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Beyond XP

Is it worth taking the risk of continuing with a product that is no longer updated or supported?

The Microsoft Website reveals the following about the end of support for Windows XP in April 2014:

“An unsupported version of Windows will no longer receive software updates from Windows Update. These include security updates that can help protect your PC from harmful viruses, spyware, and other malicious software, which can steal your personal information. Windows Update also installs the latest software updates to improve the reliability of Windows—new drivers for your hardware and more.” – from windows.microsoft.com.

There are many schools in which the primary operating system continues to be Windows XP, and for good reason. It has been the most stable and reliable Windows platform for thirteen years. But the question for schools is whether it is worth taking the risk of continuing with a product that is no longer updated or supported. Your school might be running computer lockdown software, and wonder if that is good enough protection. Yes, your computer will revert to its “clean” state when you reboot; however, once you connect to the internet, your computer and network will be vulnerable to attack again. This approach is not just unsustainable; it puts your students, your critical data, and your network at risk.

Cost, which has been a significant stumbling block to IT replacement in the past, is not really an issue in 2014. There are a number of ways to move beyond XP easily and affordably:

  • The minimum requirements for Windows 7 are a 1 GHz, 32 or 64 bit processor, 1 GM RAM, 20 GB Hard Disk, and a DirectX 9.0 graphics card. There are programs in place to update your current operating system with Windows 7.
  • Off-lease desktop PCs from Dell, HP, and Lenovo are priced under $200 and come with a full, three-year warranty. Ask about purchasing or leasing these rugged and reliable Windows 7 desktops.
  • A great option for older computers is to run Edubuntu, a linux distribution designed specifically for education. It is free, it installs on very minimal hardware, and it is not affected by malware, viruses, and other attacks that focus on Windows products.
  • Many schools are moving away from desktops and are choosing a mobile computing solution – tablets, laptop PCs, or chromebooks. If you are not sure about investing in desktops or computer labs, this may be a great option for you.

Consider the amount of time and money that schools spend on ensuring the safety of students: locked doors, sign-in/sign-out, fire and lockdown drills, and staff first aid training. Even things like testing fire extinguishers, changing alarm codes and passwords, and marking emergency exits help to ensure student safety. Playgrounds, buses and athletic equipment benefit from ongoing improvements in safety. What’s stopping you from realizing the benefits of moving beyond Windows XP – not just in student online safety, but also in user experience and functionality?

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The End of Windows XP Support – Implications for your school?

Microsoft support for Windows XP ends on April 8, 2014, but what does this mean for your school? The short answer is that you are on your own; there are no security patches, no hot-fixes, no paid support options, and no online technical updates. The more serious implication is that both your computers and your network will become much more susceptible to online threats – malware, viruses, and network intrusion. And these threats could seriously compromise the day-to-day operation and efficiency of your administration, staff and students.

Windows XP was first released in 2001. Other notable events from 2001 include: the start of George W Bush’s presidency, the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Centre, and Enron’s bankruptcy filing. Technology stories from 2001 include the first artificial heart, the shutdown of Napster, the advent of satellite radio, and the invention of the Segway. Why the walk down memory lane? Because Windows XP is a 12-year-old operating system; it has been a very good and reliable product, but it is at the end of its life cycle. And it is time to move on.

What are the alternatives to Windows XP and what is involved in moving to one of these options? There are three good options available for schools at this time:

  • Replace XP desktops with Windows 7 – the pricing and warranty on off-lease or refurbished desktop Windows 7 computers has never been better. If continuing to work in a Microsoft environment (Office, SharePoint, Office365) is a must-have for your school, this is a very good option.
  • Repurpose XP desktops with Edubuntu (an Ubuntu-based Linux distribution). You can likely use existing hardware to run the current desktop version of Edubuntu (with application packages for both elementary or high school). Although you still have aging equipment, the cost of moving from XP to Edubuntu is very reasonable – both in time and finances. If your school is ready to move to Google Apps for Education, Edubuntu is the most cost-effective way to get there in terms of end-point device support.
  • Move to a mobile computing environment in your school – whether this consists of school-provided laptops, netbooks,Chromebooks, and tablets or it is implemented through a BYOD policy, your planning and spending focus is on the infrastructure side, not on replacing computer labs. And a mobile computing environment allows you to pick from any or all of the Windows, Apple, Google, and Linux platforms as your operating system environment.

The time is now to act upon the replacement of your venerable – but increasingly risky – Windows XP environment!

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