How failing to switch from Windows XP can cost millions

How failing to switch from Windows XP can cost millions

Summary: The failure of UK government organisations to move off Windows XP before Microsoft stops supporting the OS has led to taxpayers picking up a £5m bill for extended support.


The UK government has agreed to pay Microsoft more than £5m to extend support for Windows XP by one year.

Tens of thousands of PCs used by officials in central and local government are still running Windows XP, despite support for the OS ending on April 8.

The deal will see Microsoft provide critical and important security updates for XP, Office 2003 and Exchange 2003 to UK public sector organisations until April 8, 2015.

The extension will cost £5.584m, a sum the government claims is some £20m less than the "standard pricing" for extended support charged by Microsoft.

When asked why multiple government organisations have failed to migrate from XP, despite the end of support date being widely advertised, a spokesman for the UK Cabinet Office said such a transition can be "costly and complex" and "the main priority for public sector organisations will be to ensure a seamless transition".

The government expects "the majority of organisations to be transitioned off XP by April 2015", according to the spokesman.

"This is an important deal, which will provide continuity for all eligible government and public sector organisations while they migrate on to alternative operating systems," according to a Cabinet Office statement.

Public sector organisations must sign up for extended support, rather than automatically being eligible, and to qualify a government body must be able to demonstrate it has a plan in place to migrate from XP.

According to information released following FOI requests by The Register, tens of thousands of public sector computers will miss the April 8 date to move from XP, with many of these machines inside HM Revenue and Customs and the NHS.

Topic: Operating Systems


Nick Heath is chief reporter for TechRepublic UK. He writes about the technology that IT-decision makers need to know about, and the latest happenings in the European tech scene.

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  • how is it complex?

    wds is free, a monkey can hit F12 to image a windows PC with win 7 or 8.

    For office setup.exe /admin will preconfigure a install.

    This while they get deep discounts for being "public sector"
    • This isn't easy to do for large outfits like government

      Not sure why my entirely cogent earlier remarks were removed.

      Large government outfits have incredibly complex systems and can't use deployment technologies designed for small enterprises. Everything must be tested - interactions between custom programs and Office programs (such as DDE and OLE automation) must be checked to see if they continue to work in the new environments.

      In some cases, Windows XP may be used to operate hardware and equipment in ways that do not work in more recent environments.

      There are entirely valid reasons why governments, the largest and most complex enterprises in the world, might find these migrations long and time consuming.
    • OS security clamp

      I certainly know that in the Ministry of Defence, and perhaps other departments, they apply a security clamp on top of the standard OS. This clamp causes issues for numerous applications which were written assuming a standard OS. To make things worse an even more restrictive clamp is applied on systems accessing the most sensitive data.

      That said I'm sure similar issues were encountered by other large corporations but they managed to meet the deadline. Bottom line is that the goverment departments dragged their heels in starting the migration work and then discovered it was more complicated that originally estimated IMHO.
  • xp COST LESS

    The new systems with new compliant applications would cost far far more than the minor cost of support. Closer to billions rather than millions.
  • Failing to switch from XP will cost $millions

    All this hype from the computer industry and computer geeks reminds one of the hype around Y2K. Funny thing, the sky didn't fall in 1 Jan 2000 either.
    • Of course nothing came of Y2K

      Because a very large majority of the critical infrastructure legacy code had been fixed by the time 2000 rolled around. It sure wasn't because nothing had been done to correct the situation. A lot of effort had been put into code remediation in the last half of the 90s.
      • Thank you!

        Too many people remember the media hype (about the potential catastrophe) while ignoring the major effort invested to prevent that crisis. Yes, the sky didn't fall. The right folks made the right repairs and life went on with only minor glitches.

        Is the UK government providing an example where, due to insufficient media hype, an organization's leadership was unwilling to provide funding & priority for necessary upgrades?
  • this calculation is for whose interests ?!

