Everything that has firmware or software needs to be updated regularly, not just to take advantage of new features, but also to preserve security and performance. Computers and mobile devices, like smartphones, are obvious examples. However, printers, smart devices, routers, and network equipment, and even TVs, are just a handful of the devices that need to be updated.
It’s not always possible to update a device as soon as a new software package is available. With workstations and servers, for example, updates can take the equipment offline and that can impact employees, customers, and beyond. It means that many IT and maintenance teams will schedule updates, choosing a more convenient and less burdensome time.
The practice of delaying updates does have a downside when things aren’t handled well. Sometimes, those devices that need to be updated, never are. It’s unfortunate, but it’s also dangerous as it can open up the company, and its data or systems, to serious security vulnerabilities. The WannaCry ransomware attack, from 2017, infected over 200,000 systems because they were outdated. It’s not the only attack that affected outdated systems, either.
The question is, when is the right time to update technology and equipment? What is the best way to go about it?
When to Update Your Company’s Tech Devices
As a general rule, anything that has received a security patch or performance-related update should be taken care of as soon as possible. If you or your team can deploy an update the day of, then that’s the best route to take. If not, then the update should be deployed by the end of the week, following its release, at the most.
Computers and Servers – While allowing them to update automatically isn’t always in the cards, they should be kept up-to-date as much as possible.
Mobile Devices – Just like computers, smartphones, and mobile devices should be updated as soon as possible.
Telephone Systems – If a problem develops, telephone systems should be updated or serviced. Software updates can be delayed, but again, it’s best to deploy them as soon as possible.
Printers, Copiers, and High-End Equipment – Security and performance updates should be deployed as soon as possible, otherwise, you don’t need to keep these devices on the streaming edge, unless there’s a significant problem.
POS and Payment Processing – Depending on the system, updates may be handled by third-party providers. Firmware updates should always be deployed as soon as possible.
Network Equipment – Similar to POS systems, most network devices are likely handled by third-party providers. Critical and security updates should be deployed as soon as possible, all others may be delayed, unless there’s a major failure or problem with the device(s).
When Do You Replace Equipment?
With a majority of devices, the best time to replace equipment is when they start to malfunction or experience failures. Computers and mobile devices, for example, receive regular software updates to improve performance and usability — it’s true of both Android and iOS smartphones. It doesn’t make sense to replace these devices unless there’s something wrong.
Here are some things to consider when deciding whether to update or upgrade technologies:
How Old is the Device?
The age of the device plays a huge role. Older Android and iOS smartphones, for instance, no longer receive security or performance updates. That increases the risks of using them, not just due to a general failure but also from a cybersecurity and privacy standpoint.
The same thing happens with older Computers, running an older version of Windows or another operating system. When a company ends support for a device, whether software or hardware related, it’s probably time to upgrade the equipment.
If money is the issue, and your budget is tight, there are ways to upgrade equipment and recuperate some of the costs. Many companies will refurbish and resell, or recycle old equipment like smartphones and computers. Throwing them away not only creates e-waste, but you may also be throwing away money. There is a market for used devices.
How Often Do You Use the Device?
You may also want to consider how frequently you’re using the device or devices. If it’s a system you use every day or its mission-critical equipment, you may want to hold off on the update to deploy after-hours, and after some testing has been done.
For devices that are used infrequently, it may be better not to upgrade or update. You can base your decision on whether or not it will have a major impact on your company’s productivity, security, and capabilities. Other than critical security updates, it only makes sense to roll out an update to rarely used devices, if and when there are new features that will significantly improve the experience of your employees or customers.
Has Technology Changed?
Computers and mobile devices evolve quickly, so if you’re using devices that are older than 5 years old, you’re way behind the curve. That may be true of other equipment, as well, like printers, copiers, network gear, and so on.
You should consider how fast the technology is changing, and whether or not there have been significant improvements since you last installed new gear. If your company is using outdated equipment that’s lacking some of the newest features and functionality, it may be best to upgrade and replace the equipment entirely.
In cases where there’s a third-party provider involved, they will inform you when it’s time to upgrade or replace equipment.
How to Update Your Company’s Tech?
The process for updating or upgrading equipment is going to vary by model and brand, but there are some general guidelines you should follow:
- Establish an upgrade strategy that’s well-thought-out and introduces alternatives and addresses contingencies.
- Evaluate and test the update on a single device before rolling it out to everything.
- Reach out to the brand or manufacturer, before updating, for technical support and important considerations.
- Don’t deploy multiple updates to a single device all at once. Take a progressive rollout approach.
- Take the devices offline and disconnect them from the network unless it’s absolutely necessary.
- Know when an update is unnecessary. Read all the update notes, instructions, and feature improvements.
Staying Current and Competitive
Updating and upgrading old equipment has serious implications for your business, far beyond productivity and performance enhancements. Older devices are also a cybersecurity risk, and tech such as smartphones may even become unsafe to use after a time.
So, it’s important to keep modern technology updated, and upgrade when applicable, which means you must have practices in place for doing so. Whether that’s updating them yourself, hiring an IT and maintenance team, or enlisting the help of a third party.
Eleanor is the editor of Designerly Magazine. Eleanor was the creative director and occasional blog writer at a prominent digital marketing agency before becoming her own boss in 2018. She lives in Philadelphia with her husband and dog, Bear.
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