Windows XP/Office 2003 end of life

On April 8th 2014 the extended support period for Windows XP and Office 2003 will finally cease. No more security updates, no more paid support, 3rd party support will end, dead.

If you are still running and supporting Windows XP or Office 2003 this is pretty bad news. If your organization has any form of IT Security or Privacy Compliance to deal with (PCI DSS, HIPAA, SOX etc) this is really bad since it could put you out of compliance and facing the threat of fines or worse. To be clear this isn’t a small problem either, Feb 2013 browser stats suggest between 22.59% and 38.99% of PCs were still running Windows XP.


Even if you don’t have any compliance issues to contend with, running an unsupported Operating System or Office Suite is a really bad idea. There will be no further security patches to prevent malware and viruses, software and hardware vendors will drop support, and quite honestly XP is really showing its age.

Hopefully your organisation has a plan, suitable budget, and the migration to newer versions of Windows and Office has started. If you haven’t started then 13 months may sound like a long time to replace some computers and some software, but it isn’t. The reality is FY2013/14 budgets for most NZ businesses start 1st March, so local IT folks have just over two weeks (!) to add any required replacements to the next budget. Most other countries have a few more months to plan and budget.

If you haven’t started then you will want to start with an inventory of all PCs, current Windows/Office versions, applications that run on them, and even business critical websites (Windows XP is the last OS to support IE6). Microsoft has the handy MAP Toolkit to help with this, but you might also have to manually compile some of this information.

Once the inventory is done you can start testing to see what is supported on Windows 7/8 and what isn’t. Don’t forget external hardware like scanners, barcode readers, and printers. Also check for any even older computers running Windows 2000, NT, or even 95/98. The Microsoft Application Compatibility Toolkit (ACT) is very useful at this stage, but you will probably need to manually test some software. The ACT is available, along with many other handy tools, as part of the free Windows 7 AIK and Windows 8 ADK kits.

After doing an inventory and testing you should have a pretty good grip on what you need licenses for, any new hardware, and any applications that need to be replaced or upgraded. This should allow you to start making some decisions, and planning the budget and deployment. Don’t forget to include a budget for training users, particularly for Windows 8 if you go that way. Hopefully things aren’t too bad, and hey you have almost 13 months to pull the whole thing off..

Resources

Microsoft Assessment and Planning (MAP) Toolkit
Application Compatibility Toolkit (ACT)
Microsoft Virtual Academy has several great (free!) courses on planning and deploying Windows 7/8

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