06/05/2014 11:51 BST | Updated 06/07/2014 06:59 BST

Small Business Must Come to Terms With Life After XP

Microsoft's decision to stop supporting the Windows XP operating system last month has caused quite a stir in business circles. The market share for the XP operating system still stands at around 30% and was probably a contributing factor why Microsoft supported it for so long. In an IT industry that is characterized by fast pace of change and shrinking product life cycles the longevity of Microsoft's 13-year-old operating system is exceptional. There are an estimated 430 million PCs still running some version of Windows XP. Some of these are in government - the UK Ministry of Defence is actually paying Microsoft £5.5 million to carry on supporting its 400,000 Windows XP systems - but undoubtedly many more are in small business.

The received wisdom appears to be "if it ain't broke, don't fix it". Even following Microsoft's announcement small businesses appear to be in no rush to move on. This attachment to XP is by no means confined to business owners as you might think. IT professionals too still widely use the operating system. In a study by Spiceworks as many as 76% of IT professionals run Windows XP on some devices. Asked why they had not already upgraded their XP devices, the main reasons cited were lack of budget (55%), lack of time (39%) and lack of resources (31%).

It's likely that the decision to end-of-life XP has been made with customers' best interests in mind. Common sense dictates that the older the operating system, the greater the security risks. And these risks proliferate once fixes for new vulnerabilities cease. Just last week users were being warned of a new Internet Explorer flaw that could put XP users at risk for this very reason. And my guess is that while XP usage remains at current high levels this is just the start of a concerted effort by cyber criminals to develop new bugs that target the operating system. Faced with this - understandable as their reluctance is - small businesses would be well advised to bow to the inevitable and change without delay.

So if you are one of those still running XP what are your options?

1. Ask your antivirus provider for help - if you have a business edition antivirus software licence why not ask your vendor for support to help ensure you are safe.

2. Invest in a new operating system, preferably on a higher spec machine than the old ones with XP. Your performance will suffer if you use the same machines

We continue to monitor and manage the security of a high number of XP systems and while these high levels remain we continue to support those customers who depend on XP to run their business. However, if you are a small business you are most likely to have written off any XP machines in your accounts long ago. Why not therefore take this opportunity to reassess your needs? It a great time to start exploring what latest mobile and cloud applications could do for you. Remember that the next generation of successful businesses will make full use of these technologies. Embracing these technologies securely is very easy and affordable. They will help you to increase flexibility and productivity and free up your resources for business growth.