03 Sep 2021

5 Ways to Make Sure Software Updates Run Smoothly

Ashli LoppNews  

Installing software updates is important but sometimes problems can arise. Here are five ways you can make your company’s update process more effective and efficient.

Software updates help keep apps stable and performing well. Updates also help keep companies secure because they are often used to patch security vulnerabilities in apps.

However, problems can arise during and after updates. Akamai Technologies found this out firsthand. On July 22, 2021, Akamai installed a software update, just like it had done numerous times since it launched its first content delivery network in 1998. This time, though, there were unexpected issues. Shortly after the update was installed, the websites of some of Akamai’s customers went down or began loading very slowly. The FedEx, Fidelity, and McDonald’s websites were among those affected.

“A software configuration update triggered a bug in the DNS system, the system that directs browsers to websites,” according to Akamai. “This caused a disruption impacting [the] availability of some customer websites.” Once Akamai discovered the cause of the disruption, it immediately rolled back the update and its customers’ websites were soon running normally again.

Being prepared for problematic updates is one of several measures that businesses can take to better manage their software updates. Here are five ways you can make your company’s update process more effective and efficient:

 

  1. Determine the Apps Being Used and How Often Developers Update Them

Businesses often have many devices running many apps, so it is easy to miss updating some of them. Therefore, you need to inventory your company’s IT environment, including any mobile devices, to determine the software being used. It is helpful to include details about each app on each device, such as when it was last updated and when the license expires (if applicable).

After you know what apps are being used, you should find out how often their developers release updates for those apps. For example, some developers release monthly updates, while others provide patches on an as-needed basis. You also should find out the options for receiving the updates. For instance, some developers offer automatic updates. Knowing how often developers release new updates and how you can receive them can help you better plan their implementation.

 

  1. Prioritize Updates

Ideally, companies should install software updates upon their release. In reality, though, this is not always possible, especially if a business has many different apps to update on a large number of devices. A good rule of thumb is to apply every patch as soon as practically possible.

If you have many updates to install, it is a good idea to prioritize them. Factors to consider include:

  • Why the update was released. Updates that fix critical security vulnerabilities or serious functionality issues should be installed sooner than updates that install new features or fix minor bugs in functionality.
  • What the app is being used for. Apps used to carry out crucial business operations should be patched first.
  • How much time it will take to deploy the update. With all other factors being equal, you should install updates that will take the least amount of time to complete first. For instance, suppose update A (which will take less than a day to deploy) and update B (which will take a week to deploy) both fix minor functionality issues in apps that are used in non-crucial business operations. You should install update A first since it will take a lot less time.

 

  1. Test Updates

Updates can break apps or negatively affect business operations. Thus, it is a good idea to test an update in a test environment before installing it. This is particularly beneficial when the software is being used in a crucial business operation. If testing is not possible, be sure to monitor the app and the business operation for unexpected issues.

 

  1. Automate When Possible

It is easy to get behind on installing software updates, especially if you have to manually install many of them on a large number of devices. Automating the update process can lessen the burden. Many popular business apps have automatic update options. Patch management solutions also provide this capability.

After using an automated update process, it is a good idea to verify that the updates were successfully installed on each device. This can be done manually, using a script, or using an audit function in a patch management solution.

 

  1. Be Prepared for Potential Problems

Updates sometimes fail or cause unexpected issues. Thus, it is important to be prepared for potential problems. For starters, you should become familiar with how to rollback an update so that you will be able to quickly do so if the need arises. You should also make sure that your apps, systems, and data are being regularly backed up. That way, if an update causes data to be lost or files to become corrupted, you can recover them from the backups.

 

Staying On Top of Updates Is Important

Updating apps is important but companies can easily get behind if they are running many different apps on a large number of devices. If your business is struggling to keep up with software updates, we can help you develop and implement a customized update process that will keep your updates on track.

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