Province finalizing deal with Microsoft for computer security updates

Teresa Wright
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Education Minister Alan McIsaac says many of the computers in P.E.I. schools are federal government castoffs.

The Prince Edward Island government is finalizing a deal with Microsoft for computer security while the province updates its government software.

That’s because it will take upwards of 24 months to completely convert all the province’s computers from Windows XP to Windows 7, says Finance Minister Wes Sheridan, whose department oversees Information Technology Shared Services (ITSS).

“There’s a lot of costs and time and resources put into it to get there,” Sheridan said.

On April 8, Microsoft will officially end technical support for its Windows XP operating system.

Computers that use Windows XP will continue to work after this date, but they will be open to security and malware risks since

the monthly security patch for XP will no longer be issued.

This poses a problem for the P.E.I. government, which has standardized all computers in every department and agency with Windows XP.

Even 800 brand new computers purchased for teachers last year that came pre-installed with Windows 7 were downgraded to Windows XP after ITSS determined it would be too unruly to manage and maintain two separate operating systems.

Then, as part of its fall capital budget, the P.E.I. government pledged $5 million to update the province’s computer operating systems.

Due to the extended length of time this will take, Sheridan says Microsoft is entering into an agreement with the P.E.I. government to continue sending security patches during P.E.I.’s changeover.

“There’s a number of governments in the same boat that have had to find a way in which to make sure it’s still secure. They (Microsoft) are working with us on it,” Sheridan said.

“We’ve had very deep talks to ensure that we’re going to be safe and secure through the time period of all this transition. And we’ve been given that comfort.”

The province has faced criticism about the fact it is updating its computers to the older Windows 7 instead of the newest operating system available, Windows 8.

“Why are you replacing outdated and antiquated equipment with antiquated and outdated equipment?” Opposition education critic James Aylward asked Education Minister Alan McIsaac last November.

Many of the computers in P.E.I. schools are federal government castoffs. McIsaac said they are so old they’re not worth the investment of converting them to the newest available operating system.

“At present time we’re under the XP and we’re upgrading to Windows 7, and eventually we’ll go to Windows 8 as we go along,” McIsaac said in the legislature Nov. 29.

The entire project to convert to Windows 7 is approximately 24 months, with the majority of the work targeted to be complete in the first 16 months.

Organizations: Microsoft, Information Technology Shared Services

Geographic location: Prince Edward Island

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Recent comments

  • Me
    April 28, 2014 - 09:45

    Anybody know how to get the Windows XP updates that Microsoft will continue to distribute to paying subscribers after April 2014 (those like Great Britain, Netherlands, PEI and tons of large corporations). Today (4/27/2014), Microsoft is already stating that they have a huge IE bug that they are only going to distribute a fix to paying subscribers.

  • why
    April 08, 2014 - 07:49

    Why, if the leader of the opposition is a former ITSS IT professional programmer, is he leaving criticizing the OS being used by government to someone else? If he is a computer expert, why is he not the one making the comments?

  • ho hum
    April 07, 2014 - 13:59

    Are these folks also under the control of PEI's Information Technology Shared Services ? "Millions of U.S. government computers, including those at military and intelligence agencies, will still be running Windows XP after April 8 even though Microsoft Corp. will no longer be providing security patches for the operating system, The Washington Post reported." http://www.newsmax.com/Newsfront/computers-Windows-XP-cyberattack-hacker/2014/03/17/id/559928/

  • ho hum
    April 07, 2014 - 09:25

    Hardly unique, boys. "It was a Register investigation that revealed huge swathes of the public sector would miss the April-8 date to have upgraded from Windows XP. Among those who will miss the deadline are the Metropolitan Police and HM Revenue and Customs, with 85,268 and 38,551 PCs respectively running Windows XP. But these at least are migrating and expect the process to be finished by the end of the year. NHS England runs one million PCs through a network of independent GPs, trusts, hospitals and other organisations. The body admitted to us it simply doesn’t know beyond headline numbers the state of Windows XP’s penetration or migration work." http://www.theregister.co.uk/2014/04/03/whitehall_microsoft_winxp_security_lifeline/

  • OMG
    April 07, 2014 - 08:49

    The Netherlands and the UK are doing the exact same thing. I guess we should avoid being lumped in with such backwater banana republics.

