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For Businesses, It's Slow Going With Windows XP's SP2

Despite the promise that Microsoft's Windows XP Service Pack 2 release will make PCs more secure, many businesses haven't even begun deploying it. One analyst warns that if companies don't pick up the pace of SP2 rollouts, they could face financial exposure if their computers are compromised without it.

Microsoft made SP2 available to business customers via download on Aug. 9, and by the end of the month, company officials said more than 1 million copies of the superpatch had been downloaded by businesses and many more by consumers. But it appears that many of those copies of SP2 are still running in test environments, as IT professionals check its compatibility with their applications and infrastructure software. "The patch is being applied very slowly," says Rob Enderle, principal analyst with the Enderle Group. "It's a large, complicated patch."

It could be six months before Harris Corp. begins to install SP2 on 5,000 Windows XP PCs and another three months for the process to be completed, says Richard Plane, the company's chief technologist for information services. In testing, Harris has run into "significant issues with applications compatibility," he says. The company's IT staff has identified 14 of its applications that don't work with SP2, including several of Microsoft's own applications. "Although it's deemed a critical patch, we can't idle our business to do it," Plane says.

Harris' Windows XP laptops and PCs already run on Microsoft's earlier Service Pack 1. As long as Microsoft continues to provide fixes to SP1, Plane says, the company's Windows XP computers should be in good shape. Like many other companies, Harris has thousands of desktop computers that run earlier versions of Windows, for which SP2 isn't an option at all.

Steve Wierenga, VP of IT with Ajacs Die Sales Corp., has installed SP2 on two home computers, but he's putting off the upgrade on his company's two dozen PCs until a few more pieces are in place. "Home users have a different experience than enterprise users," Wierenga says. "At home, they should see the firewall and antivirus [functions], because they're the administrator of their own computer. In a corporate environment, that's the job of the system administrator."

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