If you’re preparing for Microsoft’s “zero day forever” — the day in April when support for Windows XP ends and that hackers could have a field-day exploiting Windows XP PCs since they will no longer receive security patches —, you might be wondering if making the move to Windows 7, Windows 8 or Windows 8.1 makes the most sense. Obviously, this choice depends on your business needs and how much you can accomplish in the fewer than five months left until Windows XP support ends. But here are a few other things to consider when choosing the best OS to upgrade to for your organisation.
Let’s start with the latest OS first. A good reason to upgrade to Windows 8.1 straight from XP is if you have a growing number of very mobile workers who could benefit from the touch component of the year-old OS. There are added mobility and security features with Windows 8.1, including the new Workplace Join that lets you access corporate data from a server that then gets automatically deleted when someone leaves the company. This component basically dismisses the need for a remote device wipe, something many employees have an issue with as it also might remove their personal apps and data. So, if you have plans to ramp up mobility in your organisation in the coming years, considering how Windows 8.1 could fit into your strategy is worthwhile. There are also other new features such as the return of the Start bar to make it easier to perform tasks, better application management across devices through Assigned Access and more options for mobile device management.
If you’re running XP, you cannot upgrade straight to 8.1. You’ll have to upgrade to Windows 8 first and then 8.1, as Microsoft specifies that Windows 8.1 was not designed for installation on devices running Windows XP or Windows Vista. If you do decide to go this two-step route straight from XP, you’ll not only need new hardware but also a whole new crop of applications as well, as many that run on an old Microsoft OS won’t be compatible with Windows 8.1. Datacom has tools that can assist in the assessment of which apps will comply or can be remediated.
Moving to Windows 8 is also a consideration for organisations increasing the scale of mobility in the workforce. Other than mobility, your considerations for upgrading to Windows 8 should be whether you have the budget to purchase Windows 8-compatible desktops for your entire workforce and if you have the time — fewer than five months — to teach them how to use the new touch OS. If you are focussed on Windows 8, factor in support resources to help answer the onslaught of questions and troubleshooting needs your users are likely to have as they get used to an OS like none they’ve ever used before. But on that last note, remember that Windows 8 also has a desktop mode that looks and acts almost exactly like Windows 7. You can also forgo the Modern start screen and boot straight to the desktop. So, don’t let the touch component necessarily be a reason to avoid migrating to the OS.
More than 90 per cent of large businesses will move from Windows XP to Windows 7, according to Gartner. Microsoft itself has urged organisations to continue planned Windows 7 migrations and only deploy Windows 8 to user groups that need it most, such as mobile workers. However, the company has also encouraged businesses to start investing in Windows 8-compatible devices so that if and when they want to upgrade to Windows 8 or Windows 8.1, they don’t have to heavily invest in more hardware. The hardware component is what makes going from Windows XP to Windows 7 most reasonable for many businesses — it does not necessitate a hardware upgrade, meaning organisations can hold onto their PCs for longer.
Regardless of the next Microsoft OS you choose, enlisting the help of an IT provider to design, implement and offer post-support for your migration, in addition to procure any new hardware and software licenses that might be needed, will lower risks and ensure a more seamless transition.