Windows incompatibility poses a dual threat to enterprise

The end of Internet Explorer grabbed a lot of the tech news headlines last week. But there was another interesting nugget of Microsoft-related news which went under the radar recently.

According to research of UK and US CIOs commissioned by compatibility specialist Cloudhouse, over three quarters (77%) of businesses have at least one application that is not compatible with the latest version of Windows, with up to a quarter (25%) of all applications incompatible for 89 percent of organizations.

Polling 200 CIOs at enterprise organizations in the UK and US, the research highlights a lack of preparedness for modernization among businesses, and suggests application incompatibility is a common occurrence that is threatening critical business operations today. And that’s before considering the security implications of such endemic tech incongruity.

“Having applications that aren’t compatible with the latest version of Windows can ultimately leave systems open to cyberattacks,” Nick Coleman, Cloudhouse CTO tells ERP Today. “Further to this, application incompatibility can lead to hefty financial penalties for not adhering to laws for data protection and compliance.”

A lack of CIO confidence

In Cloudhouse’s findings, almost a third of businesses (32%) reported that between 16-25 percent of their applications are critical to their business operations, while 36% cited modernization as an urgent priority. Ensuring application compatibility is therefore pivotal, but organizations are also hesitant to initiate such projects, with almost a quarter (24%) of organizations either not at all or not very confident in their ability to fully upgrade these platforms to be 100 percent compatible with the latest version of the Windows operating system.

This lack of confidence among CIOs may stem from the fact that half of all businesses (50%) feel that there is a significant amount of work to still be done to modernize applications for compatibility with newer Windows versions. Additionally, 25 percent believe that they’ve now ironed out most issues, but there is still some work to be done to ensure modernization. Only one in five (20%) have a comprehensive plan in place.

“Our research has discovered that application compatibility is, unfortunately, a common occurrence among businesses, and if left unchecked can impact the platforms that are absolutely critical to operations,” says Mat Clothier, CEO and Founder of Cloudhouse. “It’s vital for these organizations to make use of specialist tools that allow applications to be transplanted to new Windows operating systems, without losing any functionality or impact on the user experience.”

Of businesses with a plan of action, almost one in three (29%) have a primary strategy to replace their application to ensure compatibility with a new Windows version, but this is typically costly, time-consuming and may require additional training for employees to use an unfamiliar platform.

Across other findings, in the area of internal websites, respondents identified almost half (49%) of incompatible applications as desktop versions, creating a negative impact on the user experience.

Despite these findings creating a cause for concern, 55 percent of organizations plan to increase their 2022 budget for application modernization by more than a quarter (26% or above), with 17 percent planning to increase it by more than 50 percent, revealing a clear intent to improve compatibility.

Ensuring application compatibility would be wise in the fight to keep enterprises safe against cybersecurity breaches. One only needs to remember the WannaCry cyberattack in 2017, which wreaked havoc on 230,000 computers around the world. The attack exposed the true vulnerability of large organizations  running applications on an outdated, unpatched legacy system – Windows 7, as was the case with WannaCry.

“Alongside potential downtime and increased costs, (application incompatibility) can also lead to reputational damage among customers and in the wider industry,” adds Coleman. “It is far easier for businesses to proactively to keep applications up to date than to fix the problems that may arise from leaving systems vulnerable to malicious intent and therefore it should be a standard practice for any organization.”