Windows XP diehards: Can you survive the April 2014 deadline?

Summary: Some organisations intend to keep running Windows XP after support ends in April, but the options for doing so safely are narrowing.

To those planning to stick resolutely with the aged Windows XP operating system even after Microsoft ends support next year, the advice from experts is simple: Don’t do it.

But despite the chorus of warnings, there are fallback measures for diehard XP users, who could still constitute as many as 40 percent of businesses. One in five of the organisations currently using the OS intend to stick with it after the 8 April 2014 end-of-life deadline for support, according to research from software consultancy Camwood.

Ovum principal analyst Roy Illsley said the critical thing for organisations who found themselves dependent on the OS on the wrong side of the deadline was to look at where XP was positioned in terms of access to the internet and the outside world.

“Because the one big thing you’re not going to get is any more security updates for XP. You can hide it behind firewalls and everything else but if somebody spots an opportunity and a flaw in the XP operating system and writes something that gets into you — most of that will come in through the internet and emails,” Illsley said.

“Antivirus will help but the real issue is with an unsupported OS is once someone spots a flaw, that’s a weakness you’re not going to have fixed unless you pay Microsoft a shed-load of money, and nobody’s going to do that.

“If you’ve got a particular application that’s got to run on XP, then it’s how to ring-fence that device so that if it gets infected, it’s not going to spread out to any others. Because that’s the critical one.”

Microsoft’s withdrawal of support

Because Microsoft’s withdrawal of support was at the heart of the issue, Ovum’s Roy Illsley said organisations must face up to the risks and focus on how this problem will be addressed.

“You’ve got to look at support for the operating system. Do I need support? Is it stable? Do I need constant calls to Microsoft — have I had that over the 10 years I’ve been running it? Probably not. But if you’ve got an old OS, how do you make sure it’s safe, it’s secure and still operating successfully,” he said.


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