Managing the risk and complexity of upgrading from Windows XP as Microsoft support ends in April 2014


By Shane Macdonald | 20 September 2013

Since an operating system upgrade affects every user in your business, any change has the capacity to inflict severe delay costs, or in the case of finance or compliance applications, introduce very high levels of risk to your business.

There are a number of risks that firms need to be aware of - from understanding which software applications will and won’t work with a new operating system, to which PCs in the business are used for business critical transactions every day. We often find forgotten PC’s with a single app or two in, say, internal mail or security, that handle hundreds of people or transactions each day – these are rarely touched by the technical support team, but can cause disaster during the upgrade.

Your upgrade team also needs to thoroughly test any security software so that you can be confident it will work straight away.  It’s important that your existing group policy is clearly understood and documented, so that any differences between XP and Windows7 are accounted for and do not impact your user base.

Working with our clients on their desktop upgrades, we’ve noticed the common challenges they face and we’ve collated what we’ve learnt from these engagements to smooth their transition between Operating Systems. Key of course is seamlessly delivering a robust new OS, but also important is adaptability, so we’ve tailored packages for businesses of all sizes and budgets.

Trevor Cuttriss, Test Team Leader at IAG says about his experience, “IAG’s Desktop environment is large and complex, so we knew we were facing some significant risks when we decided to upgrade to Windows 7 and Office 2007. Qual IT managed all the testing for us and their approach gave us the confidence that when it came to roll-out, our critical functions would not be impacted. The result was a seamless upgrade and a very low number of Helpdesk calls.”

As well as reducing the risk of these issues impacting on system availability after an upgrade, there are real opportunities to rationalise software licences for considerable savings.

With a little over six months to go before the end date, there is no scope for any delay in kicking off a transition program.

Four Questions to ask

Here are four basic questions to ask if you are considering a transition from Windows XP to a newer operating system:

  1. Will all your applications still work with your new desktop? Or your new laptops?
  2. Do you know which machines the finance team uses to process business-critical transactions each day?
  3. Has it been proven that your security software will update properly?
  4. Are all Group Policy changes documented, or even properly understood?

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