Re: Whither Windows?
XP in a VM is isolated from underlying changes to hardware or, by and large, to the host operating system. You could use Win7/8 or any one of a range of Linux distros, depending on your use-case and licensing costs, etc.
In my experience the XP VM runs as well, if not better, under Linux as natively (intensive graphics aside) and you can save & restore from backup in minutes if corrupted. You can also have several VM, each with different software that won't play happy together, and run the one you need at a given time.
As such, you can also run RAID on the host machine for better availability, etc, and the workings of that need not concern the VM, it just sees the virtual disk as a file stored somewhere.
As for time, skill, etc, needed, well this is El Reg and folk here are discussing how they choose to solve things. If you don't know then find someone who can advise and implement, and pay them for it. Simplez!