Microsoft ends support for XP next month. Are you ready?

As Microsoft ends support of Windows XP in April, here are steps to prepare for transitioning to a new OS.

Life will not end on April 8 for procrastinating users of Windows XP, but it is likely to change as Microsoft ends most of its support for the popular OS. So be ready to adapt.

First of all, what does end of support mean?

According to Microsoft,  the company no longer will offer technical support, automated updates or patches for vulnerabilities. However,  antimalware signatures will continue to be provided until July 2015, and existing updates will continue to be available for download.

“If you continue to use Windows XP after support ends, your computer will still work, but it might become more vulnerable to security risks and viruses,” the company  warned.

How  should agency IT managers protect themselves? Microsoft (not surprisingly), recommends getting a new operating system or a whole new PC. That is not bad advice, but the odds are they won’t be able to  accomplish that across the enterprise by April 8. But IT managers can and should protect machines running XP while  planning an orderly transition. Some initial steps:

  • Know what machines are running XP.
  • Know why users are running it, what apps or services are they supporting.
  • Plan not only the transition from XP, but what transitions, changes or updates will be necessary to the apps and services it is supporting.

In the meantime, protect the network. Isolate XP machines as much as possible, hide them from the Internet and closely monitor traffic to and from and all activities within the system.

One option—an expensive one—is Microsoft’s Custom Support, which will continue to provide automatic updates for “critical” vulnerabilities for at least a year for a subscription of about $200 per machine. “Important” patches are extra. There also is third-party support such as ExtendedXP from Arkoon that will provide monitoring and blocking services for XP vulnerabilities.

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