April 8th, 2014 will bring a landmark change to the IT landscape with the end of support for one of the most successful operating systems in history: Windows XP. Most Microsoft products live on a 10-year support lifecycle, with five years of mainstream support followed by five years of extended support. XP has been supported a bit longer than the usual 10 years due to its success as a platform and the high number of organizations, just under 35 percent, that still maintain XP OS’s within their organizations. The end of XP support has significant ramifications to those with XP instances still in production, and organizations need to begin the process of planning to migrate off of the XP platform if they haven’t already.

After April 8th, Microsoft will no longer provide free security updates, non-security hotfixes or technical content updates for Windows XP. This means that the only way to protect against any new vulnerability discovered in Windows XP will be by new security updates from Microsoft for those organizations willing to pay the very high costs of custom support contracts.It’s reasonable to believe that hackers and criminal entities, well aware of when XP support ends, have planned viruses and bugs that will not be released until after this date. Consequently, organizations running Windows XP after April 8th will essentially be operating with a target on their backs. They will face heightened costs of support, greater security risks and potential compliance/regulatory issues associated with these risks. For the enterprise still running XP, the time is now to start planning the upgrade process.

Organizations may still be running Windows XP for a number of reasons. Many are concerned that their in-house applications will not be supported on new platforms. Understanding the impact on your current applications is an important step in ensuring a successful migration. CDW can assist with Application Compatibility assessments to help organizations with these evaluations. Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 also include features such as Compatibility Mode, which allow legacy applications designed for Windows XP and older platforms to run on Windows 8.1. Virtualization and mobility solutions such as application streaming and VDI can also help organizations deliver legacy applications to devices running on modern platforms.

Other organizations may be concerned about the best way to migrate to a new platform, and have held off on their transition as a result. CDW offers a wide range of management tools that can help accelerate a migration project. We also have years of experience and a proven methodology on how to migrate customers to new platforms through our Professional Services offerings. Educating users on new platforms is another piece of the puzzle that may be holding organizations back from upgrading Windows XP now. CDW offers a variety of end user and administrative training sessions through our training partners that can help with these transitions.

The end of support of Windows XP is not the only reason organizations need to evaluate upgrade options. With XP being over a decade old, it is inherently more insecure than modern platforms. Similar to a car thief stealing an automobile, it is much easier to exploit vulnerabilities on older platforms because the inherent security features aren’t as strong as they are in newer models.

Windows XP was designed for a different world than the one we live in today. Ubiquitous Internet connectivity, the number of Internet users today vs. 10 years ago and a changing threat landscape all contribute to XP’s lack of viability as an OS today. Windows 8.1 offers a wide range of improvements in terms of user productivity, IT efficiency and security over Windows XP.

Windows 8.1 comes with a variety of enhancements that make it a great option for organizations migrating from Windows XP. The modern interface of Windows 8.1 allows for a robust experience in working across a wide range of device types. Touch and mobility are here to stay, and the Windows 8 interface is great at providing a unified experience for users both inside and out of the office.

Windows 8.1 also comes with new enhancements such as Boot to Desktop and the return of the familiar Start Button, which help make Windows 8.1 familiar to migrating XP users in more traditional desktop settings. Beyond the modern interface, Windows 8.1 Enterprise also offers the latest and greatest versions of BitLocker (also included in 8.1 Pro), DirectAccess, Windows to Go and other technologies that have been developed for the modern Windows since the release of Windows XP.

In summary, organizations that are still running Windows XP have a number of compelling reasons to upgrade to a modern OS. The potential security, liability and compliance issues raised by continued use of Windows XP after its end-of-support date makes the need to upgrade more pressing. In addition, Windows 8.1 offers a host of new features and enhancements that make it a far superior OS for the needs of today. CDW can help organizations evaluate their current environments, and move to modern platforms like Windows 8.1 with minimal disruption. Do you still have machines with Windows XP on them? If so, what’s preventing you from upgrading? Comment below.