Pros and cons of automatic software updates
Software updates are a critical part of any IT estate and should be taken seriously when managing a 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 at important parts of their day. Many businesses opt for automatic software updates and whilst there are merits in the approach (we’ll discuss the pros shortly!) just turning everything on automatically and leaving things to do as they please isn’t good management at all. Let us explain…
What are software updates, and why are they important?
IT 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 its 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 harm. 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 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, with the need to download or install them as a user. They can be very useful if utilised properly.
Pros of automatic software updates.
The pros of an automatic software update are that the user doesn’t have to do anything. This is good because most of the time, they don’t want to. Also, humans can be very forgetful and if you’re relying on them to remember to perform an update there’s a good chance they won’t happen.
As a result of these two factors, you will in all likelihood end up with software on a multitude of different versions. Not only does this leave you open to any vulnerabilities, but it becomes very difficult for someone to manage the network when everything is different. By having your software updates run automatically this issue is eradicated and you know everything will be updated and running the latest versions.
Cons of automatic software updates.
The major disadvantage of automatic software updates is that updates aren’t always compatible with a system, another piece of software, or a network and therefore they can cause unintended problems.
This means that when automatically applied you inadvertently cause a system to crash and break, costing you time spent resolving the issue whilst your users are unable to go about their day-to-day responsibilities. Automatic software updates applied badly can also cause problems. For example, setting automatic software updates to start as your workforce all arrive in the office will only disturb their day and stop them from working, causing dissatisfaction amongst your employees.
Managed software updates.
There is a happy middle ground between manual and automatic software updates – managed software updates. This is otherwise known as patch management and can be handled by an IT managed 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.