The firm I work in is Windows-based, just like the vast majority of North American law firms. When our firm upgraded from Windows 98 to Windows XP, I became a much less grumpy techie. Windows XP delivered the holy grail of computing for me — stability! It wasn’t nearly as crash-and-burn-y and blue screen of death-y as its predecessors.
We lived in XP land for a long, long time. It was a lovely place to live and soon became the standard throughout the Windows business world. But those days are gone. In case you haven’t heard, Microsoft is done with Windows XP. At least it’s done with it as of April 8 (along with Microsoft Office 2003). Essentially, XP will become April Fools’ software because, after the 8th, Microsoft will no longer issue security updates for the XP operating system (Service Pack 3) — and no more hot fixes or support either. Nada. Nothing. Out of luck.
You might be thinking, “I’ve been operating without support for a long time — Windows XP is stable and it’ll stay that way. I don’t need support!” You’d be wrong.
Security High Stakes
You see, it’s not enough that the XP operating system will continue to run on your old hardware because continued operation is not the issue. Security is the issue, along with software and hardware upgradeability. And don’t think that because so many patches have already been issued for XP it’s secure — it’s not. You can bet that after April 8 the bad guys will reverse-engineer and test Windows 7 or Windows 8 patches against XP — and be assured, they will hit security-hole pay dirt. Many of those holes will be zero-day vulnerabilities, meaning you cannot rely on antivirus or anti-malware for protection.
This is such serious stuff that I’ll let Microsoft relay it in their own words:
Running Windows XP SP3 and Office 2003 in your environment after their end of support date may expose your company to potential risks, such as Security & Compliance Risks:
- Unsupported and unpatched environments are vulnerable to security risks. This may result in an officially recognized control failure by an internal or external audit body, leading to suspension of certifications, and/or public notification of the organization’s inability to maintain its systems and customer information.
Those are some serious, scary words. Security is not to be trifled with, especially given the number of bad guys after confidential client data and trust accounts, and lawyers’ responsibility to keep their clients’ money and data safe and secure within their own network.
If your office is still operating on Windows XP or using Microsoft Office 2013, you cannot afford to wait to upgrade to Windows 7 or Windows 8. My preference is Windows 7, which can still be had (despite Microsoft preferring you to think it can’t). Unfortunately, though, you can’t purchase the software; you have to purchase new hardware with a downgradeable OEM license. (Find more information on how limited this option is here: “How to get a new PC that runs Windows 7, not Windows 8.”)
If you go with Windows 8, you’ll have to do a lot of tweaking to get back to an interface that’s familiar, but it can be done.
No matter which route you choose — Windows 7 or Windows 8 — it is imperative that you upgrade before April. Understand that upgrading will take some planning, and you may need to purchase new hardware and install other software to accommodate the upgrade.
If you don’t have one already, it’s a good time to get a techie on board to help with the transition!
Vivian Manning is the IT Manager at Burgar Rowe PC in Barrie, Bracebridge and Cookstown, Ontario. Prior to moving into IT, Vivian practiced law at Burgar Rowe, primarily in the area of municipal land development, with a total of 17 years in private practice before switching to the IT end of the law office. She currently indulges her love of teaching tech through her blog Small City Law Firm Tech, where she provides “tips of the day.”