    Some experts at government of UK have concluded there examinations, that Ubuntu 12.04 LTS is the most secure operating-system now as contemporary operating-system. Assumed that switching away from Windows XP would lead to financial losses, then after years - when now switching to Ubuntu 12.04 LTS - these losses will be compensated without problems, because there it is as good as possible not necessary to buy further proprietary software for Ubuntu. With proprietary operating-systems and their planned obsolescences (one needs addtional software to buy ...) the costs are exploding ...
    • Funny, the article didn't mention Ubuntu

      Sad, though, that the U.K. government doesn't support one of its own businesses. Canonical, Ltd., after all, is HQ'd in the U.K. on the Isle of Man.
      Rabid Howler Monkey
      • Reply to "Funny, the article didn't mention Ubuntu"

        And the Canadian gov't didn't go for CorelLinux. Who cares? Microsoft is better.
        Time Agora
        • Time Agora: "Microsoft is better"

          Using what metric(s)? According to GCHQ, Ubuntu is more secure than Windows:

          Surely, there must be some branches in the U.K. government where operating system security is an important metric ...
          Rabid Howler Monkey
          • Reply to Rabid Howler Monkey

            Ubuntu, security by obscurity. The NSA has been all over Linux, they'd crack the granola cruching let's all hold hands Ubuntu is a microsecond.

            I read the article. It didn't point out a single problem with Windows 7/8/9, yet there were several issues with Ubuntu.

            I can quite imagine the gov't granola crunchers working away doing their little study, smoking the ganga .. but smart people like you should have the sense to take off the rose coloured glasses.
            Time Agora
          • Time Agora: "Ubuntu, security by obscurity"

            There's nothing obscure about the AppArmor and Yama Linux security modules. The code is open source for all to see. And the fact is that one can harden applications more tightly with AppArmor profiles than one can with Windows integrity levels, even the improved integrity levels in Windows 8.
            Rabid Howler Monkey
          • Reply to Rabid Howler Monkey "..obscurity"

            Yawn. You know that's not what I meant. Just because a few hundred people and a couple Barvarian town councils have gotten away with being "secure" running an obscure operating system like Ubuntu, doesn't make Ubuntu secure.

            Take a look at the patch list of a typical GNU + Linux distro, it's as long as my arm, longer even:


            Secure, my tukus.
            Time Agora
          • Lol!

            Time Agora wrote:
            "Just because a few hundred people and a couple Barvarian town councils ..."

            How about Google? Google uses the Ubuntu desktop including support from Canonical, Ltd.:

            Rabid Howler Monkey
          • Reply to Lol!

            And look at how Google's messed up YouTube. Google - a proven competitor to Microsoft BTW - has a few thousand desktops running Ubuntu, and they do it to be all hip to each other - and there's a whole slew of programmers already there to service the monster, so, so what? My point still stands. It's an obscure operating system with installs better measured in the thousands, and it needs an army of programmers to keep it.

            You actually help prove my point that Windows is better.
            Time Agora
          • Time Agora: "they do it [run Ubuntu] to be all hip to each other"

            No, it's Google's policy: either Ubuntu or OS X for one's PC. The hipsters most likely use OS X.
            Rabid Howler Monkey
          • Reply to "..hip.."

            "The hipsters most likely use OS X."

            LOL, 'have a nice day.
            Time Agora
        • Corel stopped supporting Linux about a decade ago

          As soon as Microsoft invested in them. Ridiculous argument.
          • Reply to Rick_R

            The point is a big "so what" about the fact that Ubuntu is U.K. headquartered or whatever. I've seen that before with CorelLinux. It's not a good reason to go with Ubuntu. Even Linux Mint is better than Ubuntu, let alone Windows 7.

            The best choice for the gov't there is probably Windows 9. The retraining and the program rewriting costs would be significantly less than switching to UNIX knock offs and the thousands and thousands of half-baked alpha quality apps that fill any typical distro. Then there's the matter of distros: which one of hundreds ? and the library incompatibilities ? and driver support ? and who is responsible for patching? .. it's just endless.

            No matter what, they will have to settle on one company simply for sanity's sake, so it might as well be Microsoft: they're business oriented to begin with, NT is more modern, and it will be easier and less expensive in the long run.
            Time Agora