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The End of XP: Your Options for a New Computer

by Allan Hoffman, Staples Contributing Writer

Do you own a business with computers running Windows XP? You’re not alone. And now you — and others like you — need to start thinking about new computing equipment sooner rather than later.

That’s the blunt truth, even if you (or your employees) love XP and don’t really want to abandon it. Microsoft is ending support for XP on April 8, 2014, and encouraging all users to buy new computers running a version of its latest operating system, Windows 8 — or at least to upgrade to a more current operating system. Specifically, this means:

  • Technical assistance for Windows XP won’t be available from Microsoft
  • Microsoft will no longer provide updates, such as Microsoft Security Essentials, to protect XP computers

You may protest, saying your current computers won’t work with later versions of Microsoft’s operating system. (Quite possibly true.) You may argue that XP’s got everything you need. (Also a valid point.) None of that matters. Once Microsoft stops issuing security updates and patches, attackers will be able to find the vulnerabilities. And since no more security updates will be issued, XP will be vulnerable.

Think you can risk it? Don’t. Instead, look at this as an opportunity to evaluate your needs and decide between the myriad options now available in the post-PC era. In fact, there’s never been a better time to buy a computer. Aside from Windows laptop and desktop computers, there are Windows tablets and iPad® and Android™ devices. You may even consider a Chromebook. Depending on what your business requires, you may even decide to have a mix of several of these in your workplace.

Windows Options

Let’s start with the Windows options. After all, you know your employees are familiar with how Windows works; the transition may be easier if you stick with a known operating system, even with the differences in more current versions.

That said, you’ll need to make a choice between Windows 7 and Windows 8 (well, now it’s 8.1). Opting for Windows 8 might seem like a no-brainer, except for this reason: The Windows 8 interface is a complete revamp, and many find the adjustment to Windows 8 jarring, especially if moving from XP. Windows 7 will be far more familiar to your employees and will require less training.

A PC World article noted a trend here, with this headline: “As businesses flee the coming ‘XPocalypse,’ they’re turning to Windows 7, not 8.” If you do opt for Windows 7, just be sure it’s a computer that’s capable of running Windows 8, as you’ll likely want (or need) to upgrade in the future.

Consider these Windows options:

  • Windows desktop: Businesses often favor desktop computers for a number of reasons, including screen real estate and a desire to tether the computer to a specific desk or workstation. The powerful, expandable desktop computer could be coupled with a monitor for increased real estate.
  • Windows laptop: If you’d like employees to have a computer for travel (or working at home), think about a Windows laptop, for both durability and speed.
  • Windows tablet: If you want a device that’s easy to use and mobile, and also runs Microsoft’s Office applications, don’t dismiss a tablet, such as Microsoft’s own Surface 2 device.

Moving Beyond Windows

It’s possible you may want to move beyond Windows, especially if your employees rely on cloud-based services to communicate and share documents. Here are some suggestions:

  • Chromebook: If your organization favors Google products, such as Google Drive and Google Docs, then a Chromebook can be a cost-effective alternative. Just keep in mind the key limitations: traditional PC applications don’t run on these computers, and you typically need an Internet connection to get your work done effectively.
  • iPad: Replace XP with an iPad? It’s not as outlandish an idea as you might think. If you prize portability, an iPad may make sense as a replacement for some PCs. You can even work on Microsoft Office documents with an app like Documents to Go.
  • Android tablet: Pair an Android tablet with a wireless keyboard and you’ve got a lightweight computer with access to Google’s productivity apps.

Whatever choice you make, be sure to consult your workers — and, in particular, any IT support personnel — before you decide. In the XP days, employees often didn’t have strong preferences for computers, but now — with computing devices of all sorts, from tablets to smartphones, embedded in our daily lives — your workers will surely have their own opinions about the computers they’ll be using at work.

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