Foot-dragging over upgrading from Windows XP could be followed by a series of hasty decisions, as organisations realise the scale and cost of the task facing them.

With Microsoft support for XP due to end on 8 April 2014, some firms may be tempted to try software-as-a-service (SaaS) products such as Office 365 to speed up migration and testing, an analyst has warned.

Failure to consider long-term strategy

People who are only just realising how much time the migration of XP desktops will take may look to SaaS to shorten that process without thinking about the long-term strategic view, according to Ovum principal analyst Roy Illsley.

“There are some cases where [SaaS] will be used as a way of mitigating a massive cost and people won’t really look into the true cost of doing it,” he said.

“If people are saying, ‘Actually, we’re going to use Office 365’, that’s a great piece of work that they don’t have to test.”

According to Illsley, some 41 percent of people are still running XP. “By this time next year they’ve got to be off it because support ends,” he said.

Earlier this month, a study from Accenture- and Microsoft-owned software consultancy Avanade suggested 52 percent of UK IT departments have yet to put in place a strategy for dealing with applications that currently run under XP, first released to manufacturers in August 2001.

Illsley warned against making plans for life after XP rooted in cost and expediency. “Do not make decisions based purely on the economics of migrating off XP. Think strategically,” Illsley said.

Migrating XP desktops

Making short-term decisions that help with migrating XP desktops could have longer term implications, he said.

For example, the consequences of move to a SaaS product such as Office 365 may not surface immediately.

“When they’ve been in it for a couple of years, they’ll think, ‘Right, OK, we don’t really like this Office 365 malarkey. Let’s try something else. Oh crikey, getting the data out and doing this and that, that’s going to be expensive. We can’t do that now’,” he said.

“There’s a bit of, ‘I’m stuck with this for a long term once I’ve made that snap decision’.”

Losing control of where the data resides, for example, may also in the future prove to be a critical issue. A business might ultimately prefer data is held secure in the country of incorporation, Illsley said. “If you have moved from on-premise, can you get [the data] back, and at what cost?” he said.