PCR takes a look at the effect XP's demise could have, and how to prepare for the upcoming switch-off…

How to prepare for the end of Windows XP – one week to go

In less than one week, Microsoft will drop support for Windows XP on April 8th. PCR takes a look at the effect it could have on businesses and consumers, and how to prepare for the upcoming switch-off.

12 years, five months and 25 days – it’s been a long life for Windows XP since its release on October 25th 2001.

However, XP’s longevity and reliability could be the very things now set to challenge the foundations of firms built around the platform. A lot has changed in over a decade – networking has boomed, security issues have evolved and hardware developments have continued to snowball – and a shift to a new OS holds a raft of potential issues, incompatibilities and dangers for businesses.

But despite the possible pitfalls, most firms should be able to painlessly migrate.

“Understand the risks that a lack of [XP] support will bring to your organisation,” analyst Gartner advises.

“Prioritise users and applications and move the most critical ones to supported platforms first, and address those that can’t be migrated off with other means to reduce risk.”

Although many firms will make the switch before April 8th, there will doubtless be several who don’t make the jump – Gartner forecasts that more than 15 per cent of enterprises will still have Windows XP running on one in 10 PCs after support ends.

Despite analyst claims that migrating would cost close to £1,000 per machine, Microsoft says that costs will actually be far lower.

“Hardware costs have decreased significantly since XP was launched so a new PC should cost much less than you might think,” David Rodger, commercial lead for the Windows business group at Microsoft UK, told PCR.

“You can get a good new device from about £350.

“It’s [also] a good idea to research new form factors and devices available for the modern workplace.”

For those left behind, security risks will be greater – but retailers and resellers can help by providing security or virtualisation solutions.

“There are huge opportunities for VARs and support firms,” said Catalin Cosoi, chief security strategist at Bitdefender.

“We are advising companies that cannot let go of XP to choose a security for virtualised environments solution that does still support XP.

“XP is a very well characterised system and there is vast know-how available on how to keep it safe, for all its inherent flaws.

“That being said,” he added, “the sooner companies migrate, the better.”

Those who choose to update to another standard Windows iteration face another choice – which OS to migrate to.

Some may struggle to decide between the older Windows 7, regarded by many to be the ‘new XP’, or the newer, but less familiar, Windows 8.

“Windows 7 adoption has been growing much slower than XP adoption did back in the day,” Cosoi responded, when asked if the OS is set to recreate XP’s success.

“We’d prefer that there never be a ‘new XP’ – the dangers of monoculture are well known and have been amply demonstrated in the heyday of XP.”

Analyst CCS Insight said that enterprise users are far more likely to flock to 7 than 8 – and the future of Microsoft’s flagship OS could be in the balance.

“The timing of this move is likely to reinforce Windows 7 as the dominant corporate OS rather than help Windows 8 crack an enterprise segment that is notoriously slow to evolve,” Geoff Blaber, VP of research for the Americas at CCS Insight, told PCR.

“This is a significant time for Windows 8 and the PC market at large. It will be a clear measure of the appetite for Microsoft’s new OS.”

Check out our top five Windows XP migration products and services here

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