CAIRO — Grady County commissioners approved a lease agreement Tuesday that will begin the process of replacing computers which are soon to be made obsolete.

More than 20 of the county’s computers running Windows 7 or older operating systems will no longer by supported by Microsoft virus protection in January and will be vulnerable to potential incursions.

The software on the computers, which are mainly located in the sheriff’s office, cannot be updated because they lack the memory capacity to run the desired Windows 10 system.

County Administrator Buddy Johnson said the aging computers must be replaced by the end of the year.

“No one can afford to not be protected in this day and time,” Johnson said.

As an example of what could happen if the devices are not replaced, the county administrator said computers in a nearby county’s sheriff’s office were recently attacked following a similar lapse in virus protection.

“They had failed to put anything in place beyond just the basic Norton or whatever was on it,” Johnson said.

Leasing the computers makes more financial sense than purchasing them outright, Johnson said, because in the lease agreement there is a smaller upfront cost and the devices will remain under warranty.

“We don’t spend that money to fix it if something goes wrong,” Johnson said. “At the end of the five-year period, we can either keep the computer or roll it into a new lease or whatever we want to do.”

The county has several more lease agreements on copiers coming up for renewal throughout the remainder of the year where computers can be bundled in as a package deal.

Not all of the computers need to be replaced by other computers, and Johnson has conducted some research into replacing some with cheaper devices, such as tablets.

The agreement the county entered into will lease seven computers in a bundle with two copiers for $356 per month for five years, and Johnson said it was only the beginning of a process that needs to be completed before January.

“At the end of the year, I’m sorry, but we’ll have to come in here and bite the bud and get some more,” Johnson said. “We have to replace these computers.”