Before you upgrade software

Whether it is a five minute browser upgrade or a five hour operating system upgrade, deciding on how to upgrade software or when to upgrade software requires careful planning.

Before starting on an upgrade process look at the read me file or release notes that are part of the upgrade package. These files contain description of the changes in this release and therefore should give an idea on any new features supported.

When to upgrade software

After getting an understanding of what this upgrade offers, answers to following questions can help decide if software upgrade is really needed now:

  1. Does the upgrade solve a problem that you are facing with the current version of the software ?
  2. Does the upgrade bring in new functionality that you can make use of ? Most vendors try to incorporate new features in the latest software releases. These feature are usually ones that were requested by lot of users or are required to maintain competitive edge.
  3. Would the old software version not have support in future ? If the software vendor has decided not to support the older version of software then maintenance could become a nightmare.
  4. Does the upgrade solve any known problems that you may not have witnessed yet but are important (For example any security issues) ?
  5. Is this a minor update of software as compared to a new major release ? The releases are numbered as “major_release_number.minor_release_number”. Minor updates increment the minor_release_number where as major releases increment the major_release_number. Minor releases do not bring in drastic changes. They usually aim to resolve some known issues in the current major release.
  6. Have all necessary plugins, external components or  interfaces by third parties been tested for compatibility with the upgraded version of the software ? As an example wordpress platform or firefox browser can interface with plugins that have been developed by the community.
  7. Does the new version have all the features that are being used ? If not, then alternatives would have to be researched such that similar functionality can be offered after the upgrade.

If your answer is Yes to any of the above questions you probably need to upgrade to the new version soon enough. However do not be the first one to perform the upgrade. Always wait a few months (three to six). By that time the internet would be full of upgrade stories from other users. That should give an indication on how smooth the upgrade process has been. This gives an opportunity to learn from what others have experienced and how they might have solved any upgrade related issues.

How and when to upgrade software ?

Upgrade software strategy

Once the decision has been made to upgrade software it should be done systematically and with a strategy in mind. Following points layout a strategy on how to upgrade software:

  1. Decide on the time of upgrade. It is advisable to pick a time when there are least number of users of the software. This should minimize any disruption.
  2. Establish a testing environment. This environment should be similar to the original software environment and should be used to upgrade the software first. If successful, then same steps can be completed on original environment.
  3. Always backup all the data before performing the upgrade. This would help in recover of data should anything go wrong with the upgrade (for example power failures during upgrade could leave the environment in an irreparable state).

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