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TechnologyJun 19, 2013

Time to Ditch Windows XP

Paul Bell

Launched in 2001, Windows XP has a grip on roughly 40% of desktops on the Internet today (PCWorld and Geekwire). That is incredible staying power for any operating system.  If your company is still running Windows XP you’re clearly not alone, but it’s time to jump ship. It is only growing older, and the risks of running it in production are getting higher. Security and cost should be high on the list when considering keeping XP around another budget year.

Where do I start?

Microsoft offers the free Microsoft Assessment and Planning Toolkit, MAP, which has been updated to 8.0 recently. It includes migration help for Windows 8, Server 2012, Server Virtualization on Hyper-V and Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) capacity planning. This application offers valuable information and is a necessity to get a grasp on this project.

Do I have what it takes?

The hardware requirements for Windows 7 are so low, almost any mid-level PC purchased since 2005 can run it. 1GB of RAM is the big requirement and most PCs today will have at least 2GB unless they are on a 10-year lifecycle.

Companies still running XP likely do so thanks to a single critical app that is not feasible to upgrade. Take a detailed look at upgrading or replacing that application and weigh the benefits of new features verses licensing costs. Shop around!  Strike better deals by switching to a competitor in the market or using their quote as leverage to lower the upgrade price.

Won’t it take all my time?

Many IT administrators and managers are worried about tying up the help desk for four to eight hours per machine to backup data, upgrade with an install DVD, re-install applications, and restore data. Thankfully, there is a much better solution. It also is free from Microsoft!

The Microsoft Deployment Toolkit, MDT, makes large-scale deployment much simpler with or without System Center. With Lite Touch deployments, a small flash drive can be used to deploy a full blown Windows 7 image with all applications pre-installed and built-in processes to retain user data on the disk so it does not need to be copied off to an external or network share for the interim during the upgrade. Each upgrade can be done much quicker, and with no clicking through wizards it is simple to upgrade multiple workstations at once.

MDT images are easy to update with preloaded applications at any time. It does not require booting into a virtual machine, installing new applications, and re-capturing that image. Choose to configure your flash boot drives to download the image from the deployment share and updates on the fly are immediately available to new upgrades.

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Can’t I just stick with XP?

If there is no migration path available for a legacy application that’s shackling you to XP, alternatives can be expensive. Delivering XP desktops via VDI is an option, or if the application will run on Windows Server OS, Terminal Services or RemoteApp may be used as well. Both of these options can be quite expensive so consider the number of users who require access to the legacy application.

The best option may be to simply take all Windows XP machines off the Internet. No email, no Internet Explorer, no Twitter, and no Facebook. If the application requires access to a server, leave networking in place; if it is a local application, just pull the plug and disable WiFi.

This is truly the only option to stay secure when Microsoft stops providing security updates for Windows XP. Users can balk and complain all they want, but risking a security breach is not worth the hassle of using a different device to access online resources.

Windows 8 will drive Windows 7 adoption rates sky high

Some companies are planning to sit Windows 8 out, and this is motivating them to begin the Windows 7 migration they’ve been planning for the past 2 years.  Credera Architect and infrastructure blogger, Adrian Romo, claims Windows 8 will be rejected by enterprise companies to a greater degree than Vista and is personally planning to skip the OS altogether and wait for Windows 8.1 (Blue).

Time to take the plunge

Now is the time to move to Windows 7 or even 8. Windows XP gets more and more expensive to maintain as features like .Net 4.5, WinRM 3.0, PowerShell 3.0 and other tools are released that have limited or zero support for XP.

Get a solid assessment of the desktops across your company and decide how many you need to tackle at a time. Identify any incompatible apps and build a remediation plan quickly, assign ‘owners’ of those apps to contact vendors for pricing and data migration steps if any. Prepare an image and decide how to package it for deployment. Construct a detailed project plan and empower technical leadership to make the decisions needed to complete the project quickly and successfully.

There are many solutions on the market today that can greatly reduce the amount of effort needed to deploy Windows 7 successfully. Credera can help take advantage of those tools. Combined with our experience in migrations, a quick turnaround requiring minimum interference in day-to-day tasks can get users and the help desk back on track quickly and quietly.

If you are considering Windows 7 or 8 upgrade, we would love to partner with you to help you achieve your goals. If you are interested in learning how Credera can help, please contact Credera at info@credera.com or send a tweet to @CrederaMSFT.