What’s the problem?

Last week Microsoft released their penultimate batch of updates that cover the XP generation of products. And, worryingly, this included critical security updates for Windows XP and Windows Server 2003.

As a reminder, an update designated as ‘critical’ means it patches a vulnerability that requires no user action to be exploited (as opposed to something that needs the user to open a file or click on a link, for example).

The recent “goto fail” bug discovered in SSL authentication code used by Unix and Linux systems (including Apple’s iOS and Mac OS platforms) just goes to show that a vulnerability can lie dormant for years before it is discovered and an exploit created. If this code was no longer supported, there would be nobody to plug this hole.

On April 8, 2014, Microsoft will release their last ever batch of updates for Windows XP. After this, when these vulnerabilities are discovered, they will be left wide open.

And as we can see from the latest batch of XP updates, and the "goto fail" debacle, new vulnerabilities are always being discovered.

Why should I upgrade?

Four reasons:

1. Security: As we mentioned above, if you don’t upgrade, you’re exposed any time a new vulnerability in Windows XP is discovered. What makes it worse is that your desktop fleet (or more specifically, their web browsers) is your largest surface area of attack. A vulnerability here potentially exposes your whole network.

2. Supportability: As IT departments, engineers, and software vendors focus on keeping up to date, intellectual property around supporting this ageing operating system will migrate out of people’s heads and into their archived documentation. Also, when new problems emerge, the primary resource (Microsoft) will no longer provide support.

3. Compatibility: As with supportability, focus is shifting to new operating systems, and more importantly, new ways of working (such as mobile devices and cloud). If you want to keep up to date with the latest features of your most important software, you will need to be running the operating system it requires.

4. Productivity: Newer operating systems run faster, even on older hardware. Windows 8.1 is more streamlined; it boots faster and isolates processes to provide a more responsive user experience. Get more work done, and more efficiently.

What do I need to consider?

Ok, so you know you need to upgrade, but what are the issues you need to think about? Well, consider the following:

1. Fleet size: How many desktop computers do you have? How many of these are running XP? The answers to these questions will determine both your risk factor and your options for addressing the problem.

2. Deployment plan: How will you close the XP gap in your network? Will you refresh the operating system on existing hardware? Will you replace it? If you have a large fleet, what’s the plan for mass deployment?

3. User data: Is there a significant amount of user data saved on local hard drives? Whether you refresh or replace their workstations, the user data will be lost. How much is out there? Is it business or personal data? If it’s important, how will you capture it?

4. Application compatibility: Which operating systems are supported by your most important business applications? Can you move to Windows 8(.x), or will you need to move to Windows 7? Are you looking at new software which doesn’t support XP?

5. Legacy applications: If you have critical business applications which depend on XP, how will you provision these to users? Can you use Med-V (version 1 also goes EOL next month), can you use a terminal services solution of some kind (if so your session host server would be EOL)?

6. Compliance: Do you have specific industry standards you need to comply with? If so, do they require that your desktop operating system be supported? Alternatively, do they requires that your operating system be on an approved list?

What can Oriel do to help?

Glad you asked! Through a combination of our technical and consulting services, we can help you plan and manage practical solutions to these problems. We can offer you end-to-end coverage of end of the XP era, including:

1. Assessment: Working with your IT team, we can help you consider all of those pesky issues we raised above. We can audit your fleet to determine its size and assess the scope and scale of data out there on end user computers. We can examine all of your core desktop applications and provide a report detailing which operating systems they’re compatible with, and which ones they don’t play nicely with. Our consultants can identify and review industry standards that are relevant to your organisation, and let you know what you need to do to comply with them.

2. Planning: Having helped you determine what your next steps should be, Oriel’s solutions architects can help you plan your next move. Depending on the size of your fleet, how much user data (if any) needs to be captured and migrated and so on, we can come up with an effective solution to manage and deploy your new operating system or hardware fleet. And, if you’ve got stubborn applications that just refuse to play nice with newer operating systems, well we can help you find ways of getting them to your users too.

3. Deployment: Need some extra pairs of hands? We can provide full spectrum support; our helpdesk technicians can do hands-on deployment and migration for a smaller fleet, and our systems engineers can manage the rollout on an automated system. We can even provide post go-live support and training for your users if you need it.

That’s great! What should I do next?

Give us a call on 1300 662 695 or contact your Oriel Account Manager, we’ll take it from there.

XP — it’s had a great run, but let’s give it a proper send–off by making sure we handle its transition to the next generation properly.