XP lives on, often in some scary places!

We recently read a slightly alarming story (for which read ‘absolutely terrifying story’) regarding the company that runs the Fukushima nuclear power plant, (which suffered an ecologically disastrous triple meltdown in 2011).
  As it turns out, TepCo, (Tokyo Electric Power Co) is attempting to save money by delaying the upgrade of 48,000 of its PCs from XP. According to this article TepCo has been using XP-based PCs to run computers at Fukushima. 
  The implication of this article is clear – by leaving its computers on an antiquated system such as XP, TepCo may potentially be leaving itself open to hacking. And who knows what the consequences of that could be…
  There’s such a thing as ‘ambulance chasing’, and we’re not a fan. But nevertheless this highlights an alarming trend; that an incredible number of places are still on XP. 
  Even in very small ways you still see the unexpected ubiquity of XP wherever you go: Walk through a railway station and – wow – there’s a blue screen of death, hanging sideways on a billboard. Pay for your groceries and – wallop – there’s an XP-based POS staring you in the face.
  Being cynical, if half of our transport companies and retail firms haven’t got it together to upgrade from their various versions of XP, why should anyone be surprised if nuclear power plants are still on the ageing platform?
  Of course, this story also suggests that TepCo hasn’t undergone the appropriate degree of consultancy. The first port of call is to identify which computers involve mission or safety-critical systems, and prioritise migrations. Money may be tight, but it should never be *that* tight.

The ‘death’ of Windows Server 2003 is nearing ever closer

On 14th July 2015 Microsoft will cease to offer any security updates, compliance or technical support to the estimated 11 million users of Server 2003. Approximately 1.6 million of these users are expected to miss the July deadline for migration, opening them up to a whole host of serious compliance and security vulnerabilities. Some are even describing the withdrawal of Server 2003 as ‘the biggest security threat of 2015’ – now is the time to act.
  Computer systems running on this software from this point onwards will be exposed to an elevated risk of cyber-security dangers, such as viruses, spyware and other malicious software. Users will also experience difficulties with compatibility to new software and hardware.
  Preventing the risk of these vulnerabilities is not the only reason to move away from Server 2003, there are also a number of considerable benefits to upgrading. It is possible to run applications on 64-bit servers or even potentially move them to the Cloud, taking advantage of the flexibility and cost-savings to be found there. Your business will become more agile and responsive and profit from reduced maintenance requirements and as a result improved performance.
  At Camwood we have over 15 years’ experience of migrating applications and can save a typical company over 60% of the time and effort typically associated with this type of server changeover. By putting forward the key application related questions, organisations can more accurately scope, plan and de-risk their exits from the Server 2003.
  To find out more about how to prepare your business for the switch, click here to download our new ‘Server 2003 is dead’ whitepaper report.

Windows XP: Where are we now?

As of this month it has been exactly one year since the ‘death’ of Windows XP. And yet, according to the latest estimates, the outdated OS is still accounting for as much as 16.9% of the overall market share. While this is a significant drop from its 19.1% share in February, it still represents a massive chunk of the operating system market. In fact, Windows XP remains the second most popular OS in the world, boasting more users than both Windows 8 and Windows 8.1 combined.
  While the continued use of Windows XP is a testament to both the usability and popularity of the 12-year-old OS, this extended use does not come without a price. According to recently announced figures, the UK government is currently paying more than £5.3 million to keep its systems updated and secure (35% of NHS computers are still running Windows XP).
  As for those of us who don’t have that sort of cash, desperate XP users have had to resort to their own ingenuity in order to maintain their favourite OS. Launched in August 2014, users can now download an unofficial ‘Service Pack 4’ for the consumer OS. This pack combining various official updates (launched for retailers and enterprise machines), along with bundled workarounds and XP registry hacks. [We wouldn’t endorse this approach, of course. Given that this is an unofficial update from an obscure source, the potential security risks are almost certainly outweighed by the costs of simply taking the time to properly migrate to Windows 7 or 8. Very little is going to beat a clean and properly implemented migration.
  And its not just consumers that are having to develop their own workarounds for the defunct OS. This April, Google was forced to extend support for its Chrome web browser, purely to accommodate the millions of users still clinging to XP.
  While preparing our clients for the switch, we at Camwood were honestly expecting a large proportion of businesses to miss the original 8th April 2014 deadline. What we did not predict however was that almost 1 in every 5 computers would still be running XP a whole 12 months on.
  While the potential security threats posed by this failure remain a concern, there is widespread optimise amongst the IT community. With Windows 10 now so close on the horizon, many businesses are simply holding off on making their migrations until the launch. As a result, we would speculate that we’ll probably see a significant drop in XP users following the (supposedly) upcoming announcement in July. For the industry’s sake we’d better do.

