We recently received a new business call from the Financial Director of an insurance company based in Birmingham with approx. 150 desktops. He had been hearing constant talk of end-of-support for Microsoft XP, and as most of his desktops were still running XP he wanted to find out exactly what end-of-support meant and how that would affect his business. We seem to be getting more and more of this type of query – and not just for XP but also regarding other end-of-life Microsoft OS including Windows Small Business Server 2003 and Windows Server 2003. It seems like not all businesses have quite got the message (or understand) the significance of end-of-life support. The article seeks to address this knowledge gap. To keep things simple we have focused on the impact on XP users but the same applies for other end-of-life OS.So some background info…XP – the grand doyenne of operating systems was released in October 2001 and provided a significant boost in stability. Arguably Microsoft’s best desktop OS, it has been a highly popular choice for businesses since then. But all good things must come to an end and in line with Microsoft’s standard policy of offering a minimum 10 years support for business products, Microsoft stopped issuing XP patches on April 8, 2014.

Why is this a big deal for your business? One word – Security! If hackers for example find an exploit in the operating system, it will no longer be “patched” (fixed) by Microsoft. You are on your own and that means your systems are open to potential attacks from unscrupulous types. Despite this, according to a recent study conducted by research house Forrester, 38 per cent of business PCs were still running XP, and 16 per cent of companies were still deploying XP on new machines, ignoring the warnings from Microsoft and industry experts.

So why are companies still hanging on to XP?

There are a number of reasons why businesses continue to run XP. Some organizations, particularly smaller ones, can’t afford to buy new PCs to run Win 7/8. Others don’t think they require a modern OS. The most touted reason for not upgrading is the old adage “if it ain’t broke why fix it?” XP like I mentioned earlier is still considered they most trusted desktop OS and can be relied on to simply work, so many believe that as long as XP is running service pack 3 and has the latest updates and patches and is using any browser higher than Internet Explorer 6, all will be fine.

Well not quite…

When Microsoft ends support, there’s a risk applications developed for the OS won’t work well because third party developers will also stop their support. In addition, companies that make peripheral devices, like printers and mice, will stop their driver support for XP.

Despite its huge following in reality there has never been a month when Microsoft hasn’t issued a key patch for XP – it is a favourite target for shady types so if you’re a likely target for hackers (these days any business can be deemed a “likely target”) by not moving away from XP you are really laying out an open invitation for your systems to be compromised.

Enterprise organizations (500+ desktops) seem to have got the message and have been migrating to other OS for some time – it is the SMEs (less than 500 desktops) that cause most concern. The reason for the hesitancy to upgrade is a) because of the potential costs to upgrade and b) making time to upgrade.

Tackling the cost issue

Chances are if you are still running XP (or indeed Windows 2003 or SBS 2003) the hardware it currently sits on will also be due an upgrade. Most PCs now come bundled with the latest operating system. For servers you can consider hosted versions instead of on-premise. If you must have an on-premise solution Widows Server 2012 retails for less than £500 and CAL licences for circa 20 users retail for pretty much the same (so not that much of a stretch financially – call us if you require quotes for more seats or if you want to discuss having a hosted server instead)

Planning a Migration

A migration to Windows 7 from XP can take up to 6 weeks to complete and a proper migration plan is called for. With less than five months to go before support ceases for XP it is essential that businesses start acting now to ensure the security of their systems.

Making a migration plan

If you haven’t started on an XP migration project yet, here are some tips on what to do:

  • Decide what platform you’re moving to: Few businesses are opting for Windows 8 – not only does the new OS have a few glitches it needs to tackle but its interface is so different from what staff are used to.
  • Do a hardware and application assessment. Can existing PCs run the new platform? Are your apps compatible with it? Once that’s done, decide if apps need to be migrated. You may want to start with one business-critical app as a test.
  • Do you have the resources to do the migration yourself? Migrations can be time consuming and also prone to errors if not done properly. If you do not have the in-house resource to manage this process it is time to start looking for partners that can help.
  • Build a Win7/8 reference image to test applications against;
  • Develop a project plan and a communications plan. Departments have to know what’s coming – you don’t want to delay a product launch because there’s a PC migration. Every staff member getting a new PC has to know when to expect it. Do they need to avoid travelling at a particular time? Will the company have to give some people PCs temporarily?
  • Perform the migration on test groups to tackle issues systematically
  • Planning a desktop migration is also a great time to think about alternatives, like virtual desktop infrastructure and thin clients. It is also a great opportunity to think about implementing a bring-your-own device (BYOD) policy especially if the cost of purchasing new hardware will be an issue. However remember BYOD comes with it’s on headaches…
  • If you find that you will still require XP to run some legacy applications you may want to consider running XP on virtual machines.

If you are planning an OS migration or want advice on where to start – why not give our Technical Team a call on 0800 001 5942 or email vip@www.supremesystems.co.uk? We will be happy to help and the consultation is FREE!