Article

How software updates can cut costs

Meredith B. Derby, assistant news editor

Want to save a few bucks this year? Then you're thinking too small. Why not save a lot of bucks? Even better, you can chalk up big savings by doing something simple: updating your company's software regularly.

When users have software that is out-of-date, "they will experience bugs that there's actually a fix for," said Greg Maletic. "They're not aware of it, though, and tech support costs manifest." Maletic is co-founder and CTO of San Francisco, Calif.-based Zero G Software, Inc. Zero G is the maker of PowerUpdate 2.0, a recently updated multi-platform software updating and delivery product. Maletic spoke to searchWindowsManageability recently about how updating cuts costs and how to do updates effectively.

sWM: What are the key reasons why it's important to keep software updated?
Maletic:

One is to keep your technical support costs down. At least half of the tech support questions that exist can be answered by simply updating to the latest version of the software. People call in and it takes $25 on average to answer a support call. If you can eliminate half of those by having updates deploy automatically, that makes life a lot easier. Secondly, keeping software updated is going to increase user satisfaction because they are always going to have a piece of software that is the most reliable

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one you can possibly give them.

sWM: Are there any limitations to updating software on Windows?
Maletic:

Windows files are locked when in use, and you can't overwrite them. So, updating the OS on Windows could be a challenge depending on which pieces you're updating. On Unix, for example, it's not as hard because files don't get locked. You can actually update the files, force a reboot and you'll have the new files there.

sWM: What's the key to updating in a multi-platform environment?
Maletic:

The key is understanding the differences between how applications work on each platform and how updating needs to occur on each platform. You have to know where files are supposed to go on a given system. Frequently, applications get installed at different locations on different kinds of systems. So, it's up to the updating or installation technology to understand that. You also have to know how to start and stop services on a given platform, and how to create shortcuts or links on a platform. You also have to use the terminology users expect to see when they do the update or deployment.

sWM: Is it unrealistic for an IT manager to expect they can deploy updates themselves without some kind of management tool?
Maletic:

It's not unrealistic, but certainly extremely cumbersome and expensive. Without a management tool, you have to walk to each one of your managed PCs and download and install the software on each. That's an incredibly time consuming process. Because of the hours required to accomplish this and human error, a management tool is a wise choice.

sWM: Do you have any advice for updating quickly, efficiently and with minimal downtime on a multi-platform environment?
Maletic:

Test your updates prior to rolling them out. Pick a small subset of users and see how the update goes with them. You will see if there's going to be a problem. Also, don't assume all users have the same versions of what you're trying to update. Installers usually assume what version you're on and just install the updates to take you to the new version. Use an update product that knows the desired version you want when the update is done. Products that include file synchronization capabilities and that let administrators publish their application up to the server are good. The server then takes over and makes sure all the machines attached to it have exactly the same software that's on the server. So, no matter if you're running version 1.0, 2.0 or 3.0 initially, you know you're going to have version 4.0 at the end.

sWM: What is the best way for administrators to stay on top of when updates actually become available?
Maletic:

That's a good question. It really depends on the vendor of the software and what their policies are for updating.

sWM: What are some things to look for in a software updating product?
Maletic:

  1. Whether or not it's multi-platform.
  2. How well does the updating solution integrate with your current software deployment solution?
  3. What kind of tracking do you have for how the updates proceed? Did any of the updates fail? If they did, how can you figure out what went wrong?
  4. A file synchronization capability. It conserves network bandwidth, which is useful for the user and the software deployer. It makes building updates a lot easier because you don't have to make any assumption on what the user already has.
  5. Customizability: the ability to write your own updating algorithms.


FOR MORE INFORMATION

Have a software updating question or concern? Maybe one of our experts can help. Ask a question

Updating security patches is necessary, too. Read this searchWindowsManageability article: Instant patch info minimizes exposure


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