Is your business prepared for the end of Windows XP support?

by Sharon Lobo    Apr 18, 2013

Microsoft XP

Windows XP has undoubtedly been one of the longest and best-selling OS from Microsoft, so much so that a large number of PC users still swear by it in spite of Microsoft having released 3 OSs after XP. According to Net Applications, one of the most cited analytics firms, the worldwide Windows XP user base stands at 38.73%, while Windows Vista, 7 and 8 have a market share of 4.99%, 44.73, and 3.17% respectively.

Microsoft, for some time now has been convincing users to shift to Windows 7 or 8. For instance, Erwin Visser, Director for Windows at Microsoft in a blog post goes on to explain that though end of support for Windows XP is still one year away, the migration process can take some time and may be costlier the longer businesses stayon Windows XP, ultimately putting businesses at risk.

The security landscape is ever-changing and new threats are coming to fruition every day, so it is critical that businesses ensure they protect their data and IP against the latest threats by deploying a modern Windows platform.
-Erwin Visser, Director - Windows, Microsoft

No matter to what lengths Microsoft goes to convince Windows XP users to upgrade the fact remains that there will be a sizeable number of users who won’t budge. In a comment to Notebook Review, Mike Cherry, senior analyst with Directions on Microsoft said the number one reason people give for continuing to use XP is the app I they need isn’t available on Windows 7. “I found that hard to believe so I press a little further. They usually have to pay for an upgrade and an upgrade might not add anything. If customers aren’t coming through the door to buy anything, it’s not because of that app,” he said.

Even Gartner believes that with Microsoft ending support for Windows XP in less than a year, on April 8, 2014, it is estimated that more than 15 percent of enterprises will still have the OS running on at least 10 percent of their PCs after Microsoft support ends on that date.

Michael Silver and Steve Kleynhans, vice presidents in Gartner’s client computing team, provide recommendations on what organizations should do today to ensure that they will either be off Windows XP or have considered the risks of continuing to run it:

Understand the Risks Involved

Not having support means that organizations’ PCs could be vulnerable to attack. New vulnerabilities are always being found, and new vulnerabilities that are found in more current products could affect Windows XP. Any unpatched device can be vulnerable to attack. Even if a device is only a private network and has no Internet access, another device, even one running a supported product, can be infected with malware outside the private network and can bring it onto the private network, infecting other devices.

Many applications will no longer be supported while running on Windows XP. Organizations may be on their own to resolve issues and problems, which could result in system downtime.

Assess Position

Organizations that are not almost or completely finished migrating off Windows XP should reassess their position by reviewing their project plans and ensuring that they are on target to meet the deadline. Organizations that believe they’re unlikely to complete their migration projects by April 2014 should prioritize their applications and users so that they can reduce the risks by addressing critical resources first.

Classify Applications and Users — Work on Critical Ones First

Most organizations have far too many applications. Organizations where users are administrators typically have one application for every 10 users, with about half of these requiring Windows to run. Gartner defines a critical application (or the user of critical applications) as one where if the application fails or the user can’t do his or her job, there could be financial or legal consequences.

Organizations must conduct several analyses on their application portfolios to help safeguard the organization after XP support ends, and in preparation for Windows 7 or 8 migrations. For critical applications that can run on Windows 7, consider moving these users first. If Windows 7 can’t be used, prioritize these applications and users so that you can move them as soon as possible.

“And as businesses plan to purchase new devices as part of their Windows XP migration process, they should consider user scenarios where their company will benefit from having employees use touch devices – whether it is tablets, laptops with touch capabilities, all-in-ones, or other innovative devices. This way, companies conducting hardware refresh cycles can benefit from higher productivity of its users in the immediate term, while ensuring that they are modernizing an increasingly higher proportion of their installed PCs with touch capabilities – readying their business for the future Windows platform migrations,” said Erwin.