It seems like just a short while ago that I was writing about how Windows XP had just 1,000 days of support left but now that number is down to under 800! Microsoft reminded us of this on the weekend with a blog post encouraging companies to migrate to Windows 7 as soon as possible saying "It takes 18-24 months to plan for and deploy a new operating system."
They're not wrong either as all of your software and hardware needs to be properly tested, which usually involves picking one or two choice non-critical departments and migrating them immediately to see what if any incompatibilities and problems occur. Once this testing process is finished, normally after a couple of months, the deployment plan for sometimes hundreds of thousands of workers can begin and, as any IT Systems Administrator will tell you, that is a massive planning job. It's difficult in small companies as well because the same process needs to be observed to minimise any downtime that might result from problems arising in the deployment process.
Windows XP is already out of mainstream support which means there are no more service packs or upgrades available. Extended support ends in April 2014. After this time there will be no more bug fixes, no more patches and no more security updates. You can be certain then that when this happens virus and malware writers will target the platform like never before.
The question arises then if Microsoft should continue support if so many people find XP as comfortable as an old shoe, and much more compatible with their older software than Windows 7? Microsoft have already extended the support life cycle for Windows XP and it's very unlikely that it would ever be extended again. In fact I'd simply say that it will never happen.
So where does this leave businesses and home users who need to upgrade? My advice is simply not to wait any longer. This problem isn't going away and unlike the millennium bug of twelve years ago, is a very real threat to businesses everywhere. It's not just their own systems too that can be compromised but all of the sensitive data they contain, much of which is about the general public.
Microsoft have many deployment tools that can help ease the burden of a migration and third-parties offer free virtualization environments that can help you keep older software running for a while longer. If you have bespoke software that you need to use however that will not run, or not run properly under Windows 7 this needs to be addressed urgently. The problems associated with XP software and Internet Explorer applications have been highlighted for years now. Everybody knew the end of life was coming and too many businesses seem to be simply ignoring it because XP has always been here, and they expect that it always will. They simply aren't looking at the bigger picture of security, data protection, hacking and the associated fines that accompany these, some of which can be extremely hefty indeed.
But what will these companies do? Will they wait until Microsoft report there's just 600 days left? 500 days? 300 days even? After all, can a company physically manage the process in under a year? It's good that Microsoft are actively highlighting the problem, but bad that many people are taking it as a marketing exercise to try and sell more copies of Windows 7, Windows Server 2008 and Office 2010. It really isn't that at all. It's a serious issue, it's not going away and it needs to be dealt with quickly.
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Ghacks is a technology news blog that was founded in 2005 by Martin Brinkmann. It has since then become one of the most popular tech news sites on the Internet with five authors and regular contributions from freelance writers.