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Tag: Windows XP

The Dismal State of America’s Decade-Old Voting Machines

The Dismal State of America’s Decade-Old Voting Machines

Some election officials scour eBay for decommissioned equipment they can cannibalize for parts.

The post The Dismal State of America’s Decade-Old Voting Machines appeared first on WIRED.

Is it time to upgrade?

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Is it time to upgrade? This is probably the most frequent question I get from my clients. And for good reason. It’s not always easy to tell if upgrading makes sense. Not even for IT Pros.

The reason is simple: It’s complicated. There are a lot of factors which have to be considered when deciding to upgrade, and there are many questions you should ask yourself when planning for your future IT needs.

The first thing to consider when evaluating an upgrade is Cost. But even cost is more complex than you might think.

How much does it cost now? What is the cost of support/maintenance over the life of the product? How long should I expect it to last?
What about the costs of lost productivity if I DON’T upgrade?

What about less tangible costs related issues:

  • incompatibility between versions
  • poor performance of older versions
  • security issues due to reduced/absent vendor support
  • increased support/maintenance costs – older stuff takes more time to keep running

Besides costs, there are also risks. The risk of failure increases with the age of any product. Older stuff breaks. Bottom line.

Besides risk of failure, there are also security risks, especially when we’re talking about software. Older software & hardware drivers are updated less frequently than current versions. Really old software that is out of support may not be updated at all, which can be a problem due to both security and reliability concerns. Some older software may not work properly on newer operating systems, and can pose a risk of data loss due to crashes. Suffice to say you are taking a big risk by using unsupported products on your network. Bottom Line: If you can afford not to, don’t.

Sometimes the question of upgrading is simpler because you might HAVE to upgrade. Forced upgrades are commonplace, and although you may not actually be “Forced”, once you’ve built your company procedures around a piece of technology, you cant always just switch and stop using it.

After technology has been deployed across your business, change can become expensive. Vendors know this, and they’ve learned that most companies will choose to upgrade rather than change software that everyone in the company uses. But even though the costs to deploy a new solution and provide training are more expensive than the upgrade, if your business depends on numerous programs, the cost of upgrades can quickly become a multi-headed monster…one that feeds itself.

The typical scenario goes something like this:

You have to upgrade to the current version of Quickbooks because their payroll feature is no longer supported on the older versions. The new version of Quickbooks won’t run on Windows XP, so now you have to upgrade all of your Quickbooks workstations to Windows 7. Your time keeping program won’t run on Windows 7, so you now have to upgrade that program too, but of course the new version won’t run on Windows XP, so you the rest of the PCs on your network now need to be updated to Windows 7.

Next, you find out that your older version of Office 2003 is crashing due to incompatibilities with some of the newer software as well, so now you also need to update to Office 2013. File format changes between Office versions mean the Office 2013 upgrade needs to be deployed companywide to keep everyone on the same version.

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So you bite the bullet and start upgrading to Windows 7 and Office 2013, in addition to Quickbooks. You buy some new PCs, and upgrade some others hoping to get a few more years out of them. Several $1000s into the upgrade process, someone points out that the older workstations, to which you already upgraded with more RAM and larger drives to allow the OS upgrade, are now being brought to their knees by the resource hungry newer versions of software.

Oh yeah, and two of your printers (you know, the ones you’ve had for years, that print perfectly and that you have 2+ year’s worth of toner for) are no longer supported under Windows 7.

So before you know it you’ve replaced all of the PCs on your network, upgraded all of the major software packages, and replaced a couple of printers that didn’t need replacing. Worse yet, you’ve also just set yourself up to repeat the process about 5-7 years from now.

By the time all is said and done, the whole Upgrade question can get pretty confusing. Figuring out what to upgrade can be a daunting task, and without proper planning the expense and risks only increase.

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So what do you do? Here are some guidelines.

  • Keep all software up to date with regular security patches and updates.
    • Most major vendors offer frequent software and firmware updates.
    • Out of date software escalates risks.
    • Windows Updates and Service packs ensure security and productivity
    • Productivity apps that are used frequently business-wide, represent the greatest risk of failure or security breach, and must be kept current .
  • When version upgrades are required, plan to upgrade ALL PCs at once
    • When all systems are on the same versions, ensured compatibility means better productivity
    • Support costs are reduced when software platforms are uniform across your business
  • Don’t run unsupported software.
    • If the vendor is no longer updating the older version, upgrade to the new version.
    • If the vendor is no longer offering upgrades, consider an alternative product/vendor.
  • Avoid upgrading Operating systems by instead replacing PCs.
    • OS Upgrades are costly.
      • Purchase price of software license
      • Cost of support to backup system, install upgrade and resolve issues
      • Cost of hardware upgrades to meet OS requirements and ensure performance
        • RAM/Hard drive Upgrades
        • Peripheral upgrades
      • Reduced productivity: diminished performance resultant to pairing last generation hardware with upgraded OS
    • Unless you have 25+ PCs, purchasing PCs with OS license is cost effective comparable to Enterprise Licensing
      • Preinstalled OS saves setup time
      • OEM licenses are much cheaper than a retail license for Windows
  • PLAN. PLAN. PLAN.
    • Budgets are your friends.
      • When purchasing a new PC, consider the anticipated useful life
      • Develop a schedule to replace ALL PCs regularly that meets your budget
    • Choose wisely.
      • Choose Vendors for Warranty and Support as well as features and price
      • Avoid Custom software and hardware solutions if possible
        • Custom software can be a nightmare to maintain, and vendor support may vary.
        • Custom vendor support contracts can be expensive, and the hardware/software may become unusable without support. Third party support may be difficult/impossible to find.
        • What happens if your developer/system builder goes out of business?
    • Develop a long term plan for the ongoing replacement of all IT equipment
      • Waiting until everything is really old can be a disaster.
      • Generally, a 4-7 year rotation schedule is appropriate for most IT equipment
      • Version consistency for Operating Systems /Software = reduced support costs and increased productivity

