New Zealand firms need to carefully plan and manage their operating system upgrades, particularly as many organisations seek to move off Windows XP before support from Microsoft ends in April 2014.
"Since an operating system upgrade affects every single user in a business, any change has the capacity to inflict severe delay, cost, or in the case of finance or compliance applications, introduce a very high level of risk for a business", says Angela Nash, Qual IT's GM in Auckland.
Dean Edwards, Windows client business group manager at Microsoft NZ tells ComputerWorld NZ that about 25 per cent of PCs in enterprises within NZ are still running on Windows XP.
"The number is slightly lower for SMBs; that would be around 21 per cent to 22 per cent of PCs running XP. Overall, we estimate that around 250,000 business PCs are still running Windows XP," he says.
Globally, analyst firm Gartner estimates more than 15 per cent of midsize and large enterprises will still have Windows XP running on at least 10 per cent of their PCs after Microsoft support ends next year.
"There are a number of key risks of which firms need to be aware of, from understanding your own XP customisation over the years, to which software applications will and won't work with a new operating system, or which PCs in the business are used for business critical transactions every day," says Nash.
While agreeing that there are multiple risks to sticking to the Windows XP platform, including security, compatibility and compliance issues, Edwards says that one of the main challenges in moving to an OS would be the number of applications that would need to be tested in the new platform.
"Even the physical process of locating the right media to rebuild apps in a new environment can be demanding for an organisation. We would recommend though that organisations don't delay the process and get going on it. They should identify the key apps for the firm and move them over slowly. Don't start by testing all of your apps. Move over a few key apps and start building from there.
"Another thing to keep in mind is that deployments might take longer than expected, depending on the size of the organisation and the apps that need to be moved. It could take from three to nine months, or longer based on factors. By global standards, some deployments in NZ are not too big, but there are already success stories in the country of large organisations migrating successfully off XP," says Edwards.
Nash says organisations need to be confident security software will work straight away, and group policies and access levels are clearly understood and documented.
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