Can businesses stick with Windows XP and still avoid a hacking disaster?

Cost appears to be the main issue in moving away from XP, so how can organisations migrate from the platform in a cost-effective manner?

Galindo suggests organisations isolate the XP machines from the internet or the network if possible, then purchase low-cost replacements to fill in the functionality that is not achieved on XP.

"In some instances, it may be viable to run XP and any applications that need it in a virtual machine on a modern Windows or Mac computer, allowing the organisation to decommission the older hardware, whilst still allowing legacy software to work," he observes.

But Daniel Simmons, Technical Architect at Trustmarque, says that while replacing non-compatible applications or hardware with a new version is certainly the most reliable method, unfortunately, it's the most expensive as well.

If the application is mission-critical or otherwise strategic to operations, then if possible, this is the preferred route. Otherwise, there are a number of tools that can be used together to fix some compatibility problems when migrating operating systems, such as group policy and shims.

"This is the more cost-effective route, and might be the only option if the application vendor is no longer around. There are also a number of third-party tools, such as AppZero, that can help bridge compatibility issues and can be very useful in migration strategy," says Simmons.

Stuck on you

We can talk about moving away, but will organisations ever truly move away from XP and IE? Morrish thinks it will eventually happen but will take time. "Pockets of XP will remain, but proportionally they'll become fewer and more niche."

Galindo says that as long as Windows XP and older Internet Explorer versions keep working, there will be businesses out there that will carry on using them. "It wouldn't be a surprise if we still see XP in use at a business for at least the next five years," he says.