By Justin Strong

When Windows XP launched in 2001, it was widely adopted by
enterprises and quickly became one of the most popular operating systems from
Microsoft – and it still is today. XP is commonly believed to be short for
eXPerience, which denotes the friendly user experience that enterprises and
employees have relied on for productivity for over a decade.

Today, 12 years and three Microsoft operating systems later,
XP still currently owns roughly 31 percent of market share – that’s an
estimated 500 million PCs, according to Net
Market Share.
On April 8, 2014, however, those 500 million PCs are scheduled
for a rude awakening because if Microsoft holds to its current XP lifecycle, the
extended support for XP will end, forcing those enterprises to migrate or be
left open to severe security vulnerabilities.

As companies face the challenge of finding solutions to deal
with this dramatic change, many will not be able to roll out new operating
systems in time. In fact, Gartner has predicted that more than
15 percent of midsize and large enterprises will still have Windows XP running
on at least 10 percent of their PCs in April 2014 when support ends. This
leaves enterprises open to countless security threats, especially as hackers
are actively pursuing XP’s vulnerabilities to unleash viruses and access the
sensitive data that so many organizations host on their legacy XP devices.

Why?

The question is, why are organizations so hesitant to
upgrade to a new operating system? It’s not because of the user-friendly
interface, or the time and costs associated with OS upgrades. When XP launched,
enterprises wanted to leverage this new and innovative OS as much as possible,
and therefore began building custom applications and focusing considerable IT
energy and work around the OS. Many of these custom-built applications for XP are
still in use for mission-critical projects today – and they aren’t made for
Windows 7 or 8. For these organizations, they must choose between
mission-critical applications and a stable, secure operating system.


Also read: Running
Windows XP means you are non-compliant and open to liability


Options

Running an unsupported system leaves data at risk, putting
XP-run enterprises in a difficult position. However, organizations have five options
to consider prior to the April 8th deadline next year.

  1. Hire the person who built the applications (now sometimes over
    10 years ago) to rewrite the application and make it compatible with other
    operating systems. Most organization that have/can afford this option have
    already migrated off of XP.
  2. Shim the app, or “trick” the application into
    thinking it is running in an XP environment. This option, however, is like
    trying to change a car tire using duct tape. It’s unstable, risky and most
    of the time – it just won’t work.
  3. Go the Citrix virtual route, for a while. It is a more
    secure approach to running XP in the enterprise, for a while, but also a
    significant drain on an IT budget if you don’t already have a Citrix
    environment.
  4. Virtualize the application so that it will work in a
    different operating system – surprisingly effective, but not a “sure
    thing” solution.
  5. Keep XP, but lock-down administrative rights and don’t let
    anything new be installed on it (virtual applications would be a good
    route here, as they don’t require installations to run). This, of course,
    is a worst-case scenario and would only be a temporary option.

Many organizations cannot get off XP entirely by April 8,
2014. Those who cannot migrate immediately will need to prioritize quickly and
make a decision on which of the above options is best suited to their needs. Those
that can’t make the first option happen and can’t afford/justify a Citrix
solution will probably have the most success with option four – virtualizing
their applications. This can be technical and usually requires a lot of
expertise to configure custom apps to run as virtualized versions, but most IT
shops can make it work. And when facing the choice between no mission-critical
app and an unsupported, risk-prone operating system, it’s the easiest choice
you can make.

Bottom line

 The end of XP support is inevitable and IT is tasked with
maintaining a productive workforce that is armed with the tools and
applications they need to complete mission-critical projects daily.
Organizations that cannot migrate immediately need to consider their options –
and doing nothing is not one of them. Hackers are researching and gathering
their resources to target legacy XP equipment after April 8, 2014. IT needs to
enable day-to-day business operations outside of an XP environment, but with
the fundamental applications that are so critical to an organization’s bottom
line.


Author bio: Justin Strong, Senior Global
Product Marketing Manager, Endpoint Portfolio, Novell


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