In-depth

The Windows XP Zombie Apocalypse

The countdown is finally over for those looking for extended life support for XP (unless they've inked a deal). But are they still secure?

The clock has stopped ticking as far as the countdown to 'end of life' for Windows XP. As from today, Microsoft has officially pulled all support for the veteran operating system.

That means no more software updates and, rather importantly, no more security updates. Depending upon which research you read, around one in five of all the computers on the planet are still running a version of Windows XP. If your enterprise is one of them, what does the future hold?

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There are various reasons why a business or institution might continue to run Windows XP past the April deadline, and not all of these are low-risk scenarios.

Windows XP is 13 years old. The 11-year-old Microsoft Office 2003 joins XP in its end of life status as from today, and the equally old Exchange Server 2003, Small Business Server 2003 and Windows Server 2003 will be added to the no more love club come 14 July 2015.

In all of these cases, the impact upon the enterprise is likely to be best described as 'file under not immediately obvious'. So the, what does Microsoft actually mean by end of life?

As every enterprise using a Microsoft product will be very aware, there are three levels of support offered when it comes to software. Furthermore, the overall business support lifecycle generally runs for around 10 years. This is equally divided between five years of mainstream support and five years of extended support. The latter half of the support equation tends to be limited pretty much to fixing security related bugs unless the enterprise has a hot-fix agreement in place for when the mainstream support ends.

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The support mixing pot is stirred even further when you realise that there's also a 10-year or so period of online 'self-help' support as well. Given that Windows XP is already 13 years old, the Microsoft commitment to maintaining even that online knowledgebase article database is very much in question now.

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