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The Right Path: How upgrading your office from XP yields bottom-line benefits

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

The time has come to say goodbye to Windows XP. Microsoft support for the venerable operating system officially ends on April 8, 2014. Many organizations continue to rely on Windows XP based on the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mantra, but the reality is that Windows XP is broken—just in ways that may not be obvious on the surface.

Switching to Windows 7 Professional or Windows 8 Pro yields both immediate and long-term dividends that make upgrading more than worthwhile. Let’s take a closer look at those benefits, and how upgrading from Windows XP will improve your bottom line.

Every Second Counts

The more time users have available to devote to productive tasks, the more value they provide. Windows 7 Professional and Windows 8 Pro both have features that shave time off of common tasks so users can get more done.

For starters, Microsoft has made significant improvements to boot speed. Most users are familiar with the seemingly endless grind of the boot process, but Windows 8 systems like the HP Elite series can go from powered off to the Start screen—ready to work—in less than 10 seconds.

Windows 7 Professional and Windows 8 also include features like Aerosnap and Jump Lists. Aerosnap lets you quickly maximize or minimize windows, or snap them to the left or right half of the monitor by dragging a window to an edge of the display. Jump Lists take the concept of Recent Documents that Windows XP users are familiar with to another level. With Jump Lists, each application has its own “Recent Applications” list, allowing you to pin items to the Jump List for quick access so they won’t cycle off as you open more files. Jump Lists enable users to save time by providing quick access to recently used files rather than trying to remember where it was saved, or first opening the application.

None of these features represent any sort of quantum leap in productivity. They’re simple tools that save a few seconds here and there. Consider that if you recover just two minutes of time per day for one employee making $50,000 per year, you’ll have saved $200 at the end of the year. Now multiply that by however many employees rely on your office network, and you’ll start to see big savings adding up fast.

Open Season

One area where Windows XP can’t keep up with its successors is security. There are vulnerabilities in an OS, but as support ends, minor nuisances can become critical threats to your business. Newer operating systems have security controls to mitigate those threats.

All versions of Windows encounter dangers, but according to data in the H1 2013 Microsoft Security Intelligence Report, Windows XP is about twice as likely to be compromised as a result of encountering malware than either Windows Vista or Windows 7 Professional, and nearly six times more likely to get infected than Windows 8 Pro.

Once Microsoft support ends, the idea that Windows XP works fine as is will be put to the test. Many security experts believe attackers are hoarding exploits for Windows XP, waiting to unleash them once Microsoft’s support ends. Attackers will also be able to dissect updates Microsoft develops for Windows 7 Professional and Windows 8 Pro to determine where the vulnerabilities lie, then develop exploits for the same vulnerabilities in Windows XP, which won’t offer the patches to protect you.

It’s Not Just Microsoft

Microsoft will not be the only company pulling the plug on Windows XP. Once Microsoft support ends, other hardware and software vendors like Adobe and Oracle will follow suit, and cease testing for flaws that impact Windows XP. Companies are not going to continue investing resources to maintain outdated products on an unsupported operating system.

That means that with each passing day those Windows XP systems will be exponentially more out of date. As new technologies are introduced— like faster wireless networking standards—Windows XP won’t be invited to the party, and companies still using it will be left behind.

Windows XP Might Not Be An Option 

Companies that are publicly traded, deal with personal health information, or accept or transmit credit card transactions fall under regulatory or industry compliance mandates such as SOX (Sarbanes-Oxley), PCI-DSS (Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard), or HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act), continuing to use Windows XP may make them non-compliant. For the reasons detailed above, Windows XP is demonstrably less secure than Windows 7 Professional or Windows 8 Pro. Compliance requirements are in place to assure a base level of protection for business processes and sensitive information, and without continued Microsoft support, Windows XP no longer represents a reasonable effort to achieve those goals.

Change Doesn’t Have To Be Hard

Upgrading the hardware you depend on to run your business can be a daunting task. You have to make absolutely sure critical applications work properly and that all data survives the transition, or your business could be in big trouble. Fortunately, you don’t have to go it alone. Engage a vendor like HP XP Migration Services and let their experts make your upgrade from Windows XP a smooth one.

It’s not guaranteed, but there’s a good chance that upgrading from Windows XP will require new hardware. Even if Windows 7 Professional or Windows 8 Pro will technically run on your old Windows XP hardware, performance won’t be optimal, and older hardware may not be equipped to take advantage of cutting edge technologies.

One of the easiest ways to upgrade is to simply purchase new desktop or laptop PCs that are built for the operating system you’re upgrading to. Then just move your applications and data over and you’re back in business.

Don’t Get Left Behind

Let’s face it, the clock has been ticking for quite a while. But it’s not a clock anymore; it’s a ticking time bomb.

You simply can’t afford to continue using Windows XP. Despite how it may seem, sticking with the older OS is actually more costly and than making the move to Windows 7 Professional or Windows 8 Pro. Features in the newer operating systems help users work more efficiently, increase productivity, and enhance your immunity to critical security threats. Visit HP XP Migration Services to find everything you need to know about making the switch.

This story, "The Right Path: How upgrading your office from XP yields bottom-line benefits" was originally published by BrandPost.

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