We all know the old saying – “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. It seems to make a lot of sense. But in the context of operating systems, particularly those of the desktop and laptop fleet, it doesn’t necessarily hold true. I have seen this used by businesses in the past to delay or avoid IT spend on operating system upgrades. After all, who would want to introduce potentially expensive disruption to their business when it probably isn’t necessary? It’s not until you start to dig a little deeper into what goes into an operating system that you might realise that dragging your feet could only end up costing you more. Here are some reasons to consider keeping your workstation operating systems up to date:
- New features – The main reason new operating systems are introduced is because they can usually bring us new features and new ways of working whilst also improving those features we have gotten used to. I’ll admit that they don’t always get it right (missing start menu in Windows 8, anyone?), however general improvements to usability are common with every new operating system release.
- Security – This is a big reason to move onto a newer operating system. As you may know, Microsoft constantly release security updates for their operating systems and applications. This is important as it plugs security flaws that are identified during the life of the product. However, Microsoft has finite resources after all and cannot support their older products forever. Eventually, there will come a time when security updates cease to be released for a product (for Windows, see here). If you are still running an operating system that is no longer supported, this should be a warning sign to seriously consider moving to a newer, more secure operating system as soon as possible.
- Manageability – If you manage the configuration of your workstation fleet through centrally managed policies (e.g. through Active Directory Group Policy), you will often find that new releases of an operating system introduce new management policies. These policies can allow for things such as greater customisation options and tighter security controls which improve the consistency of your environment.
- Application and Hardware Compatibility – A newer operating system can sometimes drastically affect how applications are written for them. It may update code libraries that applications utilise, which in some cases can cause older application to cease functioning correctly. Conversely, many newer applications or application versions may have dependencies on these newer code libraries, which means you can’t update your apps until you update your OS. On the hardware front, many older hardware drivers are likely to be incompatible with a newer operating system until their vendors update them. Before then you may have hardware that is no longer recognised, behaves incorrectly or just won’t work at all (those pesky printers are fussy things). This consideration needs to be taken seriously and can take the most time to validate when you are planning for an operating system upgrade.
- User Acceptance – Whilst an operating system upgrade might bring many technological benefits, you also need to consider those who will be using it every day as part of their job. End users can often be significant opponents to change. However, if you are running an operating system that is already 10 years old, chances are that your users are probably running something much newer on their home PCs.Â You might be surprised at how willing users will be to move to something new and improved if they have already become comfortable with it at home. A good upgrade implementation plan will ensure that users aren’t ‘put out’ by an abrupt operating system upgrade by deploying the change in phases, or even piloting with some groups first.
There’s a lot to think about when considering an operating system upgrade and once you’ve decided what you’re going to go with, there’s a whole world of implementation considerations to dive into. It may seem daunting but you don’t have to do it alone. The team at Starboard IT have a wealth of experience in operating system upgrades and would be glad to help you out, no matter what size your business.