The End is Nigh: Three months until the “death” of Server 2003

We in the IT community are a pessimistic bunch. We have all these amazing technologies at our fingertips – cloud computing, remote working, corporate app stores – and yet all we seem to do, is talk about death.
The “death” of onsite storage, the “death” of Windows XP, and now even the “death” of Server 2003. Death is one of those useful dramatic buzzwords that we in the IT community just can’t help but drop into every headline, blog post and even conversation.
Given this morbid obsession, it seems hardly surprising that we sometimes find ourselves using it in an unjustified or purely hyperbolic way. Very occasionally however, a situation arises where ‘death’ is exactly the word that we need to be using.
Today marks three months until the death of Server 2003, and that is not meant as any kind of dramatic overstatement. Last week Microsoft announced that – unlike previous migrations – it would not be offering any deadline extension for the end of Server 2003. As a result, 14th July will now represent a hard deadline for businesses around the world. Beyond this date there will be no security updates, no compliance, and no technical support for users to turn to. For all intents and purposes, Server 2003 will be a dead OS.
Unfortunately, with 11 millions machines still running Server 2003, this is a going to prove a major problem for businesses all around the world. Of these 11 million machines, 1.6 million are expected to miss the July deadline, opening them up to a whole host of serious compliance and security vulnerabilities. Earlier this month, our CEO Ade Foxall referred to this issue as “the biggest security threat of 2015”, and I couldn’t agree more.
While we in the IT industry may be a bunch of pessimists, we do know a thing or two when it comes to our tech. With three months to go until the death of Server 2003, businesses need to be acting fast in order to shift their systems over to a more sustainable OS (whether Cloud-based or Server 2012 R2).
Now, with no safety net to fall back on, the time for discussion has long since passed. Whether businesses are ready for it not, the end is finally nigh for Server 2003.
To find out more about how to prepare your business for the switch, download our new “Server 2003 is dead” whitepaper report.

Microsoft puts the final nail in XP’s coffin

In one more month, Windows XP will officially be celebrating’s its first full year in retirement. Yes, for almost a whole year now, XP has been shuffling around the IT old folks home, presumably playing bingo with Netscape and winning arm-wrestling contests against its old pal Windows 98.
Yet despite this upcoming anniversary, it remains a worrying fact that more than 15% of the world’s computers continue to run Windows XP as their primary operating system. While it’s fair to assume that a good handful of these machines are being maintained by sentimental (if not unwise) individuals, the fact is that far more are being run as part of a larger enterprise operation. This is a dangerous game for any business to be playing, placing both their security and their customers’ data at risk.
This said however, the majority of enterprises are now paying out for Microsoft’s extended support option – at least until they get their apps migrated to Windows 7, 8 or 10. For the last year this has proved a sensible – if not costly – approach. Still, left with few alternatives, it was a price that most businesses were willing to pay.
Unfortunately however, following rumours from Microsoft last week, it looks like this cost is finally about to outweigh the benefits.
Yes, it appears that XP’s charming retirement home is planning on doubling its fees. According to this report on ComputerWorld, Microsoft is about to increase the cost of its extended support renewal from $200 a device to $400 a device – a staggering increase for any enterprise still hoping to cling to the out-dated OS.
For some in the market, this increase has been viewed as nothing more than a last-ditch attempt for Microsoft to squeeze more money out of the end of XP. Personally, we at Camwood think this is unlikely. If anything, the tech giant is playing a far longer and potentially smarter game.
The truth is that with each passing month Microsoft grows less patient with the ever shrinking community still clinging onto Windows XP. For them, as the number of large enterprise using the OS decreases, the time involved in maintaining post-life support grows increasingly costly – both in terms of development time and developer salaries. As a result, Microsoft is as desperate as anyone to move the remaining 15% away from Windows XP – especially if they can be convinced to switch to a similar Microsoft-based platform such as Windows 7 or 10.
From this perspective, it’s clear that the new pricing strategy is not some sinister ‘money grab’, but rather a forceful incentive for companies to abandon XP. Still, for the 14-year-old operating system that refuses to quit, will this decision prove the final nail in the coffin? Or is there still life in the OS yet? Only time will tell.