Do I really need to upgrade my software (again!)?

‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ or so the saying goes. It isn’t a bad motto to stick with for most things but that doesn’t mean it is the definitive answer for software upgrades.

When you think about software, you’re often only thinking about what you can see or possibly configure. Behind the scenes there is a lot more activity going on that makes upgrading something that ‘isn’t broken’ considerably more important.
The adage of ‘tip of the iceberg’ springs to mind. You can see what is above the water quite clearly but underneath the water, well… that’s a whole different story. This applies to software as well.

To break it down there will always be four fundamental sections:

  • The software – what you can see and touch.
  • The database – where all the data, configuration and structure of your software exists.
  • The operating system – where all the above is stored and run upon.
  • The computer – large or small; these are the physical hardware components needed to run everything.

You need all these sections to work in harmony for your software to function effectively. If they all work now, surely, they will continue to do so? Unfortunately, this isn’t necessarily true. Let’s start with the basic hardware. Components will wear out (e.g. fans for cooling your device), hard drives will fail, RAM will fail, and the CPU can fail too. As technology advances, you will find replacements are not readily available so your only choice will be to upgrade the hardware.

Next, operating systems such as Windows Server or Linux. These are constantly being developed, with new versions being released and old versions being condemned to history. For the older versions, support from the provider eventually stops so upgrading is a must for continued stability and security. Sitting on top of the operating system will be your databases. As new versions come out, older versions will often not run on the newer operating systems. Systems like MySQL databases lose support from their developers. Again, they need to be regularly upgraded to keep in line with the technology changes.

Finally, your GUI (Graphical User Interface) software; the systems you use on a day to day basis. New versions of your software are constantly being developed, using the latest technologies to provide you with a better and hopefully improved application. These will not run on older databases or operating systems as they are not supported so you are back to upgrading. The other big consideration is cybercrime. In the UK alone, cybercrime earned around £3.6 billion in 2015 (CCFS, 2016). The global cost of cybercrime has now reached as much as $600 billion — about 0.8 percent of global GDP — according to CNBC in 2018. Slightly more concerning is the growth from 2014 where the global cost was ‘only’ $445 billion, that’s a 35% increase. The IT development that needs to happen to try to keep up with this threat is obviously considerable.

As you can see, upgrading isn’t as simple as just keeping your day to day systems going. My top pieces of advice would be:

  1. Regular and planned upgrading – don’t wait until things break or stop working.
  2. Understand the new features – these can really move your business processes forward.
  3. Security – regular upgrades will ensure security bugs or new legislation is implemented as soon as possible leaving you with peace of mind.
  4. Don’t get caught with ‘end of life’ software – when software reaches ‘end of
    life’, people stop working on it. No support, no development, no upgrades.
  5. Performance – software needs to perform well to both do its job and maintain engagement and efficiency. Upgrading will keep your system at peak performance.

By Charlie Stockford, CEO