Early in 2010 Microsoft confirmed that it would cease support for Windows XP in April 2014. With other challenges such as the impact of the universal credit taking up precious time, resource and capex, how many housing providers have left themselves exposed to the risks of continuing to use of this soon-to-be unsupported operating system?
Upgrading your desktops to Windows 7 or Windows 8 may seem low down on the priority ladder but a clear understanding of the risks and potential impact on operations may make you rethink your strategy.
Why should you invest in an upgrade when Windows XP works perfectly well? After 12 years, surely it has few problems and can continue to deliver what you need?
The answer lies in the fact that no more security updates will be released and therefore risk exists across applications that remain un-patched. Unfortunately, there are individuals and organisations that want to disrupt or access other company data and business continuity and will do so using any means available. They will monitor patch releases to later operating systems and use those potential holes in XP to exploit security weaknesses in any XP systems that are exposed to the internet, or exchange data with other systems via USB sticks or other media.
What if your system controls or audits failed? What if you are unable to maintain your customer information – or worse, your customer information becomes available to everyone else? You hold sensitive data on behalf of your tenants and your organisation, so compromises in the security or availability of this data is potentially very serious. Some of your partners, such as local authorities, must migrate from Windows XP in order to meet compliance requirements for the Public Service Network (PSN). They will be looking for their data sharing partners to demonstrate the security and resilience of their own systems. How can you prove this if your main desktop operating system doesn’t have ongoing security updates?
Make the most of the upgrade opportunity
Windows XP is almost three generations behind Microsoft’s current technology and with costs increasing on older PCs and operating systems (up to 5 times higher per PC per annum compared with a Windows 7 installation), risk shouldn’t be the only factor in your decision making. User productivity can be significantly enhanced, albeit sometimes viewed as an intangible point in a business case, but new features in Windows including enhanced device, desktop, printing and power management will all help your users to become more effective.
With any desktop, Microsoft Office and infrastructure upgrade, there is an opportunity to improve existing capabilities and functionalities while reducing capital expenditure and operational overhead. Common demands across users today is for the:
- Support of flexible work practices;
- Support of an increasingly mobile workforce;
- Support of Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) and non-standard corporate hardware;
- Delivery of a reliable and consistent end-user experience, regardless of location and device;
- Support of the business in an environment of constant change;
- Costs and risks to be kept under tight control;
- Networks, data and information assets to be kept secure.
Retirement of Windows XP is an important business decision and not solely an IT-led cost/benefit review. Every organisation will have a different development plan and level of security risk and compliance to manage and it is that business and risk assessment which should lead your decision process.
A high-level performance review of potential improvements from the upgrade in areas such as user productivity, device and infrastructure optimisation, application compatibility, remote access and security improvements may highlight previously unseen financial benefits for your organisation. Add to this a reduction in support costs from moving to a flexible, supported desktop environment and you may quickly realise that the business case for migration is much more straightforward.
David Mitton is a director of Liberata.