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Hold on to Windows XP at your peril

Enterprises running Windows XP are budget conscious and will put off Windows 7 upgrades for as long as they can. But running an 8-year-old OS comes at a cost.

IT administrators have a white-knuckle grip on the sturdy Windows XP OS, and many have said they will put off upgrading to Windows 7 for as long as possible. But holding off on a migration comes at a cost.

"Most of us have seen an unreasonable cling to XP, to the point of stating that they will not even plan for anything beyond XP," said Joseph Durnal, an engineer with the Germantown, Md.-based Microsoft integration and consulting company Planet Technologies, Inc. "This is a mistake. If you want to keep XP, you'll soon be faced with the cost of maintaining two operating systems."

Though Durnal said he doesn't know exactly when Microsoft partners, such as hardware manufacturers and ISVs, will start abandoning XP, but if history is a guide, when they do it, it will likely happen without much warning.

David O'Berry, an IT director with the South Carolina Department of Probation, Parole & Pardon Services, said he agrees that keeping XP alive in the enterprise will be difficult for IT administrators when Microsoft puts all its resources behind Vista and Windows 7.

More on XP migrations:
Your questions answered; the Windows 7 upgrade quandary

When to move off XP, onto Windows 7

Vista shops eye quick path to Windows 7, XP shops resist

"When Microsoft stops devoting time to patch cycles for XP, it will be an issue, and that time will come sooner than later," O'Berry said. "Also, the app developers won't continue to design for XP and software will start evolving away from it. New hardware is another problem; it is starting to be a pain to get new licenses and support for XP when you buy new hardware."

Microsoft intends to offer Extended Support for XP until 2014, but not all OEMs will continue selling PCs with XP on it for that long, said Scott Stuessi, systems engineer and consultant for the Warwick, RI-based IT consultancy firm Atrion Networking Corp.

Planet Technologies' Durnal concurred that support for XP on new hardware is becoming more of an issue. "That next model of whatever PC might not have XP drivers, but your old systems are coming off lease, and extending some of those leases is expensive," he said.

Skip Windows 7 SP1?

Patrick Hynds, an IT engineer with numerous Microsoft certifications, who is also president of N.H.-based Critical Sites, said he doesn't think XP users should even wait for the first service pack to come out before upgrading to Windows 7.

"A lot of technology has gone under the bridge since XP came out and when Windows 7 arrives (in October) XP will be a legacy OS twice over," Hynds said. "Pretty soon, vendors will start to abandon it. When they do, [XP] will start to get buggy."

Hynds said enterprises that skipped Vista are now far behind and could be losing money by running less efficient systems with out-dated features.

Durnal said IT shops should prepare for a migration off XP. "Those in charge of IT decisions should ask themselves, "Do I want to upgrade to the latest version of Windows on my terms, with proper planning and testing, or do I want to be forced into an unplanned upgrade by unexpected hardware or software supportability issue?"

Let us know what you think about the story; email Bridget Botelho, News Writer

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