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.

Advertisement - Article continues below

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

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.

Advertisement
Advertisement - Article continues below
Advertisement - Article continues below

"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.

Advertisement - Article continues below

"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.

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

Preparing for long-term remote working after COVID-19

Learn how to safely and securely enable your remote workforce

Download now

Cloud vs on-premise storage: What’s right for you?

Key considerations driving document storage decisions for businesses

Download now

Staying ahead of the game in the world of data

Create successful marketing campaigns by understanding your customers better

Download now

Transforming productivity

Solutions that facilitate work at full speed

Download now
Advertisement
Advertisement

Recommended

Visit/network-internet/web-browser/356369/dont-like-chromium-edge-you-can-revive-legacy-edge
web browser

Don't like Chromium Edge? Here's how to revive the old Edge

7 Jul 2020
Visit/cloud/356294/azure-digital-twins-previews-new-features
Cloud

Microsoft Azure Digital Twins previews new features

30 Jun 2020
Visit/server-storage/data-recovery/356278/microsoft-releases-windows-file-recovery-app
data recovery

Microsoft releases Windows File Recovery app

30 Jun 2020
Visit/mobile/mobile-phones/356088/microsoft-may-unveil-the-dual-screen-surface-duo-next-month
Mobile Phones

Microsoft might release the dual-screen Surface Duo next month

16 Jun 2020

Most Popular

Visit/business/business-operations/356395/nvidia-overtakes-intel-as-most-valuable-us-chipmaker
Business operations

Nvidia overtakes Intel as most valuable US chipmaker

9 Jul 2020
Visit/laptops/29190/how-to-find-ram-speed-size-and-type
Laptops

How to find RAM speed, size and type

24 Jun 2020
Visit/security/cyber-attacks/356417/trump-confirms-cyber-attacks-on-russia-election-trolls
cyber attacks

Trump confirms US cyber attack on Russia election trolls

13 Jul 2020