You’ve been hearing it for a while. April 8, 2014, marks the day that support for Windows XP and Office 2003 will officially end. It also marks the day consumers and businesses who haven’t yet upgraded their systems will be exposed to a whole host of malicious coders who will know not only how unprotected they are but also how to take full advantage of it. Just four months from the deadline, Netmarketshare.com reported that Windows XP held more than 30 percent market share, suggesting that there are still plenty of people who need to hear about both the benefits of upgrading and the risks of continuing to use an unsupported operating system. Technical code, no matter how well written, will never be completely impenetrable to external threats. In fact, malware becomes increasingly more sophisticated every day and aficionados looking to find loopholes will find and exploit them any chance they get. Using an unsupported operating system is like heading out to sea in a leaky boat. Consider the analogy that compares a computer operating system to a human operating system. We know that no system is withvout weakness, but there are ways to minimize exposure and maximize protection from potentially damaging external threats. We take care of our immune systems—eat right, exercise, sleep—but we also seek extra assurances from professionals who monitor our health and look for signs that our system has been compromised. Now imagine having a doctor who could update your genetic code whenever a loophole or point of weakness was detected, thereby closing off those openings and allowing your immune system to work more effectively. While it may read like a science fiction novel when we’re thinking about human physiology, it’s undeniably analogous to what happens throughout the life of a supported operating system or software program at Microsoft—and it’s a very good thing. Supported Microsoft operating systems and programs are covered in a variety of ways, but arguably the most important benefit is security surveillance and subsequent updates. Microsoft runs frequent security intelligence reports offering “an in-depth perspective on software vulnerabilities and exploits, malware, potentially unwanted software, and malicious websites,” according to the Microsoft Security Response Center website. If a threat or loophole is detected, the Microsoft Security Response Center creates an update to close it before it becomes a problem.
“Modern operating systems such as Windows 8 include advanced security technologies that are specifically designed to make it harder, more complex, more expensive and, therefore, less appealing for cybercriminals to exploit vulnerabilities,”says Tim Rains, director of Microsoft Trustworthy Computing, in an article on Microsoft Newscenter. “The data [found in Microsoft’s ‘Security Intelligence Report’]help illustrate the positive impact that security innovations in newer operating systems are having.” Combine all of this with the additional benefits of nonsecurity hotfixes, support options (free or paid) and online technical content updates—not to mention a superior user experience—against the costs of upgrading, and the upgrade will win every time. True there are costs to consider, including backing up old data and the likely need for new hardware that can handle the load of a new system. Yet, with so many incentives on PCs, notebooks and tablets designed to encourage the switch, there’s plenty of opportunity to turn a potential “con” into a definite “pro” for upgrading. No matter how you stack up the comparison, the costs of not upgrading are going to be far greater every time.