Need to stick with XP? 3 options for the end of support

The end of official Windows XP support from Microsoft is now less than nine months away, but many businesses, for various reasons, can”t pry themselves away from the more-than-decade-old OS. 

Despite warnings about the serious security threats machines will face once the operating system no longer receives updates to fix vulnerabilities, some experts estimate that at the end of this year.

And, according to IDC researchers, most of those machines are being used in business environments.

Why are so many businesses using the aging OS despite the imminent risk after XP support ends in April 2014? The top reason: Organizations need XP to run legacy software, according to a report released by Avanade UK earlier this year. Among the 200 IT managers and CIOs surveyed, 80% are concerned that moving on from Windows XP will leave them without support for several critical business applications.

How businesses can protect themselves

If an organization truly is stuck using XP for part of its operations, the IT department must take some steps to keep unpatched vulnerabilities from threatening sensitive corporate data. Here are some of the options experts recommend:

  • Isolate systems — The best way to avoid attacks targeting an unsupported XP is to move the OS and all the applications that run on it away from the Internet.
  • Virtualize — If XP apps need Internet access, another way to quarantine those systems is to run XP in a virtual machine that”s configured to restrict access to the hard drive and other components of the device it”s hosted on.
  • Buy customized support — Earlier this year, Microsoft did announce it would sell custom XP support plans for businesses that want to pay to have vulnerabilities that affect them patched. But with estimated prices ranging from $600,000 to $5 million for the first year, that”s not a viable option for most organizations.