The battle that’s waged for decades in the IT world is updating operating systems and software applications quickly at the risk of introducing compatibility issues. To be fair, the industry has come a long way in the past decade as security vulnerabilities have forced companies to move fast. That withstanding, there’s still a tug between sticking with what works compared to the fear of the unknown and updates.
What’s the best strategy for organizations to streamline productivity, manage uptime, and stay ahead of constant cyber threats? For most organizations, the only safe path is to update, patch, restart and repeat.
Paying off technical debt
The healthcare industry offers a great example of technical debt. Technical debt describes when an organization has foundation-level ties in its software stack to specific releases of specific operating systems.
Employees within a larger healthcare organization may share stories of running newer versions of Internet browsers natively while using virtualization tools to run older versions of IE to maintain backward compatibility with legacy systems. Many security experts scoff at the idea of running such older browsers in production environments because of the inherent insecurities associated with these systems. Everyone agrees it’s never a good idea to stay on older software versions for compatibility. But what if there are no other options? What’s worse — an insecure application or one that stops working altogether?
Many organizations face this challenge daily due to never paying off technical debt, or the foundation-level ties to specific releases of specific operating systems. There’s no way around it: Technical debt will be paid for eventually, so CISOs and IT administrators should plan for it from a proactive stance.
Audit your vendors
If as an IT administrator you regularly run into compatibility issues surrounding operating system updates, it’s time to audit third-party vendors to better understand their roadmaps and planning. Vendors may have underlying technical debt that is in the process of being resolved.
Still, your organization has a right to understand the procedures for upgrades, enhancements, bug fixes, and compatibility fixes. If you don’t feel confident in your software or hardware vendor’s ability to maintain a cadence of upgrades with Windows, macOS, iOS, or Android, it’s time to find a new vendor for that particular business use case.
Update, patch, restart, repeat
The ongoing risks related to cyber threats and ransomware are real, and they’re only intensifying. The threats remain, regardless of whether IT assets are up to date on every server, switch, access point, firewall, and end-user device.
By purposely leaving older versions of firmware, operating systems, or software in play, an enterprise is multiplying the chance of those problems affecting the organization. Yes, IT teams should be concerned about compatibility with existing applications. Your team should also be testing beta releases to critical applications and use cases. This process can be time-consuming. However, the downside of the risk is too significant and potentially costly.
If your team is struggling to maintain software compatibility with the fast-moving pace of updates to servers, workstations, and networking hardware, contact InfoSystems to see how we can help streamline the process.