We knew that this day would eventually come: the end-of-life for Windows XP. If your company is currently running a desktop application for XP SP3 or Office 2003 or applications written in the Microsoft .NET 1.1 framework, you have probably heard some rumblings about the impending end of mainstream support for these technologies. So what exactly does “end-of-life” and “end of mainstream support” mean, and in what ways will affect your business’s systems?

End-of-life is a term used to indicate that the vendor of a particular product, in this case software and software frameworks, will no longer be marketing, selling, or sustaining that product. So in the case of Windows XP, this means that Microsoft will stop selling the product entirely, but more importantly, that Microsoft will no longer be providing support and updates for the system or building security patches for bugs.

The Bad News

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After April 8th, the official end of support date, any businesses running Windows XP SP3 and Office 2003 will be exposed to a number of potential security and compliance risks without the option of the previous paid and free support offerings from Microsoft. That means major performance lags and a high risk of being hacked.

Time is running out: if your company has not already started taking measures to migrate to a modern framework, such as Windows 7 or 8, it’s time to take action. Unfortunately, an upgrade isn’t just a matter moving your XP or .NET 1.1 app to an updated framework. Applications written in .NET 1.1 are not compatible with the newer Windows frameworks, which means that either a partial or complete rewrite in .NET 2.0 or greater. In general, enterprise system deployment timeframes can range from 18 to 32 months – that’s the time it takes to audit, rewrite, migrate, deploy and test updated systems.

Furthermore, any integration with 3rd party services or third party libraries within a 1.1 applications are also written to work with the 1.1 framework, and might not be available for 2.0 and greater due to those services end-of-life or even companies’ end-of-life. There could be a host of reasons why certain libraries or APIs become suddenly unavailable. Many companies are having to rework their business workflow to accommodate these incompatibility issues.

What Do We Do Now?

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First, use some forward thinking when it comes to any product lifecycle and end of support. If your plan is to update your desktop systems for Windows 7, think about what the next couple years will entail. Does it make more sense to make the jump all the way to Windows 8, the most recent version of Windows, in order to avoid another major migration in the near future?

Next, consider which solution is better for your business functions: a desktop application or a web application. Web applications provide for remote data access, providing increased mobility, and are much easier to upgrade than desktop applications. This means that the cost of maintenance for a web application is more affordable than it is for desktop. For example, for third party integrations, the third party company is much more likely to keep their libraries/API up-to-date since their clients are always upgrading along with web technologies. Finally, web apps are more secure than ever. Back in 2001 when Windows introduced XP as the successor to Windows 2000, companies were more wary of going to a full web application because of security risks and the availability of broadband at the time. Now that those concerns are largely mitigated, it makes more sense for companies to make the investment in a web application rewrite.

The Case For Consulting

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The best way to ensure that your company is taking a step in the right direction is by making a small investment in technology and business consulting. A code audit generally costs less than $2000, but can provide invaluable insight into your systems and the best direction for your business. Making the necessary upgrades to your existing desktop application might only cost you $10K up front, but it’s not the most scalable and maintainable solution considering the rate of innovation these days. On the other hand, a complete rewrite for web can be quite costly, generally in the $80 – $100K range, but will provide a long-term strategy for your business with less expensive upgrades along the way. For the budget sensitive, look for a company that can provide you with a mixed approach; perhaps rewrites to only a few aspects of your system and upgrades to others.

For more information about the Windows XP SP3 and Office 2003 end-of-life or for a consultation specific to your business’ needs, visit our website or contact one of our expert technology consultants today!