  • townie22
    April 07, 2014 - 07:44

    there would be total confusion, and a bureaucratic nightmare/backlog trying to teach 10,000 people to use Linux.

    • flyboy_2
      April 07, 2014 - 19:17

      Ahh .... "to teach 10,000 people to use Linux"? You've got to be joking. If people can't figure out how to click an icon to open a web browser, then perhaps they're too stupid to use a computer. The City government of Munich has, since 2003, migrated over 9000 Windows desktops to Linux. It was reported, at the end of 2012, that the migration to Linux was highly successful and had saved the city over US$14 million.

    • Ummm
      April 07, 2014 - 21:19

      Didn't it take Munich about 10 years, custom writing apps, custom writing their own version of the operating system and a user base that was already very familiar with Linux? And more happens in an office than using a web browser.

    • Ummm
      April 07, 2014 - 21:22

      At the time you report the Munich migration finished, they still had about 30,000 machines left. I would not call that complete.

  • darth vader
    April 06, 2014 - 20:04

    It is stories like these that make me think of the benefits of merging the 3 Maritime provincial governments into an entity that would actually have sufficient professional in-house IT expertise and a government with the financial capability of maintaining software and OS life cycling. Everyone in PEI knows how our provincial government, bless their soul, nickels and dimes everything to the nth degree. If a purchase or capital project or program isn't available with some sort of federal cost-share, the province usually doesn't do it until they're dragged kicking and screaming (as in this case) to do it like a reluctant school student. Unlike most Islanders, I have no unfounded fears about how PEI would fare in a larger province. We're still unique. We're still an island. Sure, we wouldn't have as many public sector jobs but that's a good thing in my opinion. The laughable way that the PEI government has handled this OS sunset issue does not give me any confidence in my provincial government.

    • really now
      April 07, 2014 - 08:22

      Always fun to hear someone demand to have their voice heard that they should have less representation that would allow their voice matter, and somehow think that they are proposing a net benefit. " Unlike most Islanders, I have no unfounded fears " is bit of an old rhetorical trick to ward off any disagreement by labeling it as unfounded before it is mentioned. It is the founded fears that need to be considered, and I have heard of very few amalgamations that ended up not costing more money.

    • to townie22
      April 07, 2014 - 08:24

      The obvious retort from the Linux Fan Boys is usually, if you can't use Linux then you should not be allowed to use a computer.

  • loadofcrap
    April 05, 2014 - 13:33

    this has to be the most outrageous story i've read in a long time. there are 2 operating systems being supported now,XP and Win7. all new computers are being sent out to most gov offices with win7, maybe not schools but i know hospitals have both. a lot of the computers were downgraded in order to maintain compatibility with older apps...those apps need to be rewritten or then will stop working. seems to me gov is putting this in the wrong order. upgrade apps so they run on new OS, don't downgrade OS so it will run the apps. it's been like this for years..it will never change if management doesn't get a better understanding of software lifecycle and how to manage it's infrastructure...ridiculous!

    • well
      April 05, 2014 - 16:23

      If you have a vendor that is going to bill you, hundreds of thousands or millions, to rewrite all their custom code, and waiting for them to be rewritten would keep us at XP until Windows 12 is ready to deploy, you have a problem. I doubt you can go to folks like Deltaware and say, "I know we have a bazillion year multi-million dollar contract, but we want you to rewrite everything you supply to a custom Ubuntu version just for us, and we don't want you to bill us extra for it, or renegotiate your contract." It makes more sense to stay with the version that you know works and negotiate a reasonable upgrade path from the vendor that isn't going to completely keep you held hostage. PEI isn't a big enough customer that many vendors can't just blow us off and concentrate on other markets like NS or Ontario.

    • loadofcrap
      April 06, 2014 - 07:29

      hey well, imo the strategic plan should include identifying those computers that run legacy software that they know isn't compatible with Win7. at this point, it's a blanket statement that they can't move forward and it will take 24 months to get to the end. WinXP was end of life long ago so why wait until it reached the final support date to start the work? have a detailed document on what systems aren't working on Win7, leave those systems on WinXP but move forward with all other systems. also, i'd like to add that ITSS doesn't do patch management so not sure why they'd need to maintain Microsoft support for these when they don't even apply.........

