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The End of Windows XP is the Beginning of the CloudDesktop

The End of Windows XP is the Beginning of the CloudDesktop

March 2014

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The End of Windows XP is the Beginning of the CloudDesktop

 Cloud Desktop Services Austin, TX

cloud desktop1

Microsoft Windows XP, up to Service Pack 3 in its final form, will reach its ultimate End of
Support date on April 8, 2014.  While it does not seem like that long ago, Windows XP has actually been available since December 31, 2001, a time when most of our attention was being paid to New York.

What is the big deal?

Your Windows XP machine will still work, right?  Why make a change?  What is the big deal?

There have been hundreds and hundreds of security patches Microsoft has made available after the latest hole was found in Windows software. After April 8th, Microsoft will no longer release any patches or updates for XP, even if critical bugs are found.  You are on your own.

This also means that software developers can also cut ties with Windows XP and stop supporting old versions of their software, repurposing that staff to more current versions of Windows and their applications.

In short, you are going to be on an island surrounded by a sea of hackers just waiting for the next exploit in the Windows code to be revealed so they can hammer orphaned Windows XP machines without worrying about a response from Microsoft.

Learn the Risks of Not Migrating

Now What?

Qualys, a vulnerability and policy compliance cloud security firm estimates that 15% of enterprises still have some version of Windows XP in their environments, so there are still a lot of companies that need to do something, but what?

In every previous instance that this has occurred there was really only one practical solution available for the masses and that was simply buying a new machine, Mac, or PC, be it Windows Vista, Windows 7, Windows 8, or thankfully, 8.1.

This go-around, however, there is a new choice available that solves some old problems and brings some intriguing possibilities.

CloudDesktops, Desktops-as-a-Service – truly out of the box thinking.

(In full disclosure, Whitehat has a CloudDesktop offering, so I am not without my own bias).

Today Cloud Desktops, or Desktops-as-a-Service, have arrived as the much more practical, functional cousin of the miserable cloud-based PCs of the past.  Today they work and work well.  In some cases faster and better than machines actually sitting under a person’s desk.  All applications are available, high quality video playback is a reality, video conferencing, scanning stations, etc. are all no longer deal killers but actual working features. 

Sacred cows like AutoCAD and other graphically heavy applications now perform well on these virtual desktops.

While CloudDesktops may not be a perfect solution for every use case, they are a good fit for the majority of users that simply need a great machine with internet access.

The real beauty of this type of solution is businesses get to step off the PC refresh bus and the herculean efforts to migrate users every few years.  Businesses get out of the PC support business and no longer have to deal with trying to keep everyone on the same desktop OS, same Office version, etc. or spending IT support dollars maintaining multiple versions of a software package.  One bank comes to mind that was supporting 13 different versions of Microsoft Office.

The technology is here today to deliver an always-on Windows or Mac computer that never breaks, never needs updates, never has to be backed up, that always has up to date security that an end user can access from a tablet, smart phone, PC, laptop, or a public library terminal.

The capital cost of acquiring PCs is potentially gone as well, replaced by a pay-as-you-go model.

Where are the holes in this Cloud Desktop, Desktop-as-a-Service model?

So nothing is all roses, right?  There is always a hiccup somewhere.

Cloud Desktops have four issues that I see:

  1. What if you do not have internet access?  No internet access means no access to your desktop.  There are some ways to mitigate this risk to an extent, but the problem does not ever fully go away.  If, however, your phone or your 3G tablet can reach the internet, while service is down at your office, you could keep working, albeit potentially hampered by the limitations of the device you are using.
  2. Low quality desktops.  Just like everything else, all CloudDesktops are not created equal.  Some are downright painful to use for any task.  Some are browser based with quirky HTML refresh issues.  You really have to lay hands on these desktops and gauge their suitability before plunking down hard earned dollars.
  3. Substandard data centers.  By definition cloud desktops run in the cloud, in some data center somewhere.  CloudDesktops, as in our case, can be run out of three fully redundant Tier 3 data centers, or they could be run off of a single server in the backroom of your local IT provider.  The consistency and reliability can vary wildly, so make sure you know where your data is actually being housed and delivered from.
  4. Compliance and regulatory concerns.  Some cloud desktops will meet compliance and regulatory guidelines; others will not even make the attempt.  Compliance concerns are one of the drivers behind cloud desktops; just make sure your vendor meets your required standard.

If your business is a bit behind on developing a strategy to move off of Windows XP or short of the capital a move off of Windows XP will cost, you might look at CloudDesktops as a possible solution.

You can keep your older Windows XP hardware, stripped down to all but just about bare metal and point them to boot to your new cloud desktops.  Your user profiles can be migrated with personalization’s maintained, the only thing that changes is the location of your desktops.   

In short, the capability is here today to radically change the way you pay for, deliver, manage and support desktop PCs, now it is just a matter of determining if CloudDesktops are right your business.

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