Windows XP has been the OS of choice since August 2001 when it was first released but now, the end is in sight with just 6 months before Microsoft stop supporting it altogether! Reports show that a staggering 40% of enterprise businesses are not set to upgrade to the next operating system by the 8th April 2014 - the official date when the support is withdrawn. We believe, in the main, this is because the step to upgrading software will not only cost businesses in licencing but for many, the hardware will also need to be refreshed as Window 7 cannot be supported on the existing hardware platforms.

But what will it cost businesses when the security updates cease from that date? And then of course, in time, software updates from other vendors such as the browsers we use daily, will become incompatible to XP. XP was a good OS but times change and now a decade down the line with the growing mobile device era, it just cannot meet the demands of the ever changing IT landscape.

While the expense and inconvenience of upgrading is never welcome, there is no doubt that businesses will gain advantage by using the latest versions designed for today's business landscape. So what are those benefits?

  • Compatibility with modern software
  • Unlocking the power of flexible working
  • Securing substantial improvements to security
  • Opening up modern browser use
  • Enable modern software and hardware upgrades

However we do appreciate the disadvantages that are putting so many businesses off the move, some to the extent of sticking their heads in the sand hoping it will all just go away. A position that at some point, will have to change. So disadvantages should always appear where benefits are listsd and here they are as we see it;

Older software inherent in the business is not compatible to Windows 7+
Hardware might not be up to the upgrade and replacing hardware and software is just too costly for some organisations.

So which OS do you upgrade to? About 92% of enterprise businesses use a Windows based platform so it is no surprise that most people are deliberating between Windows 7 or Windows 8.1 but many are looking at the alternate platforms prior to making this massive leap. Alternatives are Linux's Ubuntu which is well established or some are considering Mac as an alternate hardware and software platform. Theres is also the Google Chrome OS however this is still not considered as an enterprise solution. Dell carried out a survey at the beginning of the year (prior to Windows 8.1) and an overwhelming response was that Windows 8 was seen as too much of a risk for a smooth transition, so Windows 7 was seen to be the version of choice.

So what else is in the pipeline to add to your diary? We thought it might be helpful to see the pipeline of Microsoft's plans in the next 8 years;

  1. April 2014 Windows XP, Exchange 2003 & Office 2003
  2. July 2014 Server 2003
  3. April 2016 SQL Server 2005
  4. April 2017 Exchange 2007
  5. October 2017 Office 2007
  6. January 2010 Exchange 2010, Windows Server 2008
  7. July 2010 Office 2010

For organisations of all sizes, upgrade migrations are incredibly disruptive especially when some personnel are remote. So what key steps do you need to do to ensure you can minimise the disruption? Here are some basic bullet points that we advise from our experience;

An audit of hardware and software to know what you need for compatibility.
Think about rationalising your applications, standardisation across all your devices.
Application testing to ensure what you do need to use will work on the new platform.
How long will it take you to deploy so that you can work out the project timescales.
Can you manage this in-house or do you need external support. If so, do you have a partner in mind that has the resource in time?

You are not alone if you have left it until now or were thinking of avoiding it altogether. We are just starting to see positive movement from the economic climate we've all endured so being proactive when it ultimately means spending precious cash is quite understandable. Although most IT heads of department realise the risk of not upgrading, other non-techy senior executives will not appreciate the risks involves but they may be the ones holding the purse strings. There is also a feeling of 'Well we have left it too late now to do something' but it is never too late. Although there is just 6 months to go, as long as some planning is in place to upgrade next year before it impacts the business, then you are in the right place.