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Windows XP: The Day After End-Of-Life Support

Windows XP debuted in 2001 and it's still in wide use today. Despite the April 8, 2014 end-of-life support date looming, it is estimated that roughly 40 percent of desktops still run it. That is staggering.

What makes it even scarier is the fact that if organizations have not yet started their Windows XP migrations, it's highly unlikely they will roll out a new OS before the deadline. So what will happen when that date rolls around? Many of my customers say they don't care and that they we will continue to use Windows XP until they are ready to migrate. Basically they're saying, "We have been supporting Windows XP for a long time, we know its ins and outs and we don't need Microsoft's support."

The problem with these types of statements is that they are emotional and dangerous. It's a world rampant with cyber security threats, where even the most secure government computers in the world are being compromised. To boldly risk continuing to use an aging and soon-to-be unsupported OS is to merely invite hackers and malware writers to exploit and affect your business. Malware writers and hackers are mostly after the glory, the attention. What better opportunity than to try and exploit an installed base of 40 percent of PCs that Microsoft is no longer patching? Yes, Microsoft is ending security patches and updates. Sure, you can probably buy extended premium support for what Gartnera analysts estimate to be $200,000 for those with a Software Assurance agreement or a mere $500,000 if you don't have one.

What I have just mentioned is an obvious example of a very possible scenario. It's a nightmare from the IT perspective to clean up; from a business perspective, it's highly disruptive, especially if your reaction will be to start a migration under the pressure of cleaning up a vulnerability. On the flip side, when I ask customers about why they have not commenced a migration yet, I get a number of reasons along the following lines:

  • We don't have a budget for a migration.
  • We have a lot of applications that pose compatibility issues with newer operating systems.
  • We don't have the capacity to run though this migration and maintain our business
  • We need new hardware to support the new operating system.
  • We are not sure which version of Windows to migrate to, Windows 7 or 8.

Budget always comes up and, frankly, most of the time it is IT management's fault. I understand that economic pressures have trimmed budgets, but I am also convinced that IT has not properly presented a business case regarding the implications of doing nothing or delaying a migration from Windows XP. Unless the organization is unsure if it will be in business in 2014, budget must be allocated to allow for this migration. I encourage IT to be vigilant to present a business case for this type of project.

I also encourage IT to begin to think strategically about end-user computing in general instead of always being reactive. I encourage you to develop a strategy that includes desktop virtualization in many of its different types like VDI, Terminal Services and others. There are many ways of addressing application incompatibilities, there are several discussions that should be had on which operating system to migrate to and the implications of doing so.

The bottom line is, the impact that Windows XP's end of life will have on your business must be front and center of your projects this year. My advice is to not assume anything on behalf of the business and don't assume that you're not taking any risks by not informing your company of the dangers.

If you're not planning on migrating off Windows XP and expect to be using it past its end of life, I am very interested in learning what factors brought you to this decision in the comments here.

Posted by Elias Khnaser on 04/08/2013 at 12:49 PM


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