By Jen Sweeney
If your company is still using Windows XP and has not begun a migration to either Windows 7 or 8, you should probably get it started.
On April 8, 2014, Microsoft support for Windows XP ends (and for Office 2003 as well, but more on that later). Next April may seem far off, but considering that the average enterprise deployment can take 18 to 32 months (Microsoft’s estimate), it is definitely crunch time.
Here’s what April 8, 2014, means:
- Microsoft will no longer offer new security updates, non-security hotfixes, free or paid assisted support options or online technical content updates. The possibility of undetected security vulnerabilities will increase, making your unpatched system very vulnerable to security risks.
- Most independent software vendors will also stop supporting the operating system.
Considering that the the average enterprise deployment can take 18 to 32 months, it is definitely crunch time.
Now is the time for action. Here are your options:
- Do nothing for now. This is not a good idea. Updated versions of Windows and Office include cloud and virtualization capabilities, plus many more improvements designed to maximize worker productivity. If you or your employees prefer XP because it’s familiar or the perceived cost is less, you will fall behind on these new capabilities.
- Pick a version — Windows 7 or Windows 8 — and solidify a migration plan. Your decision to upgrade from Office 2003 is made when you choose to refresh your operating system. Several factors drive co-deployment of new versions of Windows and Office. One is that both are sometimes provided as part of the lease on hardware, which limits options to not only what is still in support, but to what is currently available for sales. Another is that it costs money every time a box is touched. Combining rollouts saves IT costs over rolling them out separately.
The decision to go with 7 or 8 depends on your company’s needs. In a recent webcast, Vitalyst director of recruiting and training Joe Puckett explained that Windows 8 is inherently more secure than any previous version, and that compatibility issues are roughly equivalent for 7 and 8. (Click here to view the webcast. He speaks about XP’s expiration around the 16:33 mark.)
Notable Windows 8 security improvements include AppContainer, picture password, SmartScreen filter and the fact that your antivirus software runs first, no matter which program you use.
Keep in mind that even if you opt for Windows 7, Windows 8 may still make its way into your environment by way of Surface tablets and other touch devices brought in by employees.
No matter which version you choose, the learning curve is unavoidable. A well-planned and executed training program can address the common needs, but individual end-user needs require additional support.