CENTERPRISE International is warning businesses to act now or face the threat of falling victim to hackers and viruses as there is less than two weeks to go before Microsoft pulls the plug on its Windows XP operating system.
The leading supplier of managed computer systems for businesses, based at Hampshire International Business Park, in Chineham, said support for Windows XP will officially end on Tuesday April 8, which means Microsoft will no longer issue updates to patch bugs and security vulnerabilities.
Darren Smith, government and corporate sales manager at Centerprise, said it is thought that around 30 per cent of desktop computers are still running XP – meaning that hundreds of businesses only have a short time to act to keep their systems secure to make sure they are safe from viruses.
He said companies need to make sure they are not relying on the outdated system, and further warns that firms can be fined under the Data Protection Act if their security fails and customer data is exposed.
To help concerned businesses, Centerprise has launched a microsite with useful information about the change at centerprise
Darren said: “Businesses have a responsibility to make sure their data is secure and if they are still running XP, then they are at risk of leaving themselves vulnerable to viruses, hackers and system problems.
“Later versions of Windows have much better security features and will be regularly updated to keep them secure.
“We think it’s very likely that XP systems will be targeted once official support ends.
“The only way businesses can protect themselves is by moving to a properly-supported operated system. If you hold any kind of data for customers, it’s not something you can afford to ignore.
“Failing to update to a newer operating system may see companies fined because those that hold customer data are required to take measures to protect themselves from hackers.”
A spokesperson from Microsoft confirmed the April 8 deadline.
She said: “Windows XP users will no longer receive new security updates, non-security hotfixes, free or paid assisted support options, or online technical content updates from Microsoft.
“This support lifecycle policy for Windows XP was first announced in October 2002 so customers could plan for their IT investments and migrations and since that time, we’ve been working hard to let our customers know about the end of support deadline. 
“Microsoft first announced that support for Windows XP would end on April 8, 2014, back in 2007.
PCs running Windows XP after April 8 should not be considered to be protected, and it is important that customers migrate to a current supported operating system such as Windows 8.1 or Windows 7 so they can receive regular security updates to protect their computer from malicious attacks.
“Windows XP and Office 2003 were great software releases more than a decade ago, but technology has evolved dramatically over the past 12 years and modern devices are not only faster and have greater performance than devices running older operating systems, but come with greater security features, new and improved networking tools, modern apps and more.”
Windows XP was released in 2001 and by 2006, more than 400million copies were in use worldwide. Microsoft stopped selling it in 2008, a year after its successor, Windows Vista, was released.
Centerprise International is one of the largest and most respected IT providers in the UK and delivers large-scale IT projects in the corporate, education and government sectors.