Support for Windows XP will cease in April this year, although the OS still accounts for as much as one quarter of all desktop PC operating systems. At the same time, Microsoft has released an upgrade to Windows 8, in part to make it more suited to desktop use. But what options are on the table for companies that are facing an operating systems upgrade?
With Microsoft recently releasing its Windows 8.1 update and the impending end of XP support coming into play next April, many IT managers and CTOs are considering their options when it comes to enterprise desktop migration. Analyst firm Gartner estimates that by the end of Q3 2013, 233 million PCs were running Windows 8 (both business and consumer) globally, which represents around 17% of the worldwide PC install base.
“However, the majority of users are either consumers or small business users, with the proportion of Windows 8 PCs within medium and large enterprises being below five to seven percent and predominantly used on tablets or new form factors,” says Gartner research director Annette Jump. “The majority of businesses appear to have comfortably continued to work on XP, and currently many organisations are either in the process of, or have just finished, deploying Windows 7.”
Jump explains that this is because larger organisations prefer to manage the deployment of new versions of Windows, and may even choose to skip a software generation/version to manage resources, cost and training. Even so, she highlights that many are gearing up for user generated Windows 8 needs and are open to exploring the potential fit and issues that may arise.
But for those enterprises still running XP it’s now fairly pressing that they put plans into place, as Microsoft will be discontinuing all support, patch and security update services for Windows XP on 8th April 2014. Those that don’t migrate to another platform are exposing themselves to ever increasing security threats. According to statistics based on web browser data, as of October, Windows XP still accounts for anywhere between 20% to 30% of all PCs connecting the web.
Tim Rains, director of Microsoft’s Trustworthy Computing group, recently highlighted that the Windows XP infection rate may jump by 66% after support comes to an end.
“Attackers will have an advantage over defenders who continue to run Windows XP. After April, when we release monthly security updates for supported versions of Windows, attackers will try and reverse engineer them to identify any vulnerabilities that also exist in Windows XP. If they succeed, they will have the capability to develop exploit code to take advantage of them,” he wrote on a Microsoft blog.
To mitigate the risk of cyber threats and protect IT infrastructure it is strongly recommended that businesses migrate away from Windows XP, but for the few that choose to stay put there are some options.
For example Arkoon is offering a lifeline to those still using Windows XP. Working with its distributor Matrix Global Partners, it offers ExtendedXP (EXP) support service to organisations that can’t or won’t migrate before April’s cut off date, acting as either ongoing protection or a bridge until they complete migration to another platform.
In addition to real-time identifying and stopping attacks against Microsoft flaws, EXP’s service component will monitor the overall XP threat environment worldwide and share that information back to all of EXP clients along with best practices to use StormShield to stop the new identified attacks and address the flaws that are discovered.