How many times have you gotten an “update software” notification or email so far this year? How many times has that notification been cleared, trashed, or forgotten? It happens to many of us on an individual and organizational level. However, keeping your software updated regularly—especially in 2023—is vital.
How do you make sure software is routinely updated, though? We’ll get into various tips on how to do so. But first, let’s talk about why it’s important in the first place.
Why is Updating Software Important?
The simple answer is: to have the best performing software possible. Updates aren’t provided to intentionally make things worse. They exist to improve upon the last version of that software. Sometimes the updates are minor, but other times, they’re fully new versions of how the software runs. Both are important. Here are some reasons why:
- It fixes bugs: Software encounters bugs all the time. Rarely is code perfectly developed the first time around. If a previous version has an occasional issue, the software will provide an updated version to fix bugs that occur. These bugs might not happen to all users, and they might not happen all the time. But if a new version of a software is out, part of the new version is likely correcting issues with the old version.
- Helps keep your software secure: Software is regularly updated to protect and keep systems safe from cybercrime. Though your company may have a robust system in place to protect against cybersecurity threats, software often has its own protective layers built in.
- New features add to usability: Whether through UX research and design or general feedback from the public, software is often updated to improve usability and the overall user experience. If you aren’t running the latest version, your organization could be missing out on new features that will help a company operate more smoothly.
- Compliance with law: Laws often change state-by-state and country-by-country with regards to data privacy, permission, terms, and service agreements. Software updates make sure the software itself is compliant with new laws.
- Compliance with regulations: No, not a duplicate. If your organization is subject to industry regulations and standards, or any of your clients are, those regulations often have a requirement that you have updated the software used, regardless of its use internally or externally, on a certain cadence. For instance, PCI DSS requires that software be patched/updates applied within 30 days of an update becoming available.
- Compatibility with new hardware or operating systems: Software operates differently on certain operating systems (think Apple’s iOS vs. Android). Software is developed and released for most operating systems at the same time, but different operating systems make changes of their own accord. Software developers must then make their own updates to remain compatible. If an operating system needed an update, it’s likely the software running on it needed an update, too. Regularly updating all systems ensures you’re receiving the latest versions of these systems.
- Overall performance: All software applications (should) run better when up to date. They should operate smoother, quicker, and better for the user. If they don’t after an initial rollout, the development team is likely fixing bugs and issues causing it not to run as efficiently as it should. Updating the software makes sure your systems are performing as optimally as possible.
Tips for Updating Software Regularly
Now that you know why it’s important, let’s talk about how you can make sure your organization—and your employees—are updating software regularly.
Automatically Update Software
One of the easiest ways to make sure software is updated across the organization is to make automatic updates the standard across the board. This is especially true for things like:
- Company phones and laptops
- Primary communication tools like Outlook, Slack, and Teams
- Video conference software like Zoom, Webex, and Google Meet
There may be some situations where you don’t want a software to automatically update without the organization knowing it’s coming. If that’s the case, make sure teams across the organization are aware and plan to manually update instead. This is typically done through the software’s settings.
There may be times—especially with web-based applications—where a user will have to clear their cache to make sure a software update runs as smooth as possible. Though this is a manual step, it’s a process easily communicated to employees to make part of their regular operations.
Keep Devices Connected to the Internet
Part of making sure automatic updates work is making sure devices are connected to the internet. Some software won’t update if they’re simply connected to a cell tower. Staying connected to the internet ensures the device is consistently searching for updates and able to update once it identifies the need.
When talking employees through connecting their devices to the internet for the first time, let them know they should have their devices “remember” the internet connection so long as the connection is secure. The employee will likely have to manually connect to a VPN if they’re off-site, but make sure these steps are clearly defined in training and reiterated over time.
Back Up Data
Not every software update is perfect. Sometimes the previous version operates better, or updating to a new version can cause the loss of data in a new version. (The software or operating system aren’t always the issue—sometimes it’s the hardware on which they are run.) This is why backing up data is an important step in regularly updating software.
If anything is lost in a new update, there’s a backup (somewhere like in a Cloud or on a physical hard drive) to restore data.
Keep Licensing Up to Date
Some software come with a licensing agreement, where you purchase a license for access to the software. Though the software you license typically have smaller updates, software can be fully overhauled and need a new license.
Some common software with licensing agreements or one-time purchases includes Microsoft 365 and Adobe Creative Cloud. In the case of Microsoft 365 (formerly known as Microsoft Office), there was a new one-time purchase of the software released every two to three years over its history. With the new purchase, apps would have improved functionality, adaptability to recent operating systems, and more.
Be Cautious of Fake Updates
As we mentioned earlier, protecting against cybersecurity threats is a primary reason to keep software updated. Bad actors know this, though. When updating software—if it’s not done automatically—make sure the update notification is coming directly from the software itself. If you get an email saying a new operating system or update is needed, check to see who sent the email. These notifications usually come from the software development company, so double and triple check to see who is telling you to update.
If you need support in keeping your software updated, from building out your IT team to managing this entire process, our experts at Evergreen can help: