“For most small businesses I think a major factor is the lack of knowledge as to how easy it actually is to do.”
But for Techion Group Laboratory & IT Manager, Stacey McGregor, moving away from Microsoft Windows XP software couldn’t have been easier.
An on-site diagnostic technology company based in Dunedin,Techion’s upgrade to Windows 8 and Office 365 helped banish previous misconceptions surrounding the migration process.
“Most small businesses are not lucky enough to have a dedicated IT person on site,” McGregor admits. “Which means they believe they have to rely on bringing in someone to do it for them which is seen as yet another cost involved.”
As the winners of Microsoft New Zealand’s GetModern IT Makeover contest, the company received Office 365 Small Business Premium subscriptions as well as a number of Ultrabooks and Tablets running Windows 8.
Yet McGregor, while welcoming the good fortune in winning the software giant’s top prize, insists the logistics of transition served as a timely reminder that being a small business doesn’t mean a myriad of overwhelming IT restrictions.
“The 365 licences only took a few hours to set up,” McGregor says. “In all honesty, the setup of both Windows 8 and Office 365 is so simple that you don’t really need any help at all.”
McGregor says that the move to Windows 8 and Office 365 Small Business Premium was very smooth and no time was lost during the upgrade.
“We performed the move ourselves, rolling out one user at a time, which meant there was no IT downtime at all,” she adds.
“We were surprised at how easy it was to manage the changeover.”
After April 8, 2014 Windows XP will be unsupported and will no longer receive software updates from Windows Update, including security updates that can help protect PCs from harmful viruses, spyware, and other malicious software which can steal personal information.
But like a host of other SMBs across New Zealand, McGregor was quick to acknowledge that despite the wave of warnings from Redmond, there remains reservations held by many in the industry when it came to moving away from Windows XP.
“As always in talking to some people who do not reside in or around the IT world, I do feel there will be some companies who will still be surprised by the fact that in a couple of months their computers operating system will be unsupported,” McGregor admits.
“I predict this surprise will come mostly to companies whose core business does not revolve around their computers, as with previous versions of Windows there will still be companies who remain using the older operating systems well outside of the support date, this will be mostly through habit more than anything else though.”
On the hardware side, McGregors believes there is misconception that an operating system upgrade automatically constitutes a computer upgrade to cope with the increased system requirements.
“This is no longer true,” McGregor says. “Since the release of MS Windows 7 and now MS Windows 8 the system resource use required by the operating system has improved greatly.
“I have had great success taking computers designed for XP or Vista and running windows 8 on them, the biggest thing to make sure of a smooth transition is RAM, an extra GB goes a long way and is in reality a minor cost to upgrade.”
Focused on the development of smart management systems allowing farmers to manage their animal parasite burden, without having to leave their farms, Techion’s core product is called a FECPAK unit, a mobile testing system for assessing sheep, goats, cattle and horses.
Providing farmers with accurate, quick and reliable information about the health of their animals, the business currently employs ten staff in Dunedin, but is active around the country and aspires to continue to expand their services beyond New Zealand and the UK in the near future.
Because a lot of Techion Group’s work is conducted on farms around the country, there can be several staff out of the office working remotely at any one time, so easy mobility and the ability to work and be productive anywhere is very important to the future success of the organisation.
“Being a small company with a very limited IT budget, we were keeping the IT system running with second hand equipment and Windows XP,” says McGregor, who also uses Windows 8 Pro at home. “But were really keen to upgrade to Windows 8 and Office 365 to help us achieve our global goals as a company.”
With the business now operating with their primary systems in the cloud, McGregor says that productivity levels have increased despite many staff being unfamiliar with Windows 8.
“Now that we have an end-to-end modern work environment running in the cloud, our staff have commented about how easy it is to work while out of the office,” she adds.
“Work gets done faster because the new systems are so streamlined and quick; it has definitely increased our productivity.
“We’ve also had feedback from staff who love that Windows 8 is so much faster, more logical, and easily personalised compared to our old operating system.”
As the manager of the company’s IT system, McGregor unsurprisingly believes the new set up is a lot easier to manage too.
“Already we have noticed we have a lot less problems and bugs,” she adds.
“Plus it gives me peace of mind because transitioning over to the cloud means that we are no solely longer relying on the server should we be faced with something like a natural disaster, which we know is an all too real possibility in New Zealand, particularly after the Christchurch earthquakes in recent years.”
But delving deeper into the issue, and putting aside Techion’s success in the Microsoft New Zealand GetModern IT Makeover contest, the issue of Windows XP is nearing at an alarming rate for SMBs in particular.
Forget cries of scaremongering from Redmond towers, the April 8, 2014 end of support date should be a date etched into the memory of every responsible SMB across the country.
On the whole, enterprise jumped on the Windows XP migration ship long ago, so much so they have sailing to safety for some time, but for SMBs trapped in the misbelief that the process is fraught with complexity, remember this: Don’t miss the boat.
Has your business upgraded from Windows XP yet? If so, tell us your experiences in the comments below