It’s been two years since Microsoft stopped providing users of Windows XP with vital patches and security updates. You would think that this would dissuade many businesses from continuing to use this operating system, but the fact remains that Windows XP’s end of life hasn’t done much to get users to switch to a more secure alternative.
Spiceworks’ 2016 State of IT report claims that nearly 67 percent of North American businesses still run Windows XP to some degree. It’s not just businesses, either; NetMarketShare estimates that 11 percent of personal computers still use Windows XP. TechReport suggests that in other parts of the world, like mainland China, these numbers are even larger. Depending on who you ask, Windows XP is still being used by somewhere between 7.3 and 10.9 percent of all Internet users. To put it in perspective, that’s higher than the worldwide use of Mac OS X and Linux. There’s no arguing that Windows XP was a very popular operating system during its time, but what’s keeping businesses from moving on to bigger and better things? What keeps them clinging to a long-dead operating system?
Why Enterprises Are Reluctant to Make the Switch
Windows XP is still so popular that many security news outlets have been referring to it as a “zombie OS” that just refuses to die. Considering how Windows XP was still being used by 72 percent of businesses in July 2014, several months following its end of life, and that this number failed to significantly fall by July 2015 (66 percent), this seems like a fair description. It’s time for organizations to move on and lay Windows XP to rest, but upgrading to a new operating system is often easier said than done.
Reasons why businesses – particularly larger enterprises – might still be reluctant to move away from Windows XP include, but are not limited to:
- Legacy application compatibility: Some businesses rely on legacy applications that rely on older operating systems to work as intended. When this is the case, organizations worry that upgrading to more recent operating systems can potentially break access to critical systems. It’s your responsibility to do your research and test for compatibility before upgrading your workstations to more recent operating systems.
- Purchasing new hardware: If a business is still using Windows XP, upgrading may require a hardware refresh. The main problem is that new hardware can be particularly expensive, and new purchases are restricted by stringent IT budgets. This forces CIOs to think in the long term of how to replace hardware in the most economic way possible.
As for Microsoft, the software giant has been pushing hard to get everyone on its most recent version of the Windows operating system, Windows 10. Though initial adoption was somewhat rocky, Spiceworks estimates that 47 percent of businesses plan to invest in Windows 10 throughout 2016.
If your business still uses Windows XP to some degree, it’s important that you find the means to upgrade away from it as soon as possible. Most high-profile hacks start either through phishing attacks on end users, or through software vulnerabilities like those found in unsupported operating systems. Don’t give hackers an easy way into your IT infrastructure. And remember; if you, as the CIO, don’t see cybersecurity as a top priority, you can’t expect anyone else from your organization to feel the same way.