UK businesses stalling on XP migration as end of Microsoft support looms

With precisely one year until the end of Microsoft’s support for the operating system, many UK enterprises are yet to begin migration from Windows XP.

A survey from migration specialists Camwood showed that of the 250 CIOs, CTOs and IT managers in businesses with over 2,000 employees surveyed, only 42 percent of respondents have begun migration to a new operating system.

This is despite Microsoft announcing in 2010 that extended support for XP would end on April 8th 2014.

The popular XP operating system was originally released in 2001, before OEM and retail sales were stopped in 2008, with systems builders following suit the next year. Although it is possible to pay for ongoing support from Microsoft, this can run into hundreds of thousands of pounds, Camwood pointed out.

According to the results of the survey the majority of respondents, 82 percent, are already aware of the deadline, though many have still not started the process to migrate systems onto fully supported operating systems such as Vista, 7 or Windows 8.

The survey showed that there are a number of concerns which have prevented businesses from beginning the migration process.

Almost a quarter found that there was little impetus for change from their business itself, with 23 percent of IT decision makers reporting that they had not been asked to move to a new operating system.

Meanwhile 21 percent of respondents were concerned about the migration process itself, with problems arising due the complexities of migrating key applications.

Cost is also an issue for businesses, with 16 percent citing constrained budgets as a barrier to migration.

For those that have not yet begun the process, it is unlikely at this point that they will meet the deadline for Microsoft withdrawing free support. However, Camwood CEO Adrian Foxall said that most risks can be averted by targeting the migration of important parts of the business.

“The key is not to panic and throw lots of money at it, the answer is in successful planning,” Foxall said. “Picking out the key people to move across where you have mission critical applications and getting those over first will be the answer to it. It is not too late to migrate.”

Interestingly, one in five respondents still intend to use XP as the deadline for Microsoft support passes next year.

According to Ed Shepley, solutions architect at Camwood, this brings up two main problems.  Firstly there are the inherent risks of missing out on patches from Microsoft, with a lack of free updates leaving systems open to security breaches.

Secondly, by sticking with a 12 year old operating system, businesses are unable to adapt to other trends in the industry, such as supporting mobile devices as part of a bring your own device (BYOD) scheme.

“As more and more people move onto BYOD strategy with tablets and mobile devices that allow them to work in a flexible way, if your business doesn’t adopt those then you will be left behind,” Shepley said.

“Doing this with XP is logistically impossible: Windows 7 and 8 are a requirement for moving to this direction, so there are costs in terms of efficiencies and flexibility in your workforce.”

Of the businesses Camwood had spoke to which had already begun migration, many have made good progress. Over half of respondents in process of migrating their systems believe that they are on track to meet the deadline.  At the same time a third of businesses have already completed 75 percent of the process.

A separate study from 1E showed that of the 250 senior IT decision makers surveyed, less than a quarter had completed migration to Windows 7. The report, covering organisations with over 250 staff, also highlighted that just 40 percent of the businesses surveyedhad begun migrating systems.

“The message is loud and clear – organisations that are not yet off the starting blocks or only a little way down the track are highly unlikely to complete before the Microsoft deadline,” explains Sumir Karayi, CEO at 1E.

“Whether the delay is because they misunderstood the sheer scale of the project, or that they are coming across myriad technical hurdles – from application reinstallation to gotchas around device drivers – which they never encountered before, it means they cannot confidently predict when they will finish the project or how much it will cost them.

“Ultimately, the challenge of such a project is that few IT teams will have ever experienced such a complex migration.”

Copyright © 2013 IDG Communications, Inc.

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