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Despite looming end of life, study shows XP remains primary OS

Steve Ragan | Oct. 8, 2013
A series of customer studies by Fiberlink shows a pattern of risky behavior, and widespread usage of a soon to be dead operating system.

Examining data from one million devices, Fiberlink, a mobile management firm, examined the often forgotten part of mobility in the workforce -- laptops. While IT and security vendors focus on Google's Android, Apple's iOS, tablets, and smartphones, Lenovo's ThinkPad and Dell's Latitude chug along, remaining a stable fixture in the workplace. According to Fiberlink, almost 50 percent of the laptops observed in their study are running Windows XP.

Not counting extended support contracts, in April 2014, IT and security managers will be forced to face the fact that Windows XP has reached end of life. As is the case with other operating systems, XP will remain as a legacy installation and cause its own share of risk in some cases. However, the explosion of mobile in the work force, which includes laptops procured years ago that now live their life in a constant state of rotation between staff, means that organizations will have some choices to make.

"Looking at the laptops we manage, we see close to 50 percent of customer devices that need to upgrade or be replaced by that time. When speaking with our customers, they are typically not enthused with migrating to Windows 8, which leaves them in a situation where many are going to upgrade to Windows 7 instead or are waiting to see what Windows 8.1 is going to bring to the table," Fiberlink explained in an email to CSO.

Organizations have had some time to prepare for the change from XP, but that doesn't mean that such deployments are finished. However, CSO was curious about the mindset of many IT managers when it came to OS changes and security, particularly management. When considering the two, IT has been looking at platforms that enable them to manage employee-owned and corporate-assigned devices from one instance, and lucky for them -- there are plenty of vendors that claim to do this in the MDM market. (No, seriously, there's plenty of options.

"We were surprised to see that almost half of our laptop customers are still running XP. That number continues to shrink every day, but it's still unclear what many CIO's and IT executives will choose as their next move," Chuck Brown, director of product management at Fiberlink, told CSO.

"We're seeing businesses consider many different options as Windows XP gets closer to the end of its support in April 2014. Potentials options include upgrading employees to Windows 7, waiting to see what Windows 8.1 feels like, and even moving straight to the Windows Surface Pro 2."

Employee-owned laptops (much like employee-owned tables and phones) are a growing trend and a source of risk. IT doesn't want full control over these devices, but if they're being used to access sensitive data or communications, there needs to be some sort of visibility and management, such as pushing patches or enforcing VPN usage.

 

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