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From 32 to 64-bit: Ensuring a smooth transition

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The arrival of Windows 11 came with some surprises for users, requiring much clarification from Microsoft in the days following its initial reveal. For many, the news that the upgrade would only be available as a 64-bit OS signified a substantial disruption to the status quo. Organisations may well be wary about the implications of this change for the applications they currently rely on. 

While Microsoft is keen to communicate that 32-bit apps will continue to be supported on Windows 11, the retirement of the 32-bit edition raises questions about how consistent the functionality of these legacy apps will be. In addition, there is no guarantee that these applications will remain secure without the necessary updates. Businesses, therefore, risk the possibility of an app being unable to provide critical services to the organisation and its customers as they transition to a new OS.

When making the shift, businesses need a solution that enables them to guarantee app reliability throughout. Having key processes in place will allow organisations to plan ahead and pre-empt any incompatibility issues, thereby making the transition as painless as possible.   

Compatibility packaging technology

Businesses can be forgiven for not celebrating every aspect of the move to Windows 11. Upgrading all devices can be an expensive and complex venture – but it is a move that is essential to avoid the security risks of operating an unsupported end-of-life system. Delaying the migration for too long may result in an even more costly reliance on Microsoft Extended Security Updates (ESUs).

The priority must be to ensure 32-bit apps remain compatible with the new system. This is especially the case within public sector organisations. There are noteworthy precedents of vulnerabilities in legacy IT systems being exploited by cybercriminals: the 2017 WannaCry ransomware attack derailed the NHS, resulting in the cancellation of thousands of appointments and a repair bill running into the tens of millions.

The subsequent investigation found that the attack was “relatively unsophisticated” and “could have been prevented” using “basic IT security best practice”, further underlining the need to consistently adapt to the latest systems. Organisations large and small need to protect reliable applications whilst keeping up with the pace of innovation and change.

Application compatibility tools and packaging services provided by a technology partner like Cloudhouse are a means of allowing  32-bit apps to run on newer operating systems (OS). The technology works by using install capture and run-time analysis to initially package the application. Redirections are applied to the application’s file and registry, runtimes are isolated so that only the packaged application uses it and packages are then deployed with existing management tools and processes.

While the most important result for organisations is continued reliability, this method also avoids the need for comprehensive training or infrastructure changes. Therefore, the significant costs and resources associated with such measures are not incurred.

The importance of planning ahead

With the official end-of-life date for Windows 10  almost four years away (14th October 2025), some businesses may be tempted to put the transition to 64-bit Windows 11 on the back burner to address more immediate issues. This approach is unwise: Windows 10 is already being deprecated on a frequent basis ahead of time, leading to critical functions becoming unsupported or even removed in their entirety. It is therefore critical for businesses to plan ahead as soon as possible and make the move to Windows 11 before these changes create unnecessary problems.

Previously described as the ‘last version’ of Windows by Microsoft, the changed messaging in the light of Windows 10’s journey into obsolescence illustrates how technology is constantly evolving and altering the status quo. It, therefore, shows that businesses not only need to employ solutions that allow applications to be effectively shifted from OS to OS, but they also need technology that can flag any potential incompatibility issues as the treadmill of change continues. Businesses that are proactive in employing robust technological solutions stand to reap the rewards of moving to a new operating system.

The right technology solutions allow visibility across the entire IT infrastructure, allowing them to monitor what is out of date and automatically achieve compliance through the pursuance of best practice configuration. Historical data can also give businesses insights into how a system has changed over time and how it might further evolve in the future.

With change comes opportunity

With the optimum processes in place, organisations can keep pace with the continuous cycle of change. They will be able to plan ahead and mitigate potential 32-bit compatibility issues as Windows 11 is introduced, lessening the risk of downtime or data loss. Furthermore, they will be well-positioned to address any further changes as Windows 11 itself and its successor become end-of-life systems in the years to come.

Crucially, no server or operating system provides value for an infinite amount of time. 64-bit operating system editions are unlikely to be the very last. Therefore, businesses must capture external factors as they change and capitalise on the opportunities such developments bring.

In order to remain efficient, competitive, and profitable, organisations need to keep an agile and forward-thinking mindset. The right technology allows for legacy applications to provide optimum value as the landscape around them continues to shift. During this transition and the next, businesses must invest in the optimum tools and solutions to stay ahead of the game.   

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Mat Clothier is CEO and Founder at Cloudhouse, he leads the company ensuring that enterprises can give all their applications a future without having to needlessly re-engineer when moving existing Windows based applications to the Cloud or Windows 10. Previously Mat was Chief Technology Officer for Cloudhouse with a demonstrated history of working in the information technology and services industry. Skilled in App Virtualization, Microsoft Technologies, Managed Services, Enterprise Software, and PaaS. Mat is a strong entrepreneurship professional with a Bachelor of Science (BSc) focused in Computer Systems Networking and Telecommunications from University of Plymouth.