Firms urged to look at alternatives for a post-XP world

12 Apr 2013

With Microsoft announcing the withdrawal of support for Windows XP from April next year, many organisations face a decision about upgrading their PCs still running it: one analyst firm has suggested there are better ways of putting their IT budgets to use – desktop virtualisation, tablets or the cloud.

Analysis firm Ovum has urged firms to consider alternatives to what would be a costly operation – in terms of both time and money – to move to a more recent version of Windows on desktops and laptops.

XP, which is more than 11 years old, is used by 28pc of corporate users, according to Ovum. Separate estimates from Net Applications suggest the total figure could be as high as one-third of all PCs.

Ovum suggested three options for organisations keen to innovate without having to part with a large percentage of their IT spending allocation. The first is to consider desktop virtualisation [VDI]. When used in conjunction with application virtualisation, VDI offers IT shops the advantage of centralised control and administration over distributed desktop environments which can be costly to maintain.

Another alternative is to consider replacing Windows XP laptops with tablets. “A Windows laptop is overkill for many field-based employees, and they cost much more to service and support than an Android or iOS tablet,” Ovum said in a briefing note.

Option three involves switching to Google’s Chrome OS. “Cloud computing has now come of age, and many corporate IT users now spend most of their time using web-based, rather than locally installed, applications and services,” Ovum said.

Security consequences

There are also security implications from Microsoft’s decision to discontinue support for XP, as the software giant won’t release patches for the OS after April of next year.

“The potential for criminals to take advantage of this situation is significant,” said Trend Micro in a blog post. “As long as there are significant numbers of XP users, they will continue to be targeted – and new exploits will continue to see the light of day. In the absence of any security patches from Microsoft, these will be all that more dangerous.”

The security software company hammered home the point by highlighting how new security holes in Windows XP continue to be found. “Consider this: every Patch Tuesday in 2013 so far has had at least one Critical bulletin that covered XP,” it said.

Trend Micro recommended upgrading immediately, even in large organisations that have continued using XP because it’s compatible with their custom applications.

“Running software that will never be patched is a significant gamble – particularly software that has been as enduring a target as Windows XP is … If they make the decision to stick with Windows XP past April 2014 – with an operating system that by that time will be more than 12 years old – then they should be prepared to deal with the security fallout, as well,” Trend Micro said.

Gordon Smith was a contributor to Silicon Republic