You’ve trained for business continuity challenges. You’ve planned and practised, in case that server crash, flood, fire or earthquake hits your business tomorrow. But all these events are subject to chance. They may or may not happen. Here’s another challenge to business continuity that will certainly happen however, and that is likely to affect a vast number of organisations and enterprises around the world. It’s the end of support by Microsoft for its Windows XP operating system. To understand why this is such a major event, after over 12 years of XP existence, we should start by looking at some of the statistics.

Between one quarter and one third of the world’s desktop computers are estimated to still be running Windows XP. That’s huge. Not only that, but Windows XP has also found its way into other systems as an embedded operating system: ATM networks are just one example. XP’s longevity has been helped by its quality as an operating system (relatively good) and the opinion of users of the Windows Vista OS that followed it (relatively poor). Microsoft has supplied both patches and support up to the current day. When this stops on April 8 of this year (2014) however, users may find themselves exposed to a variety of risks.

The threat from cybercriminals may increase. Hackers may be storing up attacks on XP to unleash them after the end of support in April, when no coordinated response will be available to counter them. Buying support from third parties moving to fill the support void left by Microsoft is one option, although this may become expensive. Upgrading to a later, supported version of the Windows operating system is another. However, Windows 8 isn’t everybody’s favourite either. In short, if you want to know how good your business continuity planning and management is, trying to figure out how to handle XP end-of-support could be the test you’ve been waiting for.