So what now?

As you may have heard, support for Windows XP officially ended earlier this year. So, should you update those Windows XP computers now? Or replace them?

Well, I know your old Windows XP pcs have already been replaced/upgraded, right? I’m sure you are NOT wondering how big a risk it might be to put off the upgrade awhile. I mean, if Microsoft says you need to buy 20 new PCs this year, you’re just gonna do it, right? You don’t want to piss of the MotherShip in Redmond now, do you?

Well, let’s say you DON’T have an unlimited IT budget…You probably have some tough choices to make.

          

To help put the question in perspective, ask yourself these questions if you are debating about the XP upgrade:

  • Do you run any HIPPA compliant software or keep sensitive data on your networks? – YES, UPGRADE
  • Do you process credit cards, work with financial data, or pay bills online? – YES, UPGRADE
  • Do you make purchases or use Internet Banking? – YES, UPGRADE
  • Is Internet Explorer 9 or greater required for any websites you use frequently? – YES, UPGRADE
  • Is your system slow and it seems like you are always waiting for it to catch up? – YES, UPGRADE
  • Do you use Internet Explorer to surf the Internet? – Switch to Chrome or Firefox or UPGRADE
  • Is any of your CURRENT software UNSUPPORTED on Windows 7? – YES, EVALUATE. Additional software upgrades may be required.
  • Are all of your printers and peripherals compatible with the new software? – YES, UPGRADE; NO, Evaluate extra costs.
  • Will the upgrade cause any other problems? -YES, Evaluate. Obviously, every situation is different.

Still don’t know what to do? Let us evaluate your situation and help you figure it out.  That’s what we do best.

Proactive Computing – Intelligent IT Solutions and Support.

Dialog boxes may be killing Internet Explorer

Internet Explorer running slow? Dialog boxes could be at fault

Internet Explorer running slow? Dialog boxes could be at fault | PCWorld

 

If you’ve noticed Internet Explorer running slowly lately—or just halting altogether—here’s one possible cause: dialog boxes.

On Friday, the same day that Microsoft recommended users download the latest updates for Windows 7 and 8, Microsoft issued a hotfix for Internet Explorer. According to asupport article issued Friday, “web applications that implement consecutive modal dialog boxes may cause Internet Explorer to become slow and unresponsive over time.”

Microsoft issued the hotfix for Internet Explorer versions 7 through 11—basically every major version.

For more information about how Dialog boxes may be killing Internet Explorer, follow the source link below to check out the PC World article to find out how to fix the problem.

via Internet Explorer running slow? Dialog boxes could be at fault | PCWorld.

Microsoft pulls update after crashes

Microsoft pulls update

People often ask me why I recommend disabling Automatic updates in Windows. Well here’s one reason…

Apparently this update has been causing crashes and slowdowns. So if you have automatic updates turned on and your PC just recently started acting unbecomingly, this might be the problem.

“Microsoft said that it had discovered three issues with the updates associated with its August updates last week (specifically updates 298279129702282975719, and 297533), otherwise known as the security and feature updates that began rolling out on August 2.”

“Microsoft recommends that customers uninstall this update. As an added precaution, Microsoft has removed the download links to the 2982791 security update.”

Not quite as easy as it might seem. It seems you need to tinker with the registry, which can completely brick your PC if you don’t know what you’re doing.

As a humorous side note, if you are still running Windows XP, you don’t have to worry at all!

Microsoft pulls August Windows update after crashes | PCWorld.

XP Support is Dead So Now What?

Windows XP Support is Dead So Now What?

Now what should I do?
What happens if I don’t upgrade?
Is there a way around being forced to upgrade?

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All good questions. Here’s the deal and what it means to you.

