Clinging to Windows XP

Is your firm still hanging onto Windows XP?  If so, you’re not alone.  Ninety-six percent of those who responded to a recent TechRepublic survey indicated they are still using XP.  Most interestingly, when asked about a migration plan regarding Windows XP, out of 12,395 respondents, 45% indicated they are waiting for Windows 7, and a surprisingly high 43% indicated that they will always use XP and do not plan on switching.  Well, I’d like to return to a size six, but that’s not going to happen either!  Wake up folks, you will not be able to remain on XP forever.  You need to at least start thinking about your migration plan, and take a look at your hardware, which may not have a life as long as your plan figures to wait, until it bites the bullet.

I know, believe me, how truly painful the operating system upgrade can be.  Legacy applications, and even hardware — as we saw all too frequently with Vista — often do not operate properly under a new operating system.   When things are stable you want to continue that way as long as possible.  Fewer work interruptions, fewer headaches, lowered support costs; I get it.  But let’s be realistic.  Microsoft will only continue to support XP for a limited length of time after Windows 7 is released.  (See my prevous blog post on this topic.)  And it will not be sending out upgrades or fixes for XP, in all likelihood, once Windows 7 has been released.  So you will have no choice but to eventually migrate.

When respondents were asked what the main reason was for delaying an operating system migration at this time, 63% of the 10,603 respondents to this question responded “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” while another 20% responded that they disliked Vista, and were waiting for Windows 7.  Only 7% cited the economic climate and limited capital for investing in an upgrade.

It does seem, at least from the 9,610 survey respondents asked about how they will roll out the new operating system, that we’ve learned to be more cautious based on our past experiences.  Forty nine percent plan on rolling out the new operating system one PC at a time, as they need to be replaced.  Another 41% of respondents will roll out the new operating system slowly and systematically, one department or division at a time.  Only 10% responded that they will do a mass migration. 

I’m pleased to find that most of us have actually learned from past mistakes and the accompanying pain.  The lesson, if you still don’t get it, is that when you have a stable computing environment, you should make no massive changes unless you have absolutely no choice.  Test everything in a small, isolated pilot group or even single PC.  Make sure that any issues with legacy applications or equipment are worked out.  Then do your rollout in a planned, gradual deployment.  This will enable your IT staff or company to effectively support users and respond to issues as they arise.  It will ensure your entire organization is not brought to a screeching productivity halt due to some incompatibility or other technical issue.  And it will spread your cash / capital requirements over a greater period of time; lessening the financial strain.

Don’t wait too long, however, before determining how long you can “hold on” with the equipment and software you have now.  If you need to spend a little now in order to hold out longer, that will turn out to be a wise investment.  After all, one other lesson we’ve learned is that being the first one on the block to install that shiny new operating system is never a smart move.  So figure at least 3 – 6 months for the “big guys” to work out the kinks before your firm will actually migrate to Windows 7.    And plan accordingly.

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