Guest Column | March 10, 2014

Will Windows XP's End Of Life Be The End Of Compliance For Your Customers?

Windows xp

By Chuck DeLouis, VP of Product Management, Intronis

The inevitable fate of Windows’ legacy OS presents a serious potential industry violation threat to your customers operating in regulated industries — and the perfect opportunity for you to save the day.

At first blush, it may seem that the April 8, 2014, deadline that Microsoft has given for ending Windows XP support is much ado about nothing. After all, Windows XP has been on the market for more than 12 years and there have been several new operating systems introduced since. But what makes this news particularly noteworthy is that Windows XP is still being used by many individuals and businesses.

In fact, according to research from NetMarketShare, 20 percent of computers in the United States and Europe are still running Windows XP. That makes it the second most widely used OS, next to Win 7, and that’s what makes this move both a challenge and an opportunity for IT service providers.

Below are a few tips to keep in mind as you engage clients about the upcoming deadline and make the business case for greater security — and maybe even an IT refresh or OS upgrade.

  1. Windows XP Is Not Actually Dying. Most of the articles you’ll see regarding this topic will depict a tombstone with phrases like “RIP Win XP” etched in stone, suggesting the OS is dying or being “killed.” The reality is that on April 9 your customers’ XP machines may work just as well as they did on April 8. What’s happening is that Microsoft is ending its support, and the real impact won’t be felt by most users until months down the road.
  2. Internet-Connected XP Devices Will Become Vulnerable. As new malware signatures make their way into the wild, Windows XP will become increasingly more vulnerable to a myriad of cyber threats. This is one of the most important points to keep in mind. For most of your customers, it’s not so much about the April 8 deadline as it is for the increased security threat over time. It’s worth educating customers about the fact that these out-of-support devices will become security targets over time and the cost of dealing with this reality later could far outweigh the cost of addressing it sooner.
  3. Use The Win XP Deadline As A Lead-In To A Security Discussion. The quickly approaching deadline date is receiving much coverage in trade magazines and news outlets, so there’s a good chance that your customers/prospects will be easier to engage on this topic. In addition to educating them about how the deadline could impact their businesses, it also creates an opportunity to broaden the security discussion and uncover other potential security threats. Here are some sample questions to consider:
    1. How do you currently protect your business from external and internal security threats?
    2. Have you ever experienced a computer virus or other type of network security breach/threat?
    3. If a virus or other threat penetrated your network and ruined some of your data, how long would it take for you to recover?
    4. How much downtime could you endure before it harmed your business?
  4. Sell Customers The Value Of Uptime, Compliance. There are ultimately three reasons your customers should consider switching from Windows XP to Windows 7/8:
    1. Compatibility with the latest business software. In some cases, business software won’t work properly (e.g., it freezes up or certain features aren’t available) on an outdated OS platform.
    2. Business Availability. An unsupported OS will eventually lead to data theft or downtime, both of which are very disruptive to business continuity/availability.
    3. Compliance. If you have customers in highly regulated industries like healthcare, banking, finance, or legal services upgrading their Windows XP machines is more than a good idea — it’s mandatory. The HIPAA Security Rule and Meaningful Use Requirements, for example, specifically require healthcare practices to protect patient information with system patches and updates, which won’t exist for Win XP after April 8.

Even though Windows XP is one of the most talked about security topics in the news right now, the deadline will come and go and so will the discussions. But the increased threats, vulnerabilities and performance issues for users of Windows XP will continue to grow, so IT service providers must play it smart.

Be proactive and discuss not only the issue, but the solution. Offer customers an easy resolution that includes a solid and secure backup and disaster recovery (BDR) plan. Visit Intronis for more information.