For many businesses, upgrading from the Windows XP operating system will be their main IT New Year's resolution.
Have you made any New Year's resolutions for your business for 2014? Perhaps you've pledged to be more active on the sales side, doing more to attract and retain customers, and market your goods and services more effectively? Maybe you have plans in place to manage your employees differently, in a bid to raise morale and boost productivity? Or is it the case that you're looking to overhaul your company's IT infrastructure - replacing your legacy systems and solutions with the latest the market has to offer?
As is the case each year, many business leaders will set out this January with plans to upgrade on the technology side. In some companies, the need to modernise will be greater than others - it depends which PCs, servers, software suites and operating systems (OS) you are running. Businesses which have put off investing in IT for a number of years may decide that - with the industry advancing rapidly - now is the time to catch up with their competitors.
Starting with your operating system
For many companies looking at IT upgrades, the OS is an obvious place to start. The decision to migrate from an older system - such as Windows XP, Windows Vista or Windows 7 - to the latest available technology may also require some investment in supporting hardware. An increasing number of users are choosing to deploy Windows 8.1 - conscious of the significant productivity benefits it can offer their users - but they need to have PCs, laptops and devices capable of running the OS.
The business landscape has changed significantly in recent years, as IT - and in particular, cloud technologies - have come to the fore. The availability of hosted solutions online has encouraged businesses to operate much more flexibly, with investment in mobile solutions on the agenda for many. Providing they are equipped with the right solutions, employees are able to work productively and efficiently from almost any location, at any time of the day or night.
Employees who have access to the latest OS technology, and devices capable of running it, are using cloud-based software, solutions, mobile apps and collaboration tools to work effectively. No longer are they tied to their desk in the office - they have the freedom to customise their own working day and achieve a better work-life balance without impacting on overall output. Businesses recognise the value in giving their workers greater freedom, independence and geographical flexibility, and this is one of the reasons so many are eager to invest in IT at the moment.
XP heads towards retirement
The fact that vendor support for Microsoft XP ends on April 8th 2014 may encourage many businesses to invest in a new OS and supporting hardware during the first few months of this year. XP has been a great OS, used by millions of businesses and home consumers over the last 12 years, but it is a long way behind what Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 can offer. The OS is simply not suited to the cloud age, where online functionality has become so important, hence it is time for a well-earned retirement.
Businesses remaining on XP after the first week of April will no longer receive updates from Microsoft. This may create service and security issues for users, such as an increased risk of hacker activity. As such, Microsoft is strongly advising users to begin the migration process to a new OS as soon as possible, to avoid jeopardising systems and operations later in the spring.
The New Year provides the ideal opportunity for a fresh outlook and a revamp of your IT- something which can offer value throughout 2014 and beyond. As technology advances at break-neck speed, access to the latest online tools is becoming increasingly important for productive work. If your vision for 2014 is one of growth, Windows 8.1, mobile technology, apps and other Microsoft solutions can make a real difference this year.