With only six months to go before Microsoft ceases support for the Windows XP operating system, and with the Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council’s recent statement warning banks and credit unions about the soon-obsolete platform, a healthy number of financial institutions find themselves preparing to upgrade sometime between now and next April.
With that in mind, we asked Safe Systems CTO Brendan McGowan a few questions about what it means when an operating system reaches its end of life and what to expect when upgrading your institution’s machines.
TechComply: What is the risk if an institution chooses to run an operating system or any software that is no longer receiving first-party support from its manufacturer?
McGowan: First off, when it comes to Windows XP, the operating system will not suddenly stop working after next April. The patches and OS support by Microsoft will stop. The majority of institutions that consider this an emergency will likely do so because the lack of support and because future maintenance does not comply with their internally defined risk tolerance. For everyone else, sufficient time remains to make a well planned migration off of XP. For any institution that does not already have plans to migrate off of XP, I would recommend making it a priority to be XP-free within the next 12 months.
TechComply: How long is the process of upgrading an institution’s machines to Windows 7 or Windows 8?
McGowan: The time it takes to upgrade a workstation is quite variable depending on the quantity and complexity of the user applications. Another major factor can be the level of user customization that the IT staff must support. It is a lot more efficient for a standard configuration to be deployed to many workstations than it is to make sure that every user has all of the personal customization they were used to on their old PC.
As far as the time to go to Windows 7 versus Windows 8, the deployment process is not much different. Users require a little more time to adjust to Windows 8 compared to Windows 7, but the Windows 8.1 release that is due on October 18 promises to ease that pain. Most institutions must still evaluate the compatibility of their core applications with Windows 8.
TechComply: What are the biggest challenges institutions can expect to encounter with these operating systems upgrades?
McGowan: Some institutions have not performed workstation OS upgrades in 10 years, and have forgotten what the challenges are. The biggest challenge is balancing the efficiency of deployment against the user expectation. The more standardized the OS, application and peripheral configurations can be, the more efficient and lower cost the installation labor can be.
When the users understand before the project begins that they will be receiving a standard configuration that does not include their favorite customizations, the more accepting they will be of the new system. Conversely, when the IT staff needs to accommodate every user request, the project labor can get very expensive and it can become hard to tell when the project is complete.
Remember: your bank or credit union does not have to undergo an operating system upgrade all on its own. Safe Systems and others offer project management services for those instances where specific software and regulations call for explicit installation setups and procedures specific to banks and credit unions.
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