To Update, or Not to Update: 6 Considerations

Craig Richards
January 8, 2020

Many companies face the same ongoing challenge: how to ensure that all of their employees are working on current versions of their software while maintaining a secure network.

The question becomes Shakespearean rather quickly – to update or not to update? As most IT admins already know, there are two sides to this debate:

  • Pro-update: These folks want new features, bug fixes, and improved security as soon as possible. They are proponents of the quick or automatic update. After all, software typically moves us forward and steers toward improvement. In good faith, they argue, you should update your software as soon as possible.
  • Pro-patience: Many IT admins (perhaps even you, dear reader) want time to validate that the software works as intended and that the changes won’t interrupt any workflows. This group also prefers to take the time to update internal documentation before rolling out software updates to the entire organization.

But is there one answer? There rarely is in life. Whether your teams should download a new software update depends on your organizational culture, the tools you’re updating, and what your end users need to do on a daily basis to perform their jobs.

IT admins at companies that use mobile device management programs and Apple’s Automated Device Enrollment program to manage the software being used on their devices and networks know how well Macs and other Apple devices are set up to keep everyone working on the same version. While we’re not here to make an explicitly pro-update argument, consider these six pieces of advice for keeping your Mac-based orgs current:

1: Be More Proactive Than Reactive

Perhaps too often, IT can fall into the habit of operating reactively rather than proactively. However many tests you may want to run, we all come up against time constraints. By using the latest software as soon as it’s available, you’re installing bug fixes and security updates before there’s a problem.

2: Aim to Test the Essentials

There will never be enough time to beta test each new software update that comes out, but it is usually worth your time to make sure major OS updates won’t disrupt your team’s workflow. Aim to test any program essential to your company’s operations.

Don’t let the flood of betas overwhelm you (or waste your time). Do your best to trust the software engineers.

3: Prioritize Efficiency

If you’re having trouble prioritizing efficiency, consider this example If you’re holding back an Adobe update while paying for the enterprise software license subscription, you’re keeping your team from operating at optimal efficiency. Ultimately, it’s in your best interest to update software that you’re paying for.

4: Keep One Eye on the Long-Term

Apple’s current hardware release cadence is annual. However much you want to test new versions of software, it’s fairly common practice today for new operating systems to come preinstalled on Apple’s latest hardware. In many cases, the newest models of Mac aren’t built to support past versions of macOS.

So, if there are executive team members or marketing wonks who are eager to have the newest tech, you’re sure to find yourself working with at least one or two people who already have the latest programs on their devices. From that angle, it sounds appealing to keep everyone as up-to-speed as possible.

5: Empower Your End Users to Make Updates on Their Schedule

While it’s wise to cultivate a culture of keeping machines on your network up to date, you don’t want to micromanage every device on your network. Especially when OS updates are released (and time-consuming to download), empower end users to decide when they want to make an update. Of course, there comes a time limit to when it’s reasonable to have an old version still on your Mac.

6: Shift Your Mindset Toward True Mobile Device Management

If someone on your team works on an iPad or iPhone, and they came to you asking if they should install the latest software update, would you say yes? Without thinking twice.

Oddly, this patch-first mentality doesn’t translate over to macOS devices. Consider how much more efficient your team could be if you were to shift your mindset toward keeping everyone on the newest version available.

Mac endpoint management is easy with a cloud-based Apple device management program. You don’t have to have access to the devices in house in order to help install updates or schedule maintenance. Lean into these capabilities and make the most of the resources at your fingertips.

Use Your Mobile Device Management Savvy to Your Network Operating Smoothly

Just asking the question of whether to update is an important exercise. The process of looking for an answer for your company is worth your time because when new updates become available, the choice you’re faced may not be as simple as it appears.

As an IT admin working in a Mac-based environment, you don’t have to time to waste chasing around inventory – digital or physical. Whether you’re withholding hardware to avoid updating or you’re buying new hardware to avoid updating, if you choose not to be update-first, you’re leaving money and efficiency on the table. Take the time to back up whatever decision you make with strong organizational reasoning, wherever you land in this debate.

 

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