Moving from XP to Windows 7 Can Save IT Money

Ten-year-old O/S costly to IT says IDC study funded by Microsoft.

A new IDC study study released last week suggests that that organizations can save money by moving from Windows XP to Windows 7.  The study was commissioned by Microsoft, which wants to move IT away from the 10-year-old Windows XP, whose grip on the commercial world is still strong.

In the report, IDC estimates that by the end of 2011, Windows XP was still running on 42 percent of commercial Windows clients. It expects that figure to drop to 11 percent by the end of 2014.

IDC's report, Mitigating Risk: Why Sticking With Windows XP Is a Bad Idea, is a financial analysis based on interviews with nine "large" organizations (the enterprises had an average of 3,680 employees each). The study quantified the costs associated with remaining on Windows XP and included lost user productivity time, IT support costs, and help desk expenses. Unaccounted for in the study is the costs associated with updating applications to work with Windows 7.

Of course, security should be a principal concern for organizations still using Windows XP, and the operating system will lose security-patch support by April 8, 2014, which in accordance with Microsoft's product life cycle schedule. When Windows XP moves out of its "extended support" phase, IT will no longer recieve "security updates, (paid) hotfix agreement support, and per-incident support services," according to IDC's report. An alternative for organizations would be to pay Microsoft for "custom support," an expensive option.

IDC puts the annual cost for organizations to maintain a Windows XP-based PC at $870 and $168 for a Windows 7 PC.  Thus, organizations can potentially save roughly $700 per PC per year by moving to Microsoft's newer OS based on IDC's estimates.

The report divides Windows XP user productivity costs into six categories, including time lost to malware, for reimaging a PC, time waiting for reboots, downtime, and time waiting for help desk support. Reboots and malware constituted the top two productivity time wasters among users.

"Overall, user productivity is dramatically boosted by Windows 7, while Windows XP users are saddled with 7.8 additional hours of lost time per year compared with their colleagues using Windows 7," the report points out.

Lost IT productivity time using Windows XP is listed in the report under "operational activities" and "downtime-related activities." Patch management and deploying applications topped the operational activities as time wasters for IT pros. Meanwhile, the top issues causing downtime for IT pros were dealing with malware and providing help desk support.

"Moving to Windows 7 will reduce the time invested in patch management by 82%," the report claims. The study estimates that over a three-year period, organizations that move from Windows XP to Windows 7 will have a 137 percent return on investment. However, the study acknowledges that in addition to the capital expenditures needed for the migration, organizations will have operational expenditures, which are more difficult to calculate. The study optimistically states that "once an upgrade is completed, and the operational costs are lowered, those operational cost benefits continue to accrue into the future with no further direct capex investment."

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.