I am sure that anyone reading this right now has heard that Windows XP has come to the end of the road. Microsoft is putting its longest running consumer version of Windows out to pasture after 12 years of service. With all the news out on the Internet, one would think that the world is ending come April 8th. So what does the end of support really mean for the user who is still using Windows XP on April 9th? There are two major issues that need to be considered with the end of support of Windows XP. Both need to be understood within the context of usage of the operating system (OS) in each situation.
First and foremost, there will be absolutely no more support or upgrades to the operating system from Microsoft. The impact of this is significant because as Microsoft no longer supports the platform, many (if not most) software vendors will also do the same. Software vendors who write programs that have traditionally run on Windows XP will no longer be able to work with Microsoft to correct or work around issues that may arise from compatibility or bugs in the platform. Updated software components may not function on the platform as interfaces may not available or backward compatible with the OS without some kind of retrofit.
These software vendors will be forced to either go it alone trying to code around problems if at all possible or note specific issues in compatibility as they continue to enhance and update their own software. These issues are very common in the industry as new technologies are developed that provide better and more robust tools for end users.
The second issue that poses serious implications is that Microsoft will no longer be providing security updates to the Windows XP platform. How bad can this be you might ask? That all depends on a several factors, most of which are the responsibility of the end user.
The issue stems from the fact that each version of Windows is a stepping stone for the next. That doesn't mean that everything under the covers is exactly the same, but there are commonalities between the different versions. Windows XP was a significant milestone in Microsoft's development cycle in that they merged their business and consumer line of operating systems into one framework to build from. In doing so, all versions of Windows since XP share quite a bit of similar fabric.
Now moving forward, as new security vulnerabilities are found within the Windows 8 and Windows 7 lines of code, there is a likelihood that the same vulnerability exists in Windows XP. With any vulnerability, there is always someone out there who is looking to exploit others given the chance. With the end of support for Windows XP, the "window" for exploitation just opened a little more.
Recent numbers show that Windows XP usage has been on the decline coming down to about 15 to 24 percent of the desktop system in the ecosystem depending on who is reporting the number. In any case, this still represents a large number of users when taking the desktop market into account. So what does this mean? If you have to stay on Windows XP, users will have to be extra careful in how they expose their system to the Internet.
For many companies with trained IT staff, there are usually several layers of protection in place that can help mitigate security issues, such as firewalls, antivirus protection, filters and network segregation. But none of this can help if a user mistakenly introduces the vulnerability themselves by clicking on an attachment that made it through the defenses or by browsing to a website that contains malicious code that exploits an unpatched system. As time goes on, the number of exposed vulnerabilities will increase, meaning more opportunity for out of support systems to be exploited.
In the end, the decision on what to do with Windows XP is up to the end user or the corporation based on their risks and mitigating factors involved. Most sources on the Internet are advocating the need to upgrade to a more current and secure operating system. Unfortunately many posts seem to be using scare tactics to make the point, rather than educating the end user on what the issues are.
At IQMS, we are recommending that our users move to a newer operating system because as we develop new methodologies for providing information and interacting with the end user, some technologies may not be supported properly on the Windows XP platform. Our support teams can assist with Windows XP issues to a point, but if they are unable to come to a solution because of incompatibilities or unsupported options within the OS, there is very little they can do about the issue.
Goodbye Windows XP, you will be missed.