Microsoft will cease to provide extended support for the platform in April 2014, leaving businesses and their users vulnerable to security breaches, especially when using mobile devices over open connections, for example in public Wi-Fi areas. Given that sizeable migration projects typically take more than 18 months, any organization not already on top of their upgrade program is potentially at risk.
London-based enterprise migration and application rationalization specialist Camwood is among those redoubling its efforts this month as it tries to drive home the growing urgency of the situation. It is highlighting the fact that there are now fewer than 500 days until Windows XP support is withdrawn for enterprises.
"Among our own client base, only around 15-20% of businesses are looking at migration so far," said Ed Shepley, a solution architect at Camwood. "For some the issue hasn't hit home yet. Others think they still have time, but 2014 will come round all too quickly and they shouldn't underestimate all that's involved."
[Do you believe Microsoft's reports that Windows 8 sales are on track? See Windows 8 License Sales Top 60 Million.]
The risks of remaining on an unsupported platform are multiple. Being vulnerable to security breaches leaves companies exposed to data theft or corruption, with the risk that they fall foul of data protection legislation and such. The associated brand damage could be costly too.
Then there are the efficiency issues, if users are running suboptimal systems on their devices -- for example, platforms that don't support the latest mobile capabilities. "Many users now carry a range of devices and mobile efficiency is critical today," Shepley said. "As just one example, newer platforms support the ability to synchronize notes after a meeting -- something that isn't as straightforward with an older operating system like Windows XP."
Camwood is advising customers that, although the deadline is looming, CIOs can plan their migrations so that they prioritize higher-risk users and applications. That way, if time runs out, they have minimized their exposure.
Of those organizations that are already actively pursuing migration projects, Shepley noted that there has been a notable rise in interest in thin-client environments, using virtual desktop platforms such as Citrix. This offers companies the chance to reduce costs, while making it easier to provision for secure remote access to internal systems.
Another U.K. technology firm keen to help enterprise customers through the transition from Windows XP is 1E. It advises companies on how to maximize IT efficiency by using assets more economically. CEO Sumir Karayi believes more efficient use of IT can help CIOs become innovative and responsive to the needs of the business, and suggests that a forced migration presents an opportunity for IT decision-makers to take stock.
"Agility is a big priority for a CIO as change in IT is far too slow," he noted. "The migration to Windows 7 -- or current lack of -- is a prime example. Many companies are only now putting together very large and costly projects where they will send people to every desktop and laptop to upgrade to Windows 7. This is going to take months if not years, and certainly go well beyond April 2014, as well as affect productivity. At least half a day will typically be spent on each PC or laptop, disrupting users. Ultimately IT needs to run at much lower cost and become more efficient. This can be achieved by reducing legacy waste in software, hardware, energy and operations."
1E's approach, in addition to looking for opportunities to remove underused assets, is to automate the migration process. "This would mean it can take place at night without any disruption to the user." Karayi said that when his firm managed a project of this nature for Verizon Wireless' 80,000 desktops, it was able to complete the project in just three-and-a-half months. "Whereas when a renowned systems integrator helped a similar-sized organization migrate to Windows 7, it took more than 16 months," he said. "I dread to imagine the cost and number of engineers involved."
The earlier CIOs get started, the more of an opportunity they will have to rethink their existing IT infrastructures and determine where they might derive additional benefits from the exercise. Leave it too late, and they could end up spending more to achieve a lot less.