Update Advice

This was originally posted on NPowering, the blog of NPower Seattle on March 25, 2011. Re-posted here.

There’s a lot of tech news this week regarding updates – Service Pack 1 for Windows 7 has recently been released as well as Internet Explorer 9 and Firefox 4. While we generally recommend keeping software up-to-date, we also recommend that people do some research and planning before going through with updates and upgrades to make sure that you won’t experience negative effects. Here are some guidelines and advice to help you know when to update:

  • Check in with your tech support before running the updates on your own. Many tech support staff or consultants will set up a system to update all computers on the network when it’s proven safe, so that you don’t have to spend your personal time on the issue. Even if they don’t have that set up, they are likely to know which programs may be affected by the update and should be able to give you advice or guidance moving forward.
  • Look up your frequently used, web-based programs to make sure they are compatible with the new versions of internet browsers. It’s pretty common for a browser-update to cause problems with web-based programs when they are first released (especially older programs), so it’s important to check this out. You may want to double-check the list of vital web-based software with your staff to make sure you won’t leave anyone unable to work.
  • Don’t forget about remote staff. Staff members working from home have different needs than those working in the office. They may use web-access versions of software and email programs that work differently and have different browser requirements than those used by office staff. Make sure that you check in with them when looking for web-based programs to check and that they are included in your tests. If you are looking to run these updates on your home computer, check with your tech support contact at work to make sure that the update will not leave you stranded and unable to work from home.
  • Start by updating a single workstation, and check for problems there before having all staff update. Even if you didn’t turn up any known problems in your research, it’s still a good idea to test on a single workstation.
  • Make sure you have time and support in place before upgrading. Browser updates typically don’t take too much time, but installing a service pack for your operating system usually does. If your organization doesn’t have on-site tech support, make sure you arrange to have access to tech support when updating in case any issues arise.

We hope that you find this information useful, and that you are successful in your update. Remember that NPower consultants are available if you are interested in having help when it’s time to update your organization’s workstations.

How does your organization handle operating system and browser updates/upgrades? Help us continue this conversation in the comments.