 Professional are more advanced, more secure, and easier to use – designed to protect you against modern, sophisticated threats with minimal interruption to your workflow.

And if you have the budget to deploy newer hardware during your upgrade, you’ll lower your maintenance and IT costs at the same time. Equipping your business with SMB-compatible hardware armed with Windows 7 or 8 Pro, like HP’s Elite series laptops, will not only ensure the latest security updates and support options from Microsoft, but also boost office productivity by automating some of the drivers and patches you used to have to do manually. And thanks to solid-state drives that simply weren’t around in XP days, newer systems boot in seconds and load apps in a flash.

Of course, hardware is the simple part. For most businesses, the real challenge lies in safely and efficiently migrating users, user data, and applications from XP to one of those newer versions of Windows. A DIY approach can work, but it’s a risky proposition: Even if you’re lucky enough to have a fairly savvy IT staff, they might not have the know-how to handle all the variables involved in such a major shift. Without careful attention, thorough backups, and proper procedures, data could get lost. Legacy apps might fail to run in the new environment. There could even be security holes left unplugged if your IT department doesn’t know to look for them.

If you’re hesitant to forge ahead on your own, you can always hire the pros. HP Migration Services serve up migration experts who can assess your software and systems, deploy image files quickly and painlessly, and provide user support and education after the fact.

Whatever migration option you choose, get started as soon as you can. Once Microsoft flips the switch to turn off XP support, your already vulnerable systems and data will become even riskier (and costlier) to maintain. It’s time to fill those potholes and update your fleet once and for all.

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