Do you remember this song by David Byrne?
It was from his 2001 album. I’d link you to a video of it on YouTube, but your IQ might drop after reading some of the comments. If you don’t remember it, don’t worry. David Byrne and I went to the same art school, but he dropped out, doesn’t work at a great place like The Foundation and let’s face it… he didn’t really amount to much now did he?
Anyway, I digress. Some of you may remember that song from it being included as a sample audio file when Windows XP was released over 12 years ago. I heard it all too often in a configuration center that deployed around 400 XP workstations a day.
So yes, Windows XP is 12 years old. In April of next year, Microsoft will no longer support it as an operating system. What does this mean? Mostly that no new security updates will be made available for Windows XP going forward. Considering that XP makes up around 31% of the current installed base of operating systems, this is no small event. Hackers look at a vector like that with broad grins.
Here at The Foundation, we take security seriously. We also try to balance that against productivity and return on investment where applicable. The following options for mitigating any remaining XP systems in your business are ranked from best to worst.
Option One: Upgrade an XP workstation to Windows 7
For many machines, upgrading the OS won’t be an economical option. Unless your organization actively downgraded a Windows 7 license to Windows XP for compatibility reasons within the last two years, a workstation that is running Windows XP probably is too old to provide further return on investment. If you did purchase a workstation running XP within the last two years, an in-place upgrade and a memory increase might bring you another 2 years of service. Need help figuring out all the various licensing options? Let us know if we can help.
Option Two: Replacing an XP workstation outright
The middle of the road PC you bought 5 years ago was likely twice the price of a comparable system available today. For this reason, outright replacement of XP workstations may be the most expensive option, but will be the best investment long-term. If all the business critical applications in your technology portfolio run on Windows 7, option one or option two should be your first choices. Don’t know for sure? Time to test.
Option Three: XP Mode
Oh, so your custom apps won’t run on Windows 7 and you don’t have available development resources to produce a compliant version before April… Well, you COULD run that app in XP mode within Windows 7, but I’d hesitate to recommend this. In essence, XP mode is a virtual machine that adds a compatibility layer for older applications. Sadly, the end of support for XP mode is no different than XP itself. It will also stop receiving any new security updates. If you use XP mode sparingly, are careful in the way that it integrates with your network and have a plan for ceasing its use, you might just survive the end of XP support without being impacted by some nasty viruses. MIGHT. If you fall into this category, we’d be happy to help mitigate the integration risks of using XP mode going forward.
Option Four: prevailing winds, prayer and luck
This isn’t really an option. Eventually, someone will find a new vulnerability in Windows XP and Microsoft won’t be there to provide a patch. Unless your use of XP is limited to controlling a piece of manufacturing equipment and none of it is connected to the Internet, we say heck no. It’s time to budget for new equipment.
Notice that I didn’t mention Windows 8 anywhere in this posting? Yeah… If you still have Windows XP in your environment, chances are you’ll hate the Windows 8 interface with the fire of a thousand burning suns. Testing and user surveys will tell you whether Windows 8 has any added business value to overcome the interface learning curve. Need help deciding? Let us know!