Support for the now ancient Windows XP ends in April. We know this now; it has been drilled into us over the last twelve months and we've had plenty of time to prepare. But there are still plenty of businesses and organizations that have been slow to migrate to Windows 7 or Windows 8, and many of these machines play a vital role. The UK government is currently in talks with Microsoft to try to arrange special extended support for computers running XP in the medical sector.
After 8 April, Windows XP will receive no more security patches and is therefore at risk of attack -- systems used by the NHS (the UK's National Health Service) are obviously vitally important, but there are still a number of machines in the health system using XP. When we say "a number", we actually mean "a very large number"; there are more than a million NHS computers still running the aged operating system.
The Department of Health is hoping that a deal can be struck to extend support a little longer. As reported by the Register, this is not unheard of... but it is also not cheap. To be kept supplied with updates after the April cut-off costs $200 for the first year, $400 for the second and $800 million in the third. So to keep all of the exiting medical computers running XP supported for the next three years, a colossal $1.4 billion would have to be found from somewhere.
The Department of Health has said "We are discussing plans with Microsoft for putting in place a migration plan and extended support for the NHS."
This makes it sound as though there are plans to move onto a more recent version of Windows -- presumably Windows 8 -- but there is no mention of timescale. There has already been plenty of time for upgrades to be done, so the clock really is clicking or the costs will just keep adding up. The economics of scale would suggest that the UK government could expect to receive something of a discount if it was looking to extend support for all of its computers -- but it is still a lot of money to find.
It has been suggested that it only makes financial sense to invest in extended support for one year and to invest more money into upgrading old systems. But there are a lot of things to consider. Medical computers do not run off-the-shelf software and many applications are still in need of updating to make them compatible with more recent versions of Windows -- which will obviously involve additional cost.
The NHS is not alone, but the sheer number of computers that perform an important role in services that millions of people rely on just goes to show that Windows XP is still incredibly important.
Is your home or business ready? Have you already upgraded, or has cost put you off?