As end of support/end of life for Windows XP looms ever closer, kind of like the asteroid in Armageddon, more and more people are trying to figure out what to do about it.
Sadly it will take more to deal with XP than it took for Bruce and Billy Bob to dispatch the asteroid--although at least no one has to die in space to handle your IT issues.
Breaking the problem down, there are several decision points:
- Replacement OS: assuming you are staying at the Microsoft salad bar, your choices are Windows 7 or 8 (soon to be 8.1). Microsoft's internal directive is to get people to move from XP to 8.1, but the ever-useful "XP compatibility mode" in Win7 didn't make it to Win8. More on that later.
- Hardware: If you've got a relatively new PC running XP it will probably run 8.1. But those old clunkers won't so the cost of upgrades needs to be factored in.
- Packaged software: If you're still running something as fossilized as Office 2003 you're going to have to upgrade.
- Custom apps: those internal line of business (LOB) apps written in 16-bit C++, .NET 1.1, or VisualBasic are all going to have to change or die.
Why change at all? There are, after all, ways to kick the can even further down the road. A customer recently told me his company were going to run their app on XP inside a VM on their server. Since it had no connection to the outside world they weren't concerned about potential security holes after Microsoft stops sending out patches. For desktops doing nothing is probably not much of an option unless getting hacked is your cup of tea. You can buy extended support but it will cost you your first born and your other shirt. Microsoft has no incentive to make it painless for people not to upgrade, so charging through the nose (and get this: it gets more expensive each subsequent year) is fine by them, thank you very much.
More and more of the apps you'll want to use (commercial ones, that is) are going to require either a newer version of .NET or a browser that can support HTML5 or 64-bits, or something. So sooner or later you'll have to resign from the Flat Earth Society and join the 21st century. And that means you'll have to migrate or replace some of those legacy LOB apps.
As we roll down this highway to a brave world sans our old friend XP, we'll be sharing some thoughts and insights about how to deal with the problem of legacy code to help you make the right decisions.