Nearly three months on from the official end of support for Windows XP many companies who are still using the legacy operating system are becoming more wary about the security holes they might be exposed to. But they are also very aware of the large customer support charges for extending support beyond XP’s official shelf life.

In fact, being late to the migration party may actually be good for your business, but only if you adopt a rapid, fully-automated approach. Windows XP support officially ended on 8 April 2014, yet two months on and it is estimated that more than a quarter of businesses are still yet to migrate to a new operating system.

Many of these companies feel that migrating their whole company away from XP is too much of a headache, especially if they have thousands of seats, and would rather do it through a hardware refresh cycle, when users get new computers. XP is a stable, reasonably secure Operating System, offering a decent user-experience, and applications just ‘work’. Many have not seen a need to change the status quo when nothing appears to be immediately ‘on fire’.

But these assumptions are putting companies at risk. Many applications, especially more recent ones, will no longer work natively on Windows XP. The end of XP support also means organisations run the increased risk of security vulnerabilities. Windows XP obsolescence is a more serious issue than many realise and businesses that haven’t migrated are opening their data to a clear threat.

The Benefits Of Migrating Now

Some businesses are installing security and support measures that are eye-wateringly expensive. The UK government and The NHS, for example, have paid for an extra year’s support with a bill running into the millions. Other companies are taking out bespoke Windows XP support from Microsoft and facing huge costs. The fact is that the only way to ensure an operating system is properly secure is to update to a newer one.

Late movers may find themselves far behind their peers in not having met the End of Windows XP deadline and it can appear that the options available are either fraught with extreme cost or extreme risk. However, this trailing group has a benefit they can realise from their position and there can be some advantages to letting so many other companies migrate before you. They’ve learned the hard lessons about large-scale application and OS migration, which means you don’t have to.

They will have come across a range of issues they didn’t anticipate and have never encountered before, from lengthy and manual application mapping to enlisting the support of systems integrators and bearing the associated costs.

Looking at what other IT managers have done and evaluating the successes and challenges will put you in a better cost position than the early movers, with a superior user experience and satisfaction level to boot. But that’s not to say that late-comers can afford to wait much longer and that’s why a rapid, fully-automated approach to migration is now essential.

Act Now With Zero-Touch Migration

‘Zero-Touch Migration’ offers the best approach for businesses that need a rapid route to moving away from Windows XP to minimise the impact on security, desktop performance and the user experience. ‘Zero-Touch’ refers to a unique Windows migration process that focuses on full automation across as many machines as possible (more than 90%), rather than partially automating the process for every machine.

It enables organisations to migrate literally thousands of PCs per day and is one of the most cost-effective solutions in the industry, being four times faster than other approaches. Whereas Gartner estimated in 2010 that the cost of migrating from XP to Windows 7 or 8 to be somewhere between $1,205 and $2,069 per PC, we have seen it cost as little as $8.50 per machine. What’s more, ideally installations will be completed in a non-disruptive way, with PCs either powering-up overnight to apply upgrades, or with users dictating when they want their migration to take place.

Application mapping and management is also simplified, enabling organisations to automatically conduct an inventory of all apps, identify duplicates, unused software and legacy apps, then deploy all the correct applications across the enterprise.

Putting In Place A Platform For The Future

End of XP migrations shouldn’t be viewed as a necessary project that can be completed and then forgotten. Microsoft is ramping up the speed with which it releases new versions of its OS and as these OS migrations become an annual event, no organisation can afford to slug out another migration over a number of months or even years.

It’s also worth noting too that Microsoft’s Standard Support for Microsoft System Center 2007 Configuration Manager (SCCM) ends in July 2014, so investing in efficient, automated and robust processes is becoming essential. Businesses can use each major OS upgrade cycle to transform the way they manage application and software delivery by investing in efficient, automated and robust processes that future-proof their business IT.

If there’s one lesson business should draw from the end of Windows XP support it is the increasing importance of having the right migration approach embedded in day-to-day IT operations. Use your Windows XP migration as an opportunity to transform the way you manage applications and deliver software to your end users. Invest in robust, automated and fault-tolerant processes that become ‘business as usual’ operations and create a blueprint that maximises the efficiency of IT right across your organisation.