20 January 2015
2 min read
Windows XP may have been officially laid to rest by Microsoft, but the ghost of that operating system – unsupported for most companies since April – continues to haunt IT departments around the world.
According to estimates published last month, more than 17pc of computers are still running XP, most of them unsupported. Even organisations benefiting from an extra year of updates now face the imminent end of that support, and research suggests many are struggling with the task of upgrading outdated systems.
The results of a freedom-of-information request in November found Windows XP is still in use across all 35 UK trusts, with several unsure when their systems would finally be free of it. And in August, one in five SMBs was still reportedly using it.
According to research published in November by technology change consultancy Xceed, there are several reasons for the reluctance to upgrade. A total of 125 senior managers and heads of IT across a range of sectors considered tech migrations – moving from one operating system to another – as costly, time-consuming and a negative impact on "business as usual". In the survey, 44pc of respondents said migrations hadn't completed on time, while 40pc admitted going over budget. The same number of organisations cited a lack of in-house resources and experience as a big obstacle.
"The thought of introducing a new, potentially destabilising major operating system into a business is a challenge many businesses are avoiding – not just the small ones," says Simon Johnson, Xceed's migrations practice director.
"They may be concerned about the potential risk of a security breach due to running on legacy Windows XP, as well as instability and compatibility issues of upgrading the core business."
Nevertheless, Johnson believes failure to upgrade could be costly and XP security breaches may be the last of an SMB's worries.
"The bigger threat is the imminent incompatibility of a software package that gets an ad-hoc upgrade and then fails to work because the operating system is so outdated," he says. "After upgrading the application and its data to the latest version and seeing a dreaded 'file not found' message appear, it's at that point that a small business finds itself having to perform an operating system upgrade just to survive."
Upgrading in panic, and taking machines offline without a contingency plan in place, is perhaps the worst outcome of all. The installation of a new operating system, driver software and staff training are all required and this can take months in larger organisations. Even for SMBs, the task can be daunting.
Happily, help is at hand. Large manufacturers such as HP offer their own migration services, helping SMBs upgrade to Windows 7, 8 or (to come) 10 quickly, easily and with minimal downtime.
The initial cost is quickly recouped, the company says. SMBs can save up to £700 per PC annually through lower maintenance and support costs, after upgrading from XP to Windows 7. A white paper sponsored by Microsoft also found SMBs could gain as much as 45 extra hours of productivity per year for every five employees upgraded to a newer Windows operating system