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Going, going, gone: What XP's end of support means for your business

Deepak Kumar, CTO and Founder, Adaptiva | May 7, 2014
Some 500 million copies of XP were running before Microsoft declared the stalwart operating system dead, and doubtlessly many still soldier on.

This vendor-written tech primer has been edited by Network World to eliminate product promotion, but readers should note it will likely favor the submitter's approach.

Some 500 million copies of XP were running before Microsoft declared the stalwart operating system dead, and doubtlessly many still soldier on. But without Microsoft XP updates, and with anti-virus and other vendors publicly declaring they will no longer support XP, companies that keep XP going do so at their own peril.

Network World readers know all about the security risks of running a static OS without anti-virus updates. Every computing platform is vulnerable to security attacks, and constantly needs OS patches, antivirus updates, configuration changes, etc., to thwart potential attacks. XP is already a popular target for hackers because it is so widely used. The lack of security updates will make XP look even more attractive to cyber attackers. XP systems on the Internet will be like drops of blood in shark infested waters.

Another concern is regulatory compliance. Financial institutions, for example, are under regulatory pressure to remain on the leading edge of cyber-attack prevention technology to minimize data security threats. So even if enterprises in regulated industries minimize risk by restricting network access, applications, etc., they may be out of compliance. Even without regard to cyber-attacks, some may find it difficult to comply with regulations when they are not able to upgrade their applications. It's highly unlikely that software vendors will continue developing new or updated software for a dead platform.

This leads to another application problem that will arise for companies continuing to run XP: third parties will not support XP for long, and maintenance of custom in-house applications running on XP will be difficult. Finding qualified developers capable of updating XP custom applications will become increasingly challenging. The best technical people seldom elect to work with archaic systems.Obviously, IT departments can't just leave systems on Windows XP without putting their company in danger. The only responsible course of action for organizations is to migrate to a newer operating system as quickly as possible to ensure the continuous flow of business. This will eliminate the related range of risks to which those who take no remedial action will be automatically exposed.

Get your head around it

Many executives fail to realize the scale of migrating a global enterprise to a new operating system. Microsoft estimates that it takes a company 18 to 32 months to migrate, from initial planning through completion. In my work with enterprise IT customers, I see organizations struggle with four key issues: compatibility, automation, bandwidth and infrastructure.

Compatibility is fundamental. For starters, hardware needs to be capable of running Windows 7/8, and in some cases computers will have to be replaced or upgraded. An enterprise also may have hundreds or thousands of XP applications they need to upgrade or replace. Even applications that will run on Windows 7/8 may fail to install because they were packaged for XP installation. These applications don't need to be upgraded, but do need to be re-packaged in Windows 7/8-friendly installers. Tools are available to help with this process.


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