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Goodbye Old Friend!

Support for Windows XP, Office 2003,
and Exchange Server 2003 ends in

Microsoft will officially end support for Microsoft Windows XP and Microsoft Office 2003 on April 8, 2014. This will bring about the end of the most popular and most widely deployed PC operating system of the information age. What does this mean for the average user? When you turn on your Windows XP laptop or PC on April 9, 2014, everything will work just as it always has. However, you will no longer receive the critical updates and security patches from Microsoft that have gone a long way in helping the operating system last so long. Also, you may have already noticed the independent software vendors are no longer writing applications for Windows XP.

Several options are available for residential and non-commercial users. Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium has become widely accepted as the replacement for Windows XP in the home market, and Microsoft Windows 7 Professional is the natural replacement for Windows XP in the business world. Unfortunately, you must do a fresh install of Windows 7 as there is no “upgrade” path from Windows XP to Windows 7. Be sure you back up your data and applications! Microsoft has also released Windows 8 which is best utilized in a “touch” environment of a tablet or touch-enabled laptop or PC.

In the business world, this brings about several issues. Unsupported and unpatched software environments are vulnerable to security risks. In regulatory environments such as the financial or healthcare industries, this may result in an officially recognized control failure by an internal or external auditing body such as the FDIC or Medicare. The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) released their official statement on October 7, 2013. “Effective April 8, 2014, Microsoft will no longer market, support, or provide regular security patches for XP. The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) expects national banks, federal savings associations, and their TSPs to identify, assess, and manage these risks to ensure that safety, soundness, and the ability to deliver products and services are not compromised.” I also had the opportunity to ask an FDIC auditor about the end-of-life of Windows XP recently. I asked, “If you come into this facility for an audit on April 9, 2014 and we have Windows XP running on a bunch of hosts....?” After a short, dramatic pause, he looked up and said “You’re dead!” Simple enough!

Many businesses have already started their migration plans. For some, this includes newer technologies such as virtualization and a Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI), while others are looking at including a hardware refresh of their systems while performing the upgrades to Windows 7. With less than five months until the official end-of-life date, the time to start your migration is now!

Microsoft Windows XP was originally released on August 24, 2001. By January 2006, over 400 million copies of Windows XP were in use, and market share continued to rise through October 2007. Microsoft released Windows Vista worldwide on January 30, 2007. Windows Vista was not Microsoft’s most popular software release. However, new systems from the likes of Dell, HP, and Lenovo came pre- installed with Windows Vista starting in January 2007. Windows XP continued to have slight market share gains through October 2007. Microsoft released Windows 7 in October 2009, and with the steady migration to Windows 7, it finally took over as market share leader in August 2012.

With nearly 13 years of life, Microsoft Windows XP has been the most successful commercial PC operating system to date. However, it is time to say “goodbye.” Current hardware and software has gone beyond the limitations of a 13 year old operating system, and we are seeing an ever increasing migration to tablets and mobile devices. Windows XP never had a popularly adopted 64-bit version, and today it is rare to purchase a new PC, laptop, tablet or Ultrabook that isn’t 64-bit. It is very unlikely we will ever see a “mainstream” operating system like Windows XP that will last anywhere near 13 years in the future. With the ever changing world of technology, change will be required of future operating systems just to keep up with the environment.

We are also seeing a number of devices from tablets, to minis, to phones that are utilizing iOS from Apple, Android from Google, and Windows 8 from Microsoft. It seems the phones are getting bigger and the tablets are getting smaller! I expect they will meet in the middle soon. Many of my colleagues in the IT world are migrating to more “mobile” devices. Although I still maintain a traditional desktop with multiple monitors at my office, I have recently moved to a Windows 8.1 based tablet and the iPhone 5s as my primary mobile devices. I tried one of the Windows based phones for about three months, but I switched back to the iPhone. I'm not giving up on the Windows Phone, but I am going to wait for the second edition to see if some of the “bugs” are fixed.

-- Ben Brady
Ciphertek Systems, LLC

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