As you have probably heard from us before, Microsoft is ending support for Windows XP on April 8, 2014. This decision has caused a bit of an uproar amongst those still using XP, but let’s face it, XP was released in 2001. It’s had a good run and is a great product, but it is time for it to go.
What Is the Problem?
The dilemma faced by many XP adherents is how to get off of XP without spending a ton of money or disrupting their business processes. The cost of an OS upgrade includes not only the Microsoft licensing and time to implement it, but also the cost of upgrading or replacing certain line of business apps. It’s no wonder so many accounting and IT departments are reluctant to face the daunting task.
So What Do I Do?
Daunting or not, compliance is infinitely better than running your organization on a software that will no longer be patched. Besides, there are many ways and reasons to upgrade. For starters, the upgrade process can often be worked into your normal hardware replacement cycle. We’ve mentioned it before, but often the Windows XP machines are running on older hardware anyway and are overdue for a refresh. If Windows 8/8.1 are not your cup of tea – although I encourage you to look into the benefits – many manufacturers are still shipping hardware with Windows 7. Volume license customer? Your agreement likely allows for downgrading to Windows 7.
For hardware robust enough to handle Windows 7 or 8, you can upgrade from XP. Note that this is not a direct upgrade, but rather a wipe and reload unless you upgrade from XP to Vista to 7. There are a wide variety of tools available to maintain user data in this scenario, like the Windows Easy Transfer tool for small implementations and the User State Migration Tool for larger customers.
What About My Apps?
Here’s where things get tricky. Line of business app compatibility is probably the largest concern in a Windows XP migration. Despite Windows 7 being available for years now, a lot of small, single-purpose app manufacturers have not updated their programs for compatibility. Even if they have upgraded, the new version is not free in many cases and requires buying an upgrade license if not a full license. So now you’re not only upgrading your client PCs, but your ERP systems, your accounting software, and/or your production control software.
How Do I Adapt?
If your app can be upgraded, even if it requires a new license, it is likely time to upgrade. Sure, the app does what you want it to now, but the newer versions likely do so much more. Basically, it is probably time for an upgrade anyway. Windows XP is just the catalyst for this needed change.
And If I Can’t?
There exist certain scenarios where upgrading from Windows XP is impossible. For example, I come from a manufacturing IT background and can personally attest that there are many production control programs written to run exclusively on versions of Windows XP. These apps often run mission critical functions and replacing them would require new licensing, new hardware, and a complete redesign of the current layout. In these cases, it is still recommended to upgrade due to the risks involved with older hardware and unsupported OSes running mission critical machines.
Time is short though, so in the interim you can remove the default gateway for these machines. This removes their ability to talk to the internet while still allowing local traffic. You will still have to rely on your internal endpoint protection to keep other PCs on the LAN from infecting it, but the risk is lessened.
Do I Really Have to Let Go?
In a word, yes. Although Microsoft has muddied the issue recently by extending support for Microsoft Security Essentials and the Malicious Software Removal Tool into 2015, the end of support for Windows XP is still set for April 8. I know, XP has become a good friend over the years and its descendants are so different in style, usability, and layout. That said, there are a lot of improvements in the newer Operating Systems that you should check out. It had a good run, but now it is time for a new vision for your technology.
Need help getting off Windows XP? We can help with the hardware, software implementation, and even the licensing. Contact us today to get started!