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Worries about XPSP2 migration slow service pack deployment

Windows-based enterprises are taking their sweet time implementing the newly available Windows XP Service Pack 2 (XPSP2). The reason for this foot dragging? Expectations that XPSP2 migration will negatively impact business continuity in their organizations.

That's one of the conclusions of a recent survey of more than 100 IT managers at mid- to large-sized corporations conducted by research firm InsightExpress. Half the respondents admitted to holding back on the upgrade because they feared that it would disrupt their business. Their top two concerns: worries that XPSP2 will break applications and widen communications gaps between end-users, the help desk, and IT desktop management.

Other findings in the survey: 79% of the IT managers plan to deploy XPSP2 within the next six months; 49% believe that better protection against viruses and worms will be the biggest benefit of the XPSP2 migration; and 37% believe that their companies will benefit from the increased security.

Security is a focus of the XPSP2 release. The service pack introduces a new Windows Security Center to XP desktops, which provides a centralized location to view and manage a system's security-related components.

Companies have a reason to be wary of the upgrade, says META Group analyst Steve Kleynhans. Managing the XPSP2 upgrade in bigger organizations is no picnic.

"Most organizations are likely to find some applications that will operate differently or in some cases fail outright," Kleynhans writes in a recent META report. "Help desk personnel must be trained to deal with the potential issues users will encounter. However, the benefits of the update outweigh these problems and provide a good foundation for securing corporate desktops, though we caution that organizations must still look to third-party products to complete their endpoint security."

InsightExpress conducted the survey for SupportSoft, a Redwood City, CA-based provider of "real-time service management" (RTSM) software, which is designed to ease enterprise technical support and provide for IT endpoint automation. The survey involved 117 IT managers at companies of 500 or more employees.

"Because the effects of SP2 are far-reaching, it can expose the many gaps between end-users, the help desk, and IT desktop management," says Chris Grejtak, SVP of products and marketing at SupportSoft. "If these groups don’t coordinate with one another, companies may compound technical issues that arise during migration."

SupportSoft's solution is to bridge the gap in communications between these groups to avoid breaks in business continuity. The company divides the migration process into three phases: "pre-migration readiness," update deployment, and employee communications.

The company's "X-Celerated Enterprise" approach provides a closed-loop strategy to automate all of these phases with a set of software offerings (Endpoint Automation Suite, Self-Service Suite, and Intelligent Assistance Suite), released this past week.

Microsoft released XPSP2 in August. Last week the Redmond, Wash. software giant announced that the upgrade had been distributed to more than 110 million customers worldwide.

Industry watchers have been mostly positive in their assessment of the value of the service pack. Of course, nothing in the software world is perfect. Last Wednesday, Microsoft issued a hotfix for a problem in Internet Explorer 6.0 that could allow hackers to bypass new XPSP2 security features.

About the Author

John K. Waters is a freelance writer based in Silicon Valley. He can be reached at john@watersworks.com.

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