Dell Fast Forwards Windows XP Migration

Dell has launched a new Windows Migration service called Fast Forward to help small and midsized businesses (SMBs) step up from Windows XP and to avert potentially damaging business disruptions when Microsoft will end support for Windows XP and finally put the aging operating system out to pasture.

The Windows Migration Fast Forward suite of technology and services offerings modernizes computing environments that still run the nearly 12-year-old Windows XP OS. Aimed at speeding the transition to Windows 7 and 8, Fast Forward leverages Dell-patented technologies, in the form of pre-packaged modules, that provide automated planning, image creation, application inventory and compatibility testing and deployment services for up to 5,000 devices.

And there’s no time like the present. In a recent Direct2Dell blog post, Tom Kendra, vice president and general manager of Dell Software, outlined the hazards of starting the migration process too close to the April 8, 2014 deadline.

“Considering most industry pundits predict it takes between 12 to 24 months to complete an OS migration, there will be lots of procrastinators paying the price in terms of significant custom support costs and higher security risks when Microsoft’s April 2014 end-of-support deadline for Windows XP hits,” wrote Kendra.

The offering, while new, has its roots in a Dell Services segment that does a brisk business. Every year, according to Jefferson Raley, portfolio manager for Dell Services, reports that Dell will “migrate more than a million computers for our customers.” The ability to work at that scale comes in handy, says Raley. It allows the company to quickly migrate SMBs off of XP before they face a security nightmare.

R.I.P. Windows XP

On April 8, 2014, roughly 6 months from now, Microsoft will end support for Windows XP (along with Office 2003 or Windows Small Business Server 2003). As a result, the company will no longer issue updates, bug fixes and security patches for the OS.

Next spring, SMBs that haven’t upgraded their desktops are playing with fire, cautions Raley. XP traditionalists “not only have the problem that Microsoft won’t patch XP anymore, hackers are actually holding onto malware” in anticipation of the support cutoff date, he warns.

Rather than tip their hands early, hackers are keeping a lid on malicious code that exploits vulnerabilities in XP. Once Microsoft drops its guard, they plan to release malware knowing that the software giant won’t counter it. Worse, Microsoft’s actions after April 8 may unintentionally undermine XP.

Raley warns that since multiple versions of Windows often share the same vulnerabilities, Microsoft may be “inadvertently shining a light on exploits in XP” when the company patches Windows 7 and 8, says Raley. Businesses also face abandonment by independent software vendor (ISV) and hardware vendors. As soon as Microsoft drops XP support, expect ISVs to follow suit and for hardware makers to cease distributing drivers, if they haven’t already done so.

Making matters worse, XP remains popular. “About 21 percent of PCs still run Windows XP. This is an industry-wide issue that many of our customers are dealing with right now,” said Kevin Jones, vice president and general manager of Dell infrastructure and cloud computing services, in a statement.

“Our goal is to provide organizations of all sizes with an efficient migration solution. The Windows Migration Fast Forward Service adds to Dell’s complete suite of migration offerings that make upgrading to Windows 7 or Windows 8 fast, simple and affordable,” said Jones.

There’s plenty of time if organizations act now. “We can get organizations off of XP by that April deadline,” said Raley.

Pedro Hernandez is a contributing editor at Small Business Computing. Follow him on Twitter @ecoINSITE.

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