Windows XP Going Away

Many people still use Windows XP in their home and business PCs.  On April 8th, support for XP goes away, and you can read about it from Microsoft here.  Outside of technical circles, not nearly enough has been said about this and that's why I'm writing this article.  
Windows XP will NOT stop working on April 8th, Microsoft WILL stop protecting it by sending security updates for it.  It's sort of as if a prison's guards announced they were going to strike and walk off the job.  If they do that on April 8th, it's a pretty safe bet that the inmates will flee the prison soon after the guards are gone and go back to committing crime in the community.  On April 8th the prison guards from Microsoft go off duty and the hackers are free to do all sorts of bad things to Windows XP, the internet is the street right to your PC.
The graphic below illustrates the problem.  After April 8th, Windows XP + the internet + your PC equals disaster.  If one of the three things on the left side can go away, you can lessen your chances of a virtual Kaboom.  
Windows xp kaboom text
The first thing to do is look over your business and identify all of the PCs running Windows XP and starting asking questions:
  • Are they connected to the internet? Do they need to be?
  • How new are the PCs? Are they performing as you need them to be?
  • What are the actual functions of each PC?
  • Can the software running on the Windows XP machines run on something else like ubuntu linux?
A couple examples:
You have a time clock PC that employees use to clock in.  It's connected to the network and it has Microsoft Excel.  It works fine for what it's doing.  Recommendations: Setup a separate LAN that is NOT connected to the internet for this PC to communicate with others in the business, especially if there are other PCs in a similar situation.  Otherwise, disconnect PC and use USB drive once a week to pull timekeeping data out of this PC.
Your PC that handles your accounting.  It's connected to the network and it has Microsoft Excel and an accounting suite such as Peachtree or Quickbooks.  Recommendations: It's financial data, accounting stuff uses lots of resources and it's possible those accounting suites need an update.  Sounds like it's time for a new PC here with Windows 7 or 8.1 and try to find a place to reuse the existing Windows XP machine with maybe linux for lesser tasks.
Your PC that handles ordering, email, and social media.  Obviously, It's connected to the internet with usual internet tools.   Recommendations: XP has to go but if the performance of the PC is acceptable, replacing XP with ubuntu is possible.  Ubuntu is graphical and has all of the same kinds of web tools that PCs have, they're just in a different place and a little learning has to happen.  Oh, and Ubuntu is free and actively supported!
If you find a PC that is running XP and not worth doing anything with, or is getting replaced, please consider donating it somewhere.
In March you want to make sure you have a plan for what to do with Windows PCs.  It's much easier to upgrade them in March while XP still has support before the hackers load them up with viruses in April.  Waiting for Microsoft to give in and extend the support deadline is very risky and I think unlikely.