Impact of Windows XP Rundown on Small and Medium Businesses

In my opinion, most home users will continue to use XP; however, small and medium businesses (SMB) will be left with few options, and upgrading their operating systems will be the best.

The chief reason that SMBs find it tough to cope with the looming end of support for Windows XP is one of economics. A number of SMBs that might have invested in new Windows 7 systems in 2009-2010 deferred those decisions because of the state of the global economy. One point worth consideration here is that SMBs have always been unwilling to invest in technology infrastructure, so the state of our economy served as a convenient excuse at the time.

The economy is stabilised enough now that failing to invest in hardware replacement is no longer a reasonable decision. For years most replacement cycles have been driven by equipment failures and not voluntary upgrades. The Windows XP systems that were bought between 2002 and 2008 weren’t purchased because of the new operating system, but because the computers bought between 1995 and 2002 started failing.

Other factors apart from the financial restraint that SMBs may face while migrating to the latest operating system are:

  • Migration with no downtime
  • Downtime means loss of revenue. Migration to the latest operating system will take a considerable amount of system downtime and this is inevitable. The best option will be to perform the upgrade over a weekend or during less busy hours.

Lack of expertise
As a part of their cost cutting measures, most SMBs prefer to have a single IT Pro taking care of both the network and system applications. To migrate, organisations will need a technician who has Windows knowledge and a clear understanding of how to upgrade. The technician must have thoroughly researched and studied the impact of the upgrade on the existing network and prepared a plan for recovery in case of application failure. This will help organisations accomplish the upgrade activity without severe issues.

Confused between different versions of Windows
Most administrators face confusion when deciding what operating system they should migrate to. As of now the choice is between Windows 8 and Windows 7. Just because Windows 8 is the newest version available it doesn’t mean that it will be right choice. The selection of operating system depends a lot on what type of computer and hardware the organisations uses. It can vary from system to system and also differ based on the purpose of use.

Some organisations may think “our systems are stable, so why upgrade?” Even though there are many constraints, it’s always recommended to upgrade. Let us go through some reasons why organisations should plan and migrate to a newer operating system than Windows XP.

Security is a primary reason for considering migration. Even though Microsoft will continue to release updates to anti-malware signatures for Windows XP until July 14, 2015, organisations cannot completely rely on these external antivirus and firewall sources. They will also, at some point, stop support for their updates.

Application compatibility issues
This is another driving force to move away from obsolete operating systems. Any new application software being developed will no longer support Windows XP. Thus in the future, patches to the existing application software or installations of new software may not work. Similarly, new applications will lack the hardware and software vendor support while running on older operating systems.

Once Microsoft discontinues support for Windows XP, patches for identified security vulnerabilities will no longer be available. Therefore, organisations still running on unsupported operating systems may be exposed to these vulnerabilities which they have no ability to correct. Also, no organisation will support an option to run obsolete software on their network. This would be non-compliant to organsational polices. Organsations will be fine if the vendor is still issuing security patches and bug fixes, but once the vendor has discontinued providing this support, it is sensible to switch software to avoid risks.

A successful migration will not happen overnight, so it is imperative that businesses plan their migration well. They can schedule the activity and choose an appropriate date. Furthermore, all systems on the network cannot be migrated at one time. A pilot, proof of concept, or a test deployment will increase the likelihood of success when upgrading the critical systems. Hence, start with the LEAST critical systems and then gradually move to the critical ones.

So, to all the IT Pros out there, time is running out! Don’t let systems fail or put your business in jeopardy. Act now and ensure a smooth operating system upgrade for the network.