Back in 2002, Microsoft introduced its Support Lifecycle policy, in a bid to increase transparency in this area and allow businesses to plan their IT strategies with greater certainly. Under the terms of the policy, which was introduced following customer feedback, Microsoft committed to a minimum of ten years' support for Windows and Office products - five years with mainstream support and five years with extended. This means there is no risk of businesses being left to fend for themselves, a year or two on from new products being released.
But support for particular product versions cannot continue indefinitely. Technology has moved on significantly in the space of the last decade, with broadband becoming a mainstream solution, and this is paving the way for cloud technologies and a host of new connected devices. It no longer makes sense to support operating systems and productivity suites which were designed ten years ago - and this is why Windows XP SP3 and Office 2003 will go out of support on April 8th 2014.
The end of an era for Windows and Office
Windows XP has been a great operating system, but since it was launched in 2001, we have had Vista, Windows 7 and Windows 8 arrive on the scene. Similarly, Office 2003 has been replaced by the 2007, 2010 and 2013 versions. Where both Windows and Office are concerned, there are now a host of new features for users to take advantage of, which can help boost performance and improve business productivity.
If your business is still running Windows XP SP3 and Office 2003, and has not begun the migration process to more current versions - usually Windows 8 and Office 2013 - you are late starting. Typically, the average enterprise deployment can take 18 to 32 months from business case through full deployment, although this depends on the size and scale of the organisation. As such, it is vitally important to begin the upgrade process as soon as possible. This should involve a focused planning stage and then application testing, to give your business the best possible chance of being ready in April.
How to begin your migration: Large businesses
For larger businesses, downloading the Microsoft Deployment Toolkit is a sensible starting point. This is designed to accelerate and automate deployments of Windows 8, Windows Server 2012, Windows 7, Office 2010, and Windows Server 2008 R2, relieving much of the burden from the IT department. Microsoft Deployment Toolkit 2012 provides a common console with comprehensive tools and guidance for every organisational role. As such it is the recommended process and toolset to automate large-scale desktop and server deployments.
Older PCs may need replacing if your business is looking to take advantage of Windows 8 and Office 2013. However, this depends on how your IT has evolved in recent years and when your most recent hardware upgrade took place. To find out whether your current systems are able to run Windows 8, you can use the Windows 8 Upgrade Assistant. This scans your current PC to see if it is ready for the latest operating system and then provides a compatibility report. The tool also explains the steps you need to follow to buy, download, and install Windows 8.
How to begin your migration: Small businesses
Small and medium-sized businesses have various options for upgrading their operating system and productivity suite. If the company has just a few PCs, it may be worth simply investing in a new model and giving your IT a refresh. If you're still running XP and Office 2003, the chances are your computer fleet is long overdue an upgrade anyway, with performance levels not what they once were.
As with large companies, if your PCs meet the system requirements for Windows 7 or Windows 8, it is possible to simply download and install the new operating system over the internet. And providing you have the required level of connectivity, accessing Office tools in the cloud is probably a good idea too. The Windows 8 Upgrade Assistant tells you whether your PCs are up to the job, and can be revamped for the Windows 8 age.
Windows XP and Office 2003 are on the way out - find out more about Windows 8 and Office 2013.
Posted by Alex Boardman