Microsoft has dropped support for XP. This means a a lot of things, but few things in particular stand out:

1) No new updates. No security fixes. No service packs. Basically you are on your own against every new threat. I have seen a couple registry hacks which supposedly can restore your Updates, but since none of them are being tested actively on Windows XP before release, you can be sure that your “unsupported system” will eventually…or sooner…fail to work properly. Updates are a good thing.
2) No new versions of Internet Explorer. You are stuck on IE 8 until the end of time. IE 8 doesn’t support many newer web protocols already, and the list of sites that don’t work with IE 8 will only keep growing. You may or may not be able to get around this by using Chrome or Firefox, but there still many websites which only support IE, many of which are already requiring IE 9 and above.
3) Software incompatibilities with 3rd party vendors will grow. Already many new titles are Windows 7/8 only, and upgrades to existing non-Microsoft programs will quickly stop supporting WIndows XP if they haven’t already. Newer versions of Microsoft Office already support only Windows 7 and up. That means you’ll be forced to upgrade eventually anyway so that you can use the latest versions of your favorite software.  And by eventually, I mean probably soon.

There are a whole lot of other things I’m sure I haven’t mentioned, but the bottom line is that if you don’t upgrade, your security will be reduced and your risk increased.  Certainly everyone’s situation will vary, and the degree of risk can be reduced with some simple (or not so simple) changes, but any way you slice it, Microsoft is saying, “Upgrade, or we can’t be responsible for what happens”.  Sounds just a bit too much like paying protection to the Mob to stay in business.

But even though Microsoft has mandated that you MUST upgrade (and NOW), there may be reasons you aren’t quite ready to replace EVERY Windows XP system in your office TODAY. You may be locked into using an older software title which won’t run on newer Windows versions. Or perhaps budget constraints are preventing you from upgrading all your systems immediately. Or…here’s a novel thought…your computers may be working just fine for what you need them to do, and you don’t see why you need to waste money on new PCs right now.

I think there’s a good reason to feel that way. Nobody likes being strong-armed into purchase decisions, and it’s easy to look at the negative side of the new  “offer-you-can’t-refuse” style of marketing Microsoft is taking here. But there is another side of this story…Windows XP is about 15 years old, and the harsh truth is that upgrading will improve compatibility and performance, in addition to the improved security. While there are numerous ways to work around the security issues created by the lack of ongoing updates, you will be far better off for the upgrade in the long run because of performance enhancements and improved compatibility.

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So, our bottom line recommendation is:

Upgrade to Windows 7 as soon as you can. Hardware improvements and 64 Bit computing mean huge performance boosts and best compatibility with the latest software titles. We feel that 64 BIT computing is a must for performance, as 32 BIT systems are limited to 4 GB of RAM.

Move your office as quickly as possible to a 100% Windows 7/8 environment. We are still recommending Windows 7 64 Bit for most business situations, rather than Windows 8, due to software compatibility concerns, Windows 8 also represents a large learning curve due to significant operating system changes between Windows 7 and 8.  We recommend Microsoft Windows 7 64 Bit Professional with Service Pack 1.

Phase in your upgrades as quickly as you can. On systems which are stuck on XP, lock down IE 8 and force users to use Chrome or Firefox. That single step will reduce your security threat immensely. Also, if you must run XP for some reason, consider running in a virtualized environment if possible. XP running on a HyperV server can be much easier to secure. It also facilitates shared access which can be helpful for infrequently used legacy applications which must be maintained.

Staying on XP for a little while may make sense, but don’t expect to run those old systems forever without putting your data, network,  and possibly your entire company at risk. Running on an unsupported OS means trouble, and the longer you hold out, the more the risk increases. It doesn’t have to be today, but don’t wait until you have problems…they may be much bigger than you expect.

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Daily Report: Keeping Data Secure Is One Tough Job – NYTimes.com

Daily Report: Keeping Data Secure Is One Tough Job – NYTimes.com.

“We’re like sheep waiting to be slaughtered. We all know what our fate is when there’s a significant breach. This job is not for the fainthearted.”

~ David Jordan, the chief information security officer for Arlington County in Virginia.

Daily Report: Keeping Data Secure Is One Tough Job - NYTimes.com

9 tips for smarter passwords – azcentral.com

9 tips for smarter passwords – azcentral.com

http://www.azcentral.com/story/money/business/2014/08/06/9-tips-for-smarter-passwords/13688891/

You’ve heard them. You know you already know them.

But do you follow them?

 

The Ultimate Guide to Tech Support for Small Business – Small Business Computing

The Ultimate Guide to Tech Support for Small Business – Small Business Computing

http://www.smallbusinesscomputing.com/buyersguide/the-ultimate-guide-to-tech-support-for-small-business.html

Should you outsource? Chances are that unless your company is larger than 25-30 employees, you should consider outsourcing rather than hiring a full-time IT staff.

Support for Windows XP has ended

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In case you haven’t heard, support for Windows XP has ended. That means no more updates (although there is a hack that can continue updates…ssshhh). Wondering what it means? Do these questions nag you?

What is end of support?
What does this mean?
How do I migrate off Windows XP?
Potential risks of staying with Windows XP

Click for info directly from Microsoft:

Support for Windows XP for Enterprise Business is ending.