Microsoft will stop supporting the now venerable Windows XP operating system in April, but many companies are still finding it hard to let go.

On 8 April 2014 Microsoft will cease providing any patches, including security fixes, for its now nearly 12-year-old but hugely popular Windows XP operating system. But even now, despite exhortations from Microsoft which is keen to push customers onto later iterations of its operating system, XP still runs between one quarter and one third of the world’s desktops.

And even with the end of support looming, many organisations remain unprepared to switch away from the OS. When asked “Do you think businesses are prepared for the end of Windows XP support?” TechRepublic’s CIO Jury of tech decision makers responded yes by seven-to-five, the narrowest of possible margins, while the comments by CIOs suggest that many organisations will chose to go it alone and run Windows XP even when Microsoft has stopped providing security fixes.

Some CIOs are quite positive about the state of Windows XP preparation: Delano Gordon, CIO at Roofing Supply Group, said: “My thought is enough awareness has been made around this that organisations are well on their way to, if not completed, with Windows 7 deployments.”

But others have a more downbeat assessment of readiness.

Dale Huhtala, executive director for enterprise technology infrastructure services at Service Alberta, said: “We’re ready but only after 18 months of focused effort to get ourselves here,” and added: “Most organisations we’ve talked to do not appear to be ready.”

John Gracyalny, VP of IT for SafeAmerica Credit Union, said many businesses are not ready “as a lot of folks run on the ‘if it’s not broke don’t fix it’ methodology”. He added: “Sadly, in this case, once it is ‘broke, i.e. hacked, it is too late. In my particular case, we migrated all workstations to Windows 7 about two years ago.”

For the companies that have moved away from Windows XP it has been a long and complicated process. Derrick Wood, group CIO at Wood Group, said it took a three-year multi-million dollar programme to get his company ready for life after XP. “The cost/complexity of this exercise (following on from the similar exercise on to XP in 2004-2006) has prompted us to look at other solutions going forward – specifically OS-agnostic applications,” he said.

XP migration projects also have the potential to suck money out of other initiatives unless budgets are carefully planned, warned Kelly Bodway, VP of IT at Universal Lighting Technologies: “Technically I believe businesses are ready, but the financial impact of making this change is quite substantial and if proper budgets were not already in place for this fiscal year, other spending areas will be impacted dramatically.”

Michael Spears, CIO at NCCI Holdings, said that while businesses are well aware that XP support is coming to a close, ditching the operating system might not be on their do-to list.

“Many companies will continue to run XP despite the risks associated with running an unsupported OS. That is likely a conscious choice.  Moving off XP is no walk in the park if users have old software packages in use that won’t run on a modern OS,” Spears said.

He added migrating to  Windows 7 is “clearly the best bet”. “Hopefully, we’ll be able to leapfrog [from] Windows 7 to ‘Windows 9’, bypassing Windows 8 just as we did Windows Vista.” 

Further reading

This week’s CIO Jury was

  • Tim Stiles, CIO, Bremerton Housing Authority
  • Brian Stanek, VP of IT, Namico
  • Kelly Bodway VP of IT, Universal Lighting Technologies
  • Jerry Justice, IT director, SS&G Financial Services
  • Reji Mathew, IT director, Yankees Entertainment and Sports Network
  • Randall Backus, director of IT, Wallingford Public Schools
  • Richard Storey, head of IT, Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust
  • Jeff Cannon, CIO of Fire and Life Safety America
  • Derrick Wood, group CIO at Wood Group
  • Delano Gordon, CIO, Roofing Supply Group
  • Brad Novak, IT director, Goettsch Partners
  • Dale Huhtala, executive director for enterprise technology infrastructure services at Service Alberta

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