The end is near. You’ve probably heard that a lot in the last week as technology publications marked the start of a year-long countdown until the end of Microsoft’s (NASDAQ:MSFT) support for Windows XP and Office 2003. Here’s what you need to know about the end of support for any of your customers still on XP and 2003.

But first, you probably realize, it’s been a long time coming.  Windows XP became generally available in August 2001.  You and your customers were 12 years younger then, you’d never heard of Twitter or Facebook, and you were allowed to wear your shoes and carry your Swiss Army knife when you went through airport security.

Microsoft has released three major OS updates since XP – Vista, Windows 7 and Windows 8.  Yet Gartner recently estimated 15 percent of midsize and large enterprises would still be running Windows XP on at least 10 percent of their PCs when support ends on April 8, 2014.  (Hypothetically, I may have  had personal experience of working a Windows XP machine in a previous job: an IBM –not Lenovo -- Thinkpad. I have two words about working on such an old machine: Lost Productivity. OK, more than two words: Much more time on the phone with the IT help desk.)

Office 2003 became generally available in October 2003.  Three updates to the productivity suite have become available since then.

Gartner added its voice to the crowd last week, urging organizations that have been reluctant to upgrade for whatever reason to consider the risks of staying with Windows XP and/or Office 2003 and assess their options for upgrading. The following is a list of warnings and recommendations from Gartner:

  • The end of support and patches could make these PCs vulnerable to attack
  • Even devices not connected to the public internet risk infection from other devices on a private network
  • Applications running on XP will no longer be supported
  • Lack of support will mean more work for IT, which must fill the support gap

If your customers are still reluctant to upgrade, you may want to point out the expenses of keeping an XP machine deployed and the improvement in productivity and support time a new machine will bring.