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April 7, 2014updated 22 Sep 2016 1:17pm

Still on Windows XP? 5 reasons not to panic

Your Windows XP migration survival guide.

By Joe Curtis

Today marks the expiration of Microsoft support for Windows XP. Yet the proportion of desktops still running the aged operating system is between 30% and 35%, according to research group Net Applications.

As of this morning, any computers still on XP will continue to work, but there’s no longer any defence against a deluge of security threats that could rear their ugly heads.

That’s a massive issue whether you’re responsible for a handful of desktops or an entire infrastructure of computers, but it doesn’t mean you should panic.

Okay, maybe panic a little. But just for five seconds.

There. Now, let’s look at what you can do about it.

Custom support

This is a bridge-the-gap option, but it’s probably the best one out there, because Microsoft is providing it. The government just signed a £5.5m deal to cover most public sector PCs for a full year, including one million NHS computers and 34,000 Metropolitan police desktops.

However, the widely-reported costs are designed to prompt you to migrate sooner rather than later: It’s $200 per PC for the first year, $400 for the second year and a whopping $800 for the third year. Nevertheless, it’s a good, if pricey, way to buy yourself some time if your business has been dragging its feet over a mass migration.

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Fast forward migration

As you’d expect, there’s a load of companies ready to make money off migration – and they’re doing so by speeding up the process. For SMBs, it might be wise to get some free advice over exactly what suits their needs.

As PCWorld Business MD, Alan Ritchie, says: "Newer operating systems have been designed to capitalise on the latest trends, including mobile working, and upgrading may provide the perfect opportunity to build mobility into your business.

"There are numerous ways to address the situation, and they are not necessarily costly or disruptive to day-to-day operations. If you haven’t already done so, you should seek out expert advice to discern the system migration plan that will best suit your company."

For larger businesses, there’s some powerful automation tools from the likes of Dell, whose Migration Fast Forward Service helped French academic institution EHESP migrate 600 PCs to Windows 7 in one month.

Take advantage of Microsoft’s migration tool

Hang on, Microsoft can help with migration too! It’s obviously keen to boost Windows 7 and 8 usage, so it’s teamed up with file sync firm Laplink to offer free file transfer this month.

It works by copying over files and settings from XP to 7, 8 or 8.1. If you need to send over applications as well, then Laplink offers a premium tool – for a price.

Look at virtualisation

Another option is to look at a virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI). Instead of a costly deployment of new operating systems and the associated maintenance costs, why not leave the hard work to a company like Citrix or VMWare?

Martin Callinan, country manager of Express Metrix, explains: "By running a centralised upgrade deployment through the server, rather than on individual machines, the cost and time requirements for a Windows 7 or 8 rollout can be significantly reduced, whilst security is enhanced."

The London Borough of Barking and Dagenham has started migrating 3,500 council XP desktops and 800 XP laptops to Chromebooks, and expects to save £400,000 compared with sticking with traditional PCs.

What about mobility?

Migrating from XP doesn’t just have to be a headache – it’s also an opportunity. If your workforce isn’t based solely in the office, then take virtualisation one step further and take a look at BYOD. There’s plenty of collaborative work apps like Quip and Huddle out there that allow employees to work on applications together from vastly different locations, whether they are at their desks or on the move.

Callinan says: "Businesses can also take advantage of the benefits of BYOD and increased flexibility enabled by VDI, creating a seamless experience from any location and on any device."

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