After twelve years of support and plenty of advanced notice, on April 8th of this year, Microsoft officially ended its service support for the Windows XP operating system. As a result, organizations that continue to use XP will be increasingly vulnerable to computer viruses and even hacking. At a minimum, these computers should no longer be used for storing sensitive financial or personal data. Despite Microsoft's support site, which offers tips on how to migrate to a new operating system, small organizations with limited budgets and no in-house IT support may find it challenging to transition away from Windows XP.
With no money in the budget for purchasing new computers and their current computers too old to upgrade, the staff of ARC Rutland Area, an organization that advocates for the rights of individuals with developmental disabilities, found themselves in a dire situation when, only a week after Microsoft stopped supporting Windows XP, not one, but two of their computers failed. Thankfully, through a team effort, both the staff and board of ARC Rutland Area, the Vermont Digital Economy Project, and the Vermont Community Foundation were able to assist the organization through this difficult situation.
According to Lisa Lynch, executive director of ARC Rutland Area, it was nothing short of an emergency. “We need our computers, especially for the Representative Payee program where we help about 50 people by handling their finances for them. We accept their Social Security check, make out their budgets with them, pay their bills with their money, and, if there is money left over, distribute it to them, over the month. People need their money every day that we are open. So, we can’t go down, even for a day!”
I first visited ARC Rutland Area shortly after this grave situation had begun. Lisa and I looked into options for upgrading the computers, since computers on Windows XP that are fast enough and have enough memory can be upgraded. TechSoup, an important resource for EVERY nonprofit, has upgrades to Windows 7 available for $12. Unfortunately, ARC Rutland's computers were too old for upgrading to be an option.
Next, we solicited computer donations via Facebook, Front Porch Forum, and direct appeals to ARC Rutland Area’s members. The Vermont Digital Economy Project proposed purchasing two or more computers if the organization was able to acquire one on its own. ARC Rutland Area found enough money to purchase a single new computer, and we worked with Larry Gold of Computer-EZ in Mendon to purchase three refurbished computers, instead of two new computers. ARC Rutland now only needed one more computer, in addition to networking assistance and a new website. Thanks to a Special and Urgent Needs Grant from the Vermont Community Foundation, ARC Rutland Area will finally have 5 secure computers.
“The Vermont Digital Economy Project really stepped up to help ARC Rutland Area out,” wrote Lisa Lynch, “ARC had to purchase new computers at this point, but had no budget. Rob even found a way to turn two computers into three. All together we have gotten five new or refurbished computers to help our programs continue. Nonprofits don’t usually have IT funds, so staying up-to-date is very difficult….With thanks for the Vermont Community Foundation’s support and the Vermont Digital Economy Project, we are getting our 5 computer stations up-to-date.”
The organization is now starting the next step in the process of using digital tools to further its mission. Within the next month, we will help ARC Rutland Area by creating a new website for them. Furthermore, they have also begun the process of developing a technology plan.