How to Migrate from Windows XP Securely and Safely

Girish V Gupta April 2, 2014
How to Migrate from Windows XP Securely and Safely
Microsoft is expected to pull off support for Windows XP systems on April 8th, and many companies are yet to finalize a migration strategy to a newer operating system. Here's how organizations can migrate safely.

This is a vendor-written article and readers should note that it will likely favor the submitter's approach.

Microsoft is expected to pull off support for Windows XP systems on April 8th, and many companies are yet to finalize a migration strategy to a newer operating system. According to estimates, 16 percent of 4 million enterprise PCs in India, are yet to be migrated from Windows XP systems. This basically means that PCs with XP will become prone to malware, viruses and hacker attacks. It is therefore, of paramount importance for organizations to devise a migration strategy to evade any security and compliance risks. Besides that, running a PC with XP will incur significantly more cost due to heavy maintenance. According to IDC, this cost could rise up to $300 per PC running on XP per year, as compared to the present cost of $75-100.

There are several available methods to aid this transition, and the most common one is a traditional operating system upgrade. Many organizations opt for it without calculating the challenges which include extremely long duration for implementation, application compatibility, prone to errors as it is a manual method, and it is unrealistic for a larger workforce using multiple devices at workplaces.  For a smoother transition, desktop virtualization has emerged as a preferred technology that ensures a seamless migration experience and brings multifold benefits for employees and organizations. Desktop virtualization delivers operating system, applications and data from a central location, called datacenter, as opposed to traditional desktop infrastructure where everything resides in the endpoint devices. With desktop virtualization, a single upgrade of the operating system centrally, decouples at every endpoint, without upsetting business continuity. Additionally, it is possible to run two operating systems side by side, and therefore, ideal for upgrading to Windows 7/8.1 and running Windows XP temporarily.

Regardless of the methods, Windows XP migration requires a planned, phased approach along with a clear roadmap to address the most common challenges, such as:

  • Application Compatibility: A large number of organizations still using legacy apps and they need to check if these apps will be compatible with the latest Operating System that they are migrating to. Migration using technologies such as Desktop Virtualization offers a simple and viable option, where an organization can run both operating system side by side. However, it is recommended to use an automated application testing software before approaching OS migration
  • Cost Reduction: The migration to newer OS need not be an expensive affair if the IT team selects the right method which is in sync with long term business objective. To avoid any CAPEX investment, an organization can opt for a cloud delivery model of Desktop-as-a-service (DaaS) where Desktops are delivered to the user from cloud on demand. This is a ‘pay-as-you-go’ model and saves cost of building and maintaining a new infrastructure for running  virtual desktops
  • User Profiling: A user’s profile plays a critical role in determining how successful the user experience is within a new operating system. Post an operating system migration, it might be frustrating and time consuming, if the users need to set preference and customize applications as per their need. The IT team needs to ensure a smooth transition to a newer operating system without losing user profiling and preference. Microsoft Windows Operating System offers various user profile solutions, whereof each has their own strengths and weaknesses. Therefore, it is necessary to understand the functional requirements of the users as well as the technical and architectural demands of the customer infrastructure, to be able to choose the optimal user profile strategy.
  • Inventory Check: It is critical to identify machines that are approaching a refresh cycle, or will not be able to run the latest version of business applications due to hardware limitation. Besides that, as per the changing needs of customers and business ecosystem, the IT team needs to devise a strategy for desktop transformation enabling users to remotely access work applications and data, without compromising security. It’s also essential to maintain focus and make progress on key strategic initiatives such as enterprise mobility, which should be aligned with the business goal of the organization.
  • User Segmentation: An organization consists of a diverse workforce and their requirements and functionality varies as per their roles. The IT needs to categorize employees as per the different use case requirements, keeping account of mobile and stationary work styles. The segmentation of users based on their work habits and overall requirements, typically entails task workers, guest workers, remote workers, LAN-based office workers, WAN-based office workers and mobile workers. Each group can then be aligned with the most appropriate desktop configuration to meet their needs during OS migration
  • Data Retention: Organisations need to study which data should be retained and what can be archived during the migration. This will have a tremendous impact on the business continuity post the completion of migration. One of the preferred options should be usage of collaborative tools which stores data in a cloud during the transition, enabling employees to have secure access from any device, any time

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