Don’t get XP’d off with Microsoft, just upgrade and sleep well

So this blog post has been in the pipeline for a while, and if I’m honest I’ve been dragging my heels in getting it finished. I’ve wanted to write a small piece around the recent death of Windows XP, and make it sound in the slightest bit as interesting as some of the other great posts my colleagues have been writing recently.

I needed an anecdote and I found it about 3 hours ago via a group of elderly people on a “computing crash course” run by the council at my local library. Stay with me on this…

Due to a recent house move I have been uprooted from my old fully equipped home office. I was due to move into my lovely new office today but alas, due to the friendly yet incompetent staff I dealt with at my ISP (who forgot to order my move house request), I am still without broadband. In a rather grumpy mood I trudged up to the local library to crack on with some research.

At first the library was a serene and quiet place to work in, but before long a group of elderly folk filtered into the library. It’s OK I thought, older people know the rules of the library, they will sit quietly reading. Well not quite. They congregated in one corner of the library and began talking excitedly about a computer course they were starting. They all exchanged stories of why they were on the course. FYI – my favourite reason for attending came from a gentleman of 90 who explained how his family had “bullied” him into getting “a Facebook”.

After several minutes of chitter chatter an instructor joined the newly formed group of wannabe silver surfers. The instructor asked the group a set of get to know you questions, one being “How many of you have a computer at home?” Out of a group of 8, 5 had no computer, 1 had a broken computer, 1 had a Kindle, and finally 1 lady proudly told the group that she had a Windows 8 laptop.

The rather smug lady was congratulated by the instructor who approved of her choice. However he did also tell her that while practicing between lessons, the experience would be very different from the Windows XP machines they had in the library.

My first thought was “Hang on am I really using an XP machine here?” I hadn’t even noticed. The XP experience still feels pretty current and kudos to the council tech team because the machine was flying along very nicely. Although to be fair, I was only using it to test out some potential new cloud technology, so not much processing power required!

The instructor went on to say that although the council wanted to upgrade, they didn’t have the budget. And here is the crux of the issue. When Microsoft announced 2 years ago they would withdraw support for Windows XP there was plenty of industry concern regarding security worries, and it left businesses with two options.

1. Be ready by planning an upgrade and incur the financial and human costs associated with such a change, but sleep happily at night

2. Plough on without upgrading, save time and money but have nightmares about a security breech and what that means for the business as a whole

Let’s first consider option 2. Some would argue that winging it with option 2 is an acceptable risk. I say this because I read at least a dozen stories or blog comments around the time XP support was withdrawn of business owners, technology managers or individuals who had not upgraded. Some even seemed shocked by the apparent revelation, despite many advanced warnings from Microsoft. Many of the stories I read centred around two main motivators not to change, the first being time and money, and the second being some kind of anti-Microsoft protest coupled with the view that Microsoft are in some way evil and just trying to make money by forcing existing customers to upgrade, when actually XP is just fine.

It’s certainly true that Windows XP has been a great success for many years, and is still widely used and considered stable and robust. But by not upgrading, or even planning an upgrade, isn’t that a bit like asking “What’s the worst that could happen?”

Well let’s consider that very question for a second. It took only a few weeks before we were warned of a critical security flaw in Internet Explorer. That’s fine I guess but coupled with the news that followed – that XP users would not get a fix for the bug – it’s a kind of scary deal for those affected. “Just use Google Chrome” I hear you say (I would say that too as Chrome is awesome), but I know from experience that many bigger organisations use IE and do not authorise other browsers due to IT governance. In the end Microsoft did agree to release the fix for IE users, but let’s face it, they didn’t have to. Maybe not be so evil after all…

Fortunately Chiumento took option 1. I have to tip my hat to the senior management team at this point. Ian and the rest of the Board had the foresight to budget for the demise of Windows XP a good year before support was withdrawn by Microsoft. Chiumento take personal information and security very seriously, and that means I sleep very soundly at night.

In the latter part of last year the business received a complete overhaul of all hardware used to store sensitive information. All staff are now using Windows 8 Pro so we get constant security updates. We also use AES BitLocker encryption on our Windows 8 machines, meaning that they would be certified to store secret level government documents!

What this boils down to is a simple message from Chiumento to any invested stakeholder we work with. We take your personal information and data security seriously. By remaining a relatively small business, we are able to react to the ever changing world around us in a way that is less restricted by red tape that can sometimes constrain technology managers in larger organisations.

Thank you for reading this post, the first in a series I’m planning over the coming months. In the technology series, I plan to provide more transparency on the way Chiumento is planning to use emerging technology. We have some big plans and I for one am very excited to share them with you. If you would like to stay updated on all our developments, please subscribe to our mailing list.

Duncan Hamilton
Head of Technology

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