With just under a year left of Microsoft’s support for its still-popular and widely used operating system (OS), companies need to ensure they have proper migration and contingency plans in place for when Windows XP is pulled, warns Kevin Beadon, head of workspace & mobility at GlassHouse Technologies.
According to recent research from Gartner, more than 15 percent of midsize to large enterprises still have Windows XP running on at least 10 percent of their PCs. But come April 14, 2014, Windows XP customers and partners will no longer receive security updates to the OS or be able to leverage tech support from Microsoft. Considering most enterprises take anywhere from 6 to 12 months to complete an OS migration, the months ahead are critical for businesses that need to migrate critical applications to a modern OS.
Unfortunately, many workplaces lack the skills necessary to develop a full migration plan. What’s more, OS migrations require clean installs of software and applications, a time and cost-intensive task for IT to do alone. So, what’s a company to do?
Kevin Beadon, head of workspace & mobility at GlassHouse Technologies, recognizes that every day that passes once Windows XP support expires means new risks to businesses. Therefore, he recommends that companies develop a migration strategy that takes into consideration their full business ecosystem and not just particular IT tasks.
But that’s not the only plan IT should be evaluating over the next few months. Beadon advises enterprises to use the pressure from Microsoft and their partners for their own benefit and re-examine their own IT postures. The Windows XP migration is the perfect opportunity for IT to ask the hard business questions: “Am I providing my users the technology they need to stay productive?”, “Am I maintaining peak performance across the entire organization?”, and “Am I paying too much?” Asking these questions will ensure security, compliance, usability and all other IT policies are created and updated exactly when they should be, and that all IT systems are aligned with business strategies.
Beadon acknowledges the real threat the Windows XP migration presents: “Organizations that fail to implement a migration or contingency plan over the next couple of months will risk not being able to move their applications in time, and come next April’s cut-off point, they may be left with gaping holes in their security, compliance and manageability postures. For instance, this time next year, Microsoft won’t issue any no-cost security patches, leaving system vulnerabilities unplugged and organizations ripe for malicious exploits like DDoS attacks and hacking.”
Furthermore, as Windows XP ages, new vulnerabilities will continue to impact the OS on a regular basis—including many critical flaws that could allow an attacker to take over or cripple a PC running it. That is why companies need to guarantee they are keeping pace and adapting their workplaces to accommodate future technology solutions and corporate growth. “This means ensuring enterprise IT departments have the most effective tools in place to carry out the migration and to maintain any new technology following deployment,” says Beadon.
Sometimes, IT can’t go it alone. The migration process in particular is strenuous, requiring IT to migrate users’ data and reinstall or repackage all applications for the new OS, as well as test all of the hardware, peripherals and applications to ensure they actually work with modern OSs like Windows 7 and/or Windows 8. For guidance on these priorities, Beadon suggests some enterprises enlist IT consultants that can help devise a migration strategy and ensure companies stick to it through the end.
The next few months are tipping points for current Windows XP users, and companies should use the opportunity to evaluate the benefits of a flexible workplace strategy, including reduced costs and improved peak performance, while at the same time, making the migration away from Windows XP before it’s too late.