Three reasons to make the leap from Windows XP

How many operating systems does your IT team support? If your workforce is like many in government, the majority may still be on Windows XP, with a pocket of Windows 7 machines in testing and the latest tablets running Windows 8. I even recently heard about an agency discovering an old Windows 95 machine!

I’m not concerned so much about the number of OS platforms as I am about the software’s age. Think about it: Windows XP went into development 15 years ago. As my colleague Marco Manuello recently reflected, that's pre-Twitter, pre-social networking, pre-cloud. Since then, Microsoft has evolved its operating systems to meet today’s security and functional needs. You just can’t bolt these things onto an outdated OS.

If that doesn’t convince you, here are my top three reasons to upgrade ASAP.

1. Windows XP support ends soon

On April 8, 2014, Microsoft will stop supporting Windows XP. After the support lifecycle ends, you'll no longer get updates to patch vulnerabilities in Windows XP, so running it could expose your organization to security and compliance risks as malicious users look for any chink in the armor.

As you know, Windows upgrades don’t happen overnight. So whether you want to move directly to Windows 8, or opt to start with Windows 7 – if you haven’t already begun your migration, you’re behind.

2. Windows 7 and 8 increase efficiencies 

Government agencies are constantly pushed to reduce costs and increase productivity. When you upgrade to Windows 7 or Windows 8, you get greater efficiency in both your workforce and IT environments.

For increased employee productivity, Windows 7 offers built-in enhancers such as unified search capabilities that help workers find the information they need more rapidly. And the added social features in Windows 8 enable them to connect with people more easily.

Windows 7 also improves how you manage the IT environment. With it, your IT team can create common Windows images that enable efficient OS deployment. And, since Microsoft’s hardware requirements have remained relatively stable, IT can leverage its existing hardware investment to provide a stepping stone to the new OS. 

3. Windows 7 and 8 provide end-to-end protection

The newer operating systems offer greatly enhanced security features.

  • BitLocker and BitLocker To Go: BitLocker protects sensitive data on laptops, so you don’t have to worry about unauthorized access when employees move their laptops from place to place or lose them. There’s also BitLocker To Go, which protects USB drives in the same way. And both features are built into Windows 7, so you don't have to install them separately. 
  • DirectAccess: Another great feature for your mobile workforce, DirectAccess gives employees secure and seamless connectivity to your internal network without having to launch a separate VPN. It also automatically authenticates all of the separate credentials and smart cards for enhanced security throughout the government environment.
  • Windows To Go: Available in Windows 8, Windows To Go is a custom USB memory stick that lets you carry a complete, bootable version of your OS setup in a secure, portable format and plug it into any PC. Your "Bring Your Own PC" employees can use their Windows To Go drives to boot up any PC with their personalized OS features, giving them a familiar desktop environment that lets them get to work instantly.
  • Office 2013: While we’re talking about security, there’s one more thing worth mentioning. As Microsoft has made it more difficult for hackers by enhancing the security features in our operating systems, the hacker community has moved up the stack to applications. So you also should think about upgrading to Office 2013, which has a protection mode that shields users from malicious code.

For even more reasons to switch today, check out the IDC report Mitigating Risk: Why Sticking with Windows XP is a Bad Idea.

Have a comment or opinion on this post? Let me know @Microsoft_Gov. Have a question for the author? Please e-mail us at ongovernment@microsoft.com. Image source: purpleslog

John Weigelt
National Technology Officer, Microsoft Canada

About the Author

John Weigelt | National Technology Officer, Microsoft Canada

John drives Microsoft Canada’s strategic policy and technology efforts. He is the lead advocate for the use of technology by private and public sectors, economic development, innovation, environmental sustainability, accessibility, privacy, and security. Read More