With support for Windows XP reaching its end on 8th April this year, many IT managers are looking to upgrade.

After 8th April, security risks will be rife, with the operating system open to attacks such as zero day hacks, which take advantage of unpatched vulnerabilities.

These threats will manifest themselves as escalating expenses, with costs arising through the need for security cover to protect against data breaches - as well as declining staff productivity.

For the 30 per cent of businesses still running XP, upgrading to Microsoft's latest operating system, Windows 8, has many benefits. Windows 8 is the most comprehensive overhaul of the Microsoft platform yet, offering functionality such as compatibility with the many touchscreen smartphones and tablets in the enterprise.

But inevitably, upgrading needs investment; so how do you convince your Financial Director of the cost benefits of Windows 8?

The risks of staying with XP

Staying with XP will be expensive. Microsoft charges per PC to continue to support Windows XP in the enterprise. This is on top of the additional antivirus products it will probably be necessary to run.

According to an IDC whitepaper (download PDF), having old PCs and operating systems causes costs to soar. Organisations that stay with Windows XP may face significant business risks as operations are disrupted. As a result, firms could be hit by lost revenue - as well as potential breach of information from core business applications.

And once machines are over three years old, expenses begin to accelerate. According to IDC, IT labour costs jump by 25 per cent during the fourth year of ownership and an additional 29 per cent in the fifth.

But losses are not only incurred by the machines themselves: user productivity costs may also be driven up by higher levels of downtime caused by security issues. This is in addition to time wasted waiting for help desk response - and the time spent rebooting systems.

The IDC study found that user productivity costs soared 23 per cent in the fourth year of ownership, with a 40 per cent jump during year five. Meanwhile, reboot time accounted for 28 per cent of the hours per PC per year that end users lose, according to IDC.

Worse still, IDC found that combined IT labour and user productivity costs were a 73 per cent higher when comparing year five directly with year two.

Support costs

Patch management alone accounts for a huge proportion of the operational activity investment required to support a Windows XP environment. As such, moving to Windows 8 will see IT spending less time supporting PCs, freeing them up to be more productive elsewhere.

Additionally, staying with XP beyond its end date could incur the indirect costs associated with security problems such as a virus hitting employee productivity. This type of attack can waste time by leaving staff unable to do their jobs - on top of the cost of any lost data to the business.

The financial case

The financial case for upgrading is clear: Windows XP is a security risk and it may be far cheaper to migrate to Windows 8 in the long term. Your return on investment is ensured: migrating over does not have to be expensive or time consuming. Using Dell Migration Services, the process can be quick, easy and painless.

Many businesses are therefore putting together a plan to migrate from Windows XP to Windows 8 as soon as possible. As IDC claims, this could result in great financial benefit.

By migrating to Windows 8 with the help of vendors such as Dell, cost reduction and productivity gains will be felt by the business almost immediately.