Windows XP: Why is the enterprise so reluctant to let it go?

The risks to businesses from older OS and software installations are well known, but businesses still aren't budging

Inside the enterprise: Old operating systems refuse to die. Instead, they fade away.

Or, in the case of some of Microsoft's platforms, they seem to be continuing into old age, in rude health.

According to a recent research study by Netmarketshare, half of all Windows users are still running Windows 7, even though new PCs now ship with Windows 8.1.

There is a certain percentage of users out there who are just not going to change, until they are forced to change.

Advertisement
Advertisement - Article continues below

More surprising, perhaps, is that Windows XP still accounts for a quarter of online users. This is for an operating system that was released in August 2001, which is certainly the Cretaceous, if not the Jurassic, period in computing terms. Moreover, Microsoft ended support for Windows XP earlier this year, leaving users potentially vulnerable to security risks.

The longevity of these old operating systems is hard to explain. We can't all be waiting for the return of the Start menu (dropped in Windows 8, and now slated for next year, if the rumours are true).

Certainly, there are some applications that only run on older operating systems and especially, older browsers, such as IE6. But most businesses should, by now, be in a position to work round those incompatibilities.

"There is a certain percentage of users out there who are just not going to change, until they are forced to change," concedes TK Keanini, CTO at Lancope, an security and performance vendor.

"By forced, I mean the computer stops working, or applications become dysfunctional. Until then, they are just going to go on doing what they have always done." But as Keanini points out, there are some real risks around XP in particular.

Budgetary constraints, and general inertia, could be other reasons. Sometimes, the adage "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" makes a lot of sense in IT. That certainly applies to Windows 7 still a robust and capable OS for many tasks though perhaps not for the now unsupported XP.

Budgetary constraints, though, are perhaps more of a factor. But so, too, is the changing make up of many enterprises' PC estates, or more accurately, their personal device estate.

"We have actually seen quite a lot of migration, but it has been spread out over a prolonged period of time," says Simon Townsend, chief technologist for EMEA at Appsense, the virtualisation and application management vendor.

"Another reason we may not hear of migrations is because many form what be called 'transformation'; just because it is not a migration doesn't mean, for example, that they're not upgrading or moving to VDI [desktop virtualisation] for example."

Operating system upgrades often go hand in hand with hardware upgrades, especially for smaller businesses that might not want to roll out a new OS on older hardware. With the economic pressures of the last few years, quite a few companies will have skipped a generation of upgrades, leaving older systems to run on.

Advertisement
Advertisement - Article continues below

As important is a shift to different types of computing devices altogether. Older desktop PCs might be gathering dust, as employees move to shiny new tablets, smartphones or even Chromebooks. Looking at the PC market in percentage terms may not give the full picture, as employees hold on to older machines for one or two office-based tasks, but do more work on newer, more portable kit.

But, with the growing costs and security risks associated with running older systems, it is well to plan for their well-earned retirement now.

Stephen Pritchard is a contributing editor at IT Pro.

Featured Resources

Application security fallacies and realities

Web application attacks are the most common vulnerability, so what is the truth about application security?

Download now

Your first step researching Managed File Transfer

Advice and expertise on researching the right MFT solution for your business

Download now

The KPIs you should be measuring

How MSPs can measure performance and evaluate their relationships with clients

Download now

Life in the digital workspace

A guide to technology and the changing concept of workspace

Download now
Advertisement

Recommended

Visit/business-strategy/collaboration/354160/microsoft-teams-surpasses-20-million-daily-users
collaboration

Microsoft Teams surpasses 20 million daily users

20 Nov 2019
Visit/laptops/34813/microsoft-surface-pro-7-review-slightly-faded-glory
Laptops

Microsoft Surface Pro 7 review: Slightly faded glory

15 Nov 2019
Visit/business-strategy/34796/view-from-the-airport-microsoft-ignite-2019
Business strategy

View from the airport: Microsoft Ignite 2019

12 Nov 2019
Visit/laptops/34636/microsoft-surface-laptop-3-hands-on-review-powerfully-tempting
Laptops

Microsoft Surface Laptop 3 hands-on review

15 Oct 2019

Most Popular

Visit/business-strategy/mergers-and-acquisitions/354191/xerox-threatens-hostile-takeover-after-hp-rebuffs
mergers and acquisitions

Xerox threatens hostile takeover after HP rebuffs $30bn takeover

22 Nov 2019
Visit/security/data-breaches/354192/t-mobile-data-breach-affects-more-than-a-million-users
data breaches

T-Mobile data breach affects more than a million users

25 Nov 2019
Visit/mobile/google-android/354189/samsung-galaxy-a90-5g-review-simply-the-best-value-5g-phone
Google Android

Samsung Galaxy A90 5G review: Simply the best value 5G phone

22 Nov 2019
Visit/business-strategy/it-infrastructure/354188/tsb-payment-delays-suggest-second-it-meltdown
IT infrastructure

TSB payment delays suggest second IT meltdown

22 Nov 2019