Automatic Software Updates & How To Manage Them
Software updates are a critical part of any IT estate, and they should be taken seriously when managing an IT network. Not only are software updates a key aspect in ensuring systems run effectively, but they can also help ensure networks remain secure against the threats of cyber crime.
Many businesses are aware of their importance, but it’s not just about ensuring updates are made that’s important. It’s also key that updates are managed effectively so that they don’t interrupt your workforce or annoy users with notifications during important parts of their day. That’s why many businesses opt for automatic software updates. However, it’s not always as simple as setting them up and letting them do their work. To explain, we’ve written this blog post and answered the following;
What are automatic software updates?
Automatic software updates are the process in which your software applies critical updates without seeking confirmation from a user. Software providers such as Microsoft are constantly updating their products and rolling out updates to users. This has a practical function and a more serious security function too.
Firstly, software updates ensure that a product or service remains fit for purpose. It isn’t viable to keep producing something new, and it’s unlikely that customers would buy a product that was only a slightly modified version of the last one, so updates are vital to ensure that users remain satisfied with a product and remain loyal to that brand. Whilst you may not be able to immediately spot these changes, they happen all the time, so that end-users remain satisfied. They may only be small tweaks but keeping a product running well and maintaining high performance during its life cycle via software updates, ultimately keeps customers happy.
On the other hand, many pieces of software are so vast (think of an operating system such as Windows) that there are inevitably always going to be mistakes made or weaknesses in the software that can be exploited by those wishing to cause businesses harm. Companies such as Windows work tirelessly to find these mistakes, errors, or weaknesses and fix them so that they cannot cause potential damage. When they’re found, they’re ‘patched’ and these patches form the basis of many updates.
Therefore, as well as increasing performance by providing enhanced functionality, software updates also make a product more secure. It ensures your product is well maintained and therefore less likely to fall victim to a known vulnerability. If you don’t perform software updates, your security will over time continue to get weaker, as vulnerabilities are left open and are available to be exploited.
Automatic software updates are simply a means of performing these updates automatically, without the need to download or install them as a user. They can be very useful if utilised properly.
Should automatic software updates be turned on or off?
As a rule of thumb, automatic software updates should be turned on. However, this should only be the case if someone is managing the updates. Turning automatic updates on and leaving them be, without anyone managing them, can cause problems.
Firstly, these automatic updates will be deployed when the software provider sees fit. This might not be at a time suitable or appropriate for your business. If you have ever seen an update notification and asked it to remind you later, you will understand that this can happen at any point. You don’t want computers dictating when they update, because it will inevitably disrupt and frustrate your workforce.
Secondly, whilst software updates are well-intentioned, they can on occasion cause problems. Although they will be thoroughly tested this will often be in isolation or with core hardware likely to interact with the software. It won’t have been tested within your environment, and some changes, however, small may not be compatible with your IT network. This means an automatic update may cause your IT to stop working altogether, which will be even worse if it automatically happens during an inconvenient moment!
What’s the best practice for managing automatic software updates?
The most efficient way for many businesses to manage automatic software updates is via a middle ground – managed software updates. This is otherwise known as patch management and can be handled by a managed IT services provider such as Acronyms.
In this instance, your managed services provider takes responsibility for the management of any software updates. This means that you get the benefits of automatic software updates in that you and your end-users don’t need to do anything, but also with the caution of doing things manually.
Here an IT company will set updates to run out of hours, test updates before releasing them, and be able to roll back any updates that cause any issues all whilst your workforce can carry on with their day. Also, with the knowledge of an IT managed services provider behind you, they will be able to comprehend patch notes (which detail updates and are often full of jargon!) and understand whether they are likely to cause any problems with your existing infrastructure. This proactive approach to IT support can save your business a lot of hassle, whilst ensuring that you get the performance and security benefits of regularly updated software and systems.
If you would like to find out more about how we can support your IT needs and manage your software updates please get in touch.