Upgrading from obsolete OS presents challenges

Fans of the Microsoft Windows XP operating system will bid adieu to the OS known for being feature-rich and user-friendly. April 8, 2014 is the official “end of support” date for XP, which means there will be no updates, support or patches issued beyond that day. When this happens, computers running XP will become obsolete and vulnerable. If you are currently using a computer with XP, it’s time to make a plan to replace it.

You’ll notice we recommend replacing the machine and not just the OS. Sorry! But there are reasons for this. A computer with enough processing power and memory for a new OS will help you make the most of it. Also, when you consider the money you’d spend on software and labor costs to upgrade an old machine to a new OS, you could be that much closer to paying for a new machine that will be usable much longer.

What next?

TekTegrity’s clients use computers in business environments. Because of this, we recommend replacement machines with the Windows 7 Professional (Win 7) operating system. We’ve done quite a bit of in-house testing. We aren’t ready to recommend the current Windows 8 system with the Metro interface (Win 8 Metro) for business users.

While Win 8 Metro does a nice job competing with features found in the booming tablet market, it hasn’t proven itself as a powerhouse for business users. In addition to relying on an interface designed for touchscreens, the new OS has also eliminated the popular Start menu.

Another challenge is that products from many software developers haven’t yet caught up with Win 8 Metro, leading to some instability and integration issues.

There are other reasons we’re not suggesting the big leap to Win 8 with its touch-friendly Metro interface. Industry and consumer reviews suggest a much bigger learning curve than with previous OS releases. This will be especially noticeable to users coming from XP without an introduction from Win 7. Unfortunately, official training documentation for Win 8 hasn’t been released yet, either. This lack of resources has one local college deciding to teach Windows 7 in their Operating System class in the fall, not Windows 8.

Even our own field of Managed Service Providers (MSPs), known for staying ahead of the curve, hasn’t been provided all the technical support materials we need to confidently support this operating system.

The big challenge for those purchasing new computers, of course, is finding one with Win 7. Microsoft’s rather complicated licensing program does allow for certain license downgrade rights. While you may have trouble buying a computer off the shelf with the Win 7 operating system, as a business provider, TekTegrity can still provide its clients with new computers operating on Win 7.  This took some steady pressure by us and many of our peers in the IT industry, and there was a period of time in January where we were only able to obtain Win 8 with some new computers.  Fortunately, that has changed and our vendors have assured us Win 7 will remain available at least until the next version of Windows comes out.

Beyond Win 7 and Win 8 Metro

Speaking of the next version, would you believe that Microsoft is tentatively planning to release the next version of Windows before the end of this year?  While we don’t know how many of the issues with the Win 8 Metro interface will be corrected with the arrival of Windows Blue , we do know that Microsoft plans to support Win 7 until January 14, 2020. That leaves plenty of time to test-drive Blue and evaluate upcoming options for business users.

Russ Levanway is the CEO of TekTegrity, an IT Managed Services Provider serving the Central Coast and Central Valley. The organization’s Total Systems Management™ (TSM) service model provides preventative IT support at fixed monthly fee levels. For more information, visit www.tektegrity.com.