From time to time we come across a situation where a previous IT support company have disabled software updates on the network. Most often, the reason given for this is that they are worried about software updates causing problems with the systems.
Unfortunately, this kind of advice leads the business down a very dangerous road. The reasons why Microsoft, Apple, Adobe, and most other software vendors, release updates for their software can be classified into three main categories:
1. Security patches
The most important reason for keeping your software up to date is that the software vendors are constantly patching vulnerabilities in their code. These vulnerabilities range from minor issues to significant threats, such as those that might allow remote attacker to take control of the computer. Needless to say, no business wants to be at risk of this kind of security breach.
2. Stability fixes
The second reason why software vendors update their code is to address performance or stability issues in their software. In extreme cases, these issues may lead an application to crash, or data to be corrupted. In other words, without these patches being applied to your systems, you are probably not getting the best performance from your systems and you may be carrying unnecessary risk of downtime or data loss.
3. Feature upgrades
The third purpose of software updates is to enhance the functionality of the software by adding new features. Since you’ve invested so much in your software, it stands to reason that you’d want to get as much value from that investment as possible, so it makes absolute sense to have these updates applied to your computer network.
Given the above points, it is clear that your computers should be patched on a regular basis. But what if you are running bespoke software which may be adversely affected by these updates? The truth is that any responsible software provider will write their code in such a way that it wouldn’t be adversely affected by updates to the Operating System, or other applications for that matter. So unless you are running some software which has been custom developed for you, you shouldn’t experience any problems at all.
If you are running custom applications, however, then you should speak to your IT support company about the best way of managing updates to the sensitive systems. There are various ways to address this concern, without leaving your systems unprotected. But don’t just accept the argument that ‘patching your systems can break them’. Patch management is a crucial part of proactively maintaining your computer network.