    • Good Lord
      April 06, 2014 - 14:23

      You make it sound as if PEI was somehow unique in this situation. The reason that MS cut off XP is that there were few businesses that voluntarily moved off of XP and this was the only way to get them to upgrade. Most home users only moved off XP because they bought a new computer and 7 or 8 were the only options. I've had people tell me that the regional MS reps told them not to install 8 corporately as it was not ready for an enterprise environment.

  • john
    April 04, 2014 - 15:10

    so based on the story it will take them 2 years (2016) to get all of government up dated. Mainstream support for windows 7 ENDS Jan 13th, 2015.... so support ENDS a year before they get it updated .. you can get extended support to 2020, but I am sure they will need MORE TIME (and more money) to do that .. waste waste waste!

    • well
      April 05, 2014 - 16:36

      How many provincial governments have done a full deployment of Windows 8 across the board and had no issues? Or rewritten 20+ years of custom apps to Linux at no cost or time delay? Does anyone have any documentation? How long did it take? How much did it cost? What was the user training and support staff training budgets and timelines? What was the application transition plan for the periods where the new and old systems had to work together and be completely compatible? If you were full freeware Linux, do all of the apps you currently have contracts for have the ability to operate or are they custom build to require something like Oracle or are specifically coded for Active Directory beyond some Linux app that lets you do some file shares? If you are going to whine about how something is being done so obviously wrong, perhaps you want to step up to the plate and provide a comprehensive plan of your own?

    • ok
      April 05, 2014 - 17:38

      Germany did it.

  • John
    April 04, 2014 - 12:31

    They should save all that cash and go to OPENSOURCE solutions like linux.. ubuntu 14.04 would provide all the needs of employees and save the province a TON of money.

    • Precise Penguin
      April 04, 2014 - 14:53

      Linux is the way to go. Ubuntu has operating systems with long term support with no license costs (aka FREE). This would save the government millions in licensing fees. Linux is also great for working on older hardware that windows will no longer support. This is another great way to save money. Linux is also way more stable than windows. This is why more servers in the world run on Linux than anything else.

    • really
      April 04, 2014 - 15:39

      How exactly do you save money by rewriting possibly hundreds of custom built applications (bringing in vendors who have multiyear contracts and telling them to completely change all code, just for them) and training several thousand users to use a completely different environment? It is the type of comment that I would expect from someone who has never done this on the scale of an entire government. It is like amalgamation. It sounds like it would be cheaper, but when you do the Total Cost often costs more. If you are sure that you can do it cheaper, I'm sure that the government is waiting for your business case. Unless you don't want to put your money where your mouth is.

    • T
      April 04, 2014 - 15:42

      Any time there is a story on IT, the Linux Fan Boys come out of the wood work with the theory that if it works in their Mom's basement it should work equally as well on 10,000 machines.

    • HaHa
      April 04, 2014 - 18:23

      Business case???? Don't make me laugh. Most Linux-pushers I've worked with don't plan anything, let alone do business cases. Download free stuff off Bittorrent and write a little script to kludge it together, and not document anything so that you can hold their boss hostage to their in depth knowledge of how to post online. Most support plans seem to, often, be leave the users to fix their own #$@$ stuff. If they can't, then they are idiots and should be fired.

  • AR
    April 04, 2014 - 12:14

    Hopefully the updates that we will be paying for will actually be applied to the computers... Also managing two operating systems would prove unruly? C'mon.... There are well established tools that they most likely already pay for to accomplish this.

    • John
      April 04, 2014 - 14:36

      agreed windows 7 could run a emulator of windows xp application provided by microsoft.. so mark it a lazy and tax payers get the bill. cut your cost run OpenLibre and get of the M$ pay pay pay model.

    • John
      April 04, 2014 - 14:39

      " Many of the computers in P.E.I. schools are federal government castoffs." They would run Ubuntu Linux without issue and COST NOTHING. again waste waste waste!