Do you know what you’re planning to replace it with?
On April 8th of 2014, Windows XP will officially reach its end of life as per theMicrosoft Windows lifecycle factsheet. At that point, Microsoft will no longer support Windows XP with patches, bug fixes, security updates, or any kind of technical assistance except for those customers paying for extended support.
With extended support prices easily exceeding half a million for many companies, upgrading is the most practical and recommended option. Which leaves the question-in a post-Windows XP world, what operating system should you upgrade to?
The most logical solution is to upgrade to the newest and brightest offering from Microsoft. Windows 8/8.1 is seen by many as being a pretty far departure from Windows XP. The operating system has almost been completely torn down and rebuilt from the ground up, leading to an experience that can take a little getting used to. The single most noticeable change is the overlay of Metro, Microsoft’s controversial new interface, on top of the Windows that organizations are used to. This change, along with some other minor tweaks and updates (such as removal of the “start” button), has led critics to be skeptical of the system.
Still, while the changes might take a little getting used to, Windows 8/8.1 has the distinct advantage of still being Windows. That means most of your software should continue to run post-upgrade, files will still open, your network configuration should be just fine, and peripheral devices should function just like they always did. And since the end of life for Windows 8 isn’t until January 10, 2023, your staff will have plenty of time to get used to the particulars of the operating system before it’s time to upgrade again.
One caveat to running out and switching to Windows 8 immediately is the relative newness of the operating system. It hasn’t been thoroughly put through its paces yet in the business environment, and it’s difficult to say whether all the bugs have been worked out or not. Some people have reported issues with drivers, hardware, and older software, making Windows 8 and 8.1 a little bit more of a gamble if it’s not rigorously tested and evaluated to work in your environment ahead of time.
For organizations wanting to stay within the Windows family, but not willing to push the envelope with the latest and greatest version, Windows 7 presents a great compromise. While Microsoft will be discontinuing support for the product a full three years earlier than for Windows 8, it will still remain a viable business operating system until January 14, 2020.
Windows 7 is much less of a sea-change than Windows 8 in terms of how the operating system actually functions and the way your employees interact with their computers. Compatibility between Windows XP and Windows 7 is top notch, so the majority of your software should have no problems working. Because most of the changes in Windows 7 from Windows XP are transparent, most of your employees should be able to adjust to the new operating system with little difficulty and little need for training, making it an almost plug-and-play solution.
Because Windows 7 has been around for several years now, and deployed in many challenging corporate environments, it has been thoroughly tested and is a solid, safe choice for upgrade. The only major reason to pass on a Windows 7 upgrade would be the improved performance of Windows 8 and the fact that the lifecycle for Windows 7 ends in only six years, meaning you will likely have to begin preparing for the next upgrade in four or five years.
Mac OS/OS X
If your company has been toying with the idea of giving up on Windows altogether, the end of life period for Windows XP is a better time than most for switching to a completely different setup. While OS X, and Apple computers in general, are very similar to their PC counterparts these days, you will still face many challenges. Of all upgrade options, this is the most expensive as it requires purchasing completely new hardware and software. Still, if you’ve contemplated switching over to Apple, using your Windows transition budget to soak up some of the cost is a great way to offset the added expense.