Companies that are still using Microsoft’s Windows XP operating system on their computers will be leaving themselves open to cyber attacks when the software provider stops supporting the product next year, IT consultants have warned.
Microsoft has said it will end support for Windows XP on April 8 2014 – exactly a year from today, and 12 years after the operating system was first released. But a report by Camwood, a UK consultancy, has indicated that one-fifth of British IT managers plan on using the software after that date, even though they will be unable to receive security updates or technical support from Microsoft.
In a study of 250 chief information officers, chief technology officers and IT managers at companies with more than 2,000 employees, more than half the respondents said they had yet to start addressing the problem, with only 42 per cent saying they were already taking steps to upgrade their Windows software.
Microsoft has warned its customers to allow 18-30 months to fully migrate from Windows XP to a newer version.
In other areas of IT, using the same version of software for 13 years is almost unheard of. But Windows XP remains a staple of IT departments as many chose not to upgrade to 2005’s Windows Vista, which required hardware upgrades and contained a number of bugs, or to Windows 7, which was released in 2009 during the global financial crisis when IT budgets were tight.
Since then, Windows 8, which was released in August last year and brings in a new touchscreen interface, has been focused on consumer rather than business users.
However, having already extended the support period for Windows XP for businesses, Microsoft is not expected to do so again.
Research firm Gartner has found that the pressure to upgrade is not just coming from Microsoft: this year, 60 per cent of independent software vendors are expected to have a new product release that does not work with Windows XP.
“The message that Microsoft is switching off the lights is being received loud and clear by the IT community but it would appear that the business don’t understand the perils of remaining on XP,” said Adrian Foxall, chief executive of Camwood.
Eighty two per cent of IT managers said they were aware of the imminent demise of Windows XP. Of those who had not upgraded, 21 per cent were worried about the migration process, and 16 per cent cited a lack of budget for the update.
“In these tough economic times, it is not surprising that business leaders do not want to invest a substantial amount of money in something that essentially isn’t broken, as is the case with Windows XP today,” said Mr Foxall.
Of the 42 per cent who had started migrating, more than half said they were on track to finish by April 2014, the report said.