What does the Windows XP rundown mean?

  1. Microsoft will no longer provide technical support for issues involving Windows XP, unless the customer has purchased a Premier Support Services contract.
  2. Microsoft will no longer provide security updates for the product, or anything associated with the product (for example, Internet Explorer 6).

 

Why is this important?

According to NetMarketShare, about 29 percent of the Internet-connected systems today are still running Windows XP, and there’s no universal agreement that this number is going to change in the next 90 days. Here’s a recap of the things IT pros need to consider:

  • Cost. It’s a no-brainer that switching to a new OS produces significant costs in terms of time, money and personnel, from up-front infrastructure cost to time spent training and educating end users. IT needs to look at the cost/benefit of replacing every Windows XP system with a new OS such as Windows 7 versus the cost of maintaining Premier Support Services. If neither of these options seems acceptable, one has to also consider the cost of remediating continual malware infections, potential loss of data due to socially engineered attacks or complete loss of use due to corruption or destruction as the result of malware. More on that to come. This is a scary thought given the fact that this is most likely what’s going to actually happen in many organizations; Windows XP systems will keep on going, but without any new updates.
  • Security. The end of support for Windows XP also means the end of XP patches. So, any security flaws not fixed after April 8 will almost certainly be exposed and exploited. Another security challenge facing XP goes beyond the OS itself, and has to do with the fact that there may not be a secure browser for use on the machine. Microsoft did not build IE9 for Windows XP. What remains to be seen is what Mozilla and Google do with respect to versions of Firefox and Chrome for XP beyond April.
  • Application availability. Some software vendors haven’t been prudent in updating their software applications to run on newer operating systems. In many cases, they’re 32-bit applications originally written for Windows 95 or 98 that still “play nice” on a Windows XP system, but require local administrator privileges to run. Newer operating systems, however, are not compatible with these applications. Businesses continue to depend on those applications and the operating system they run on. (We should note that with Windows 7, Microsoft introduced “Windows XP Mode,” which is a virtual environment running on Windows 7 Enterprise and Windows 7 Ultimate. However, many of the current issues with Windows XP support will also impact the “Windows XP Mode” environment, though possibly to a lesser degree because “Windows XP Mode” is not typically where the Internet activity is executed.) Nonetheless, organizations are caught between software vendors that aren’t updating their applications to run on newer operating systems, and Microsoft enabling this practice by providing Windows XP support within new operating system—until April 8, that is.
  • Organizational and end-user buy-in. For any IT organization that’s already experienced the pains of transitioning to VoIP, VDI or even installing Microsoft Office upgrades, the thought of introducing, selling and training leadership and end users on an entirely updated OS sounds like the opposite of fun. It’s crucial to get organizational and end-user buy-in, even when the reasons for making the change are entirely valid and will inevitably leave the organization better off.  

 

Additional References

For more information, we found the following articles helpful:

 

Be sure to weigh in on this issue over on the General Systems & Application forum here: Coming April 8: Windows XP Rundown. We’ve also got a XP rundown-related poll running that we invite you to participate in here: XP Support Coming to an End.