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Software and the relentlessness of progress

When do you upgrade?
There’s a question.
I am often pondering the question both at work and at home.
Sometimes the decision is an easy yes. If my ADSL can support faster speed then it makes sense to pay for the faster speed.
Sometimes the decision is an easy no. If I get a letter asking if I want to upgrade my telephone contract to more free minutes but I currently hardly make a call.
But there is a lot of middle ground, even with the examples above. But I’ll get to that later.
In IT, or it’s hip, modern brother IS, the decision is really quite complex. Are you always sure that you have covered all bases and checked everything before going ahead?
In my experience he answer is always without except: no.
As pe this blog I upgraded pretty quickly to Windows 7. I have no issues with that decision but I can’t say I thought it through methodically. Yes, I applied some common sense items to the process. I used the upgrade advisor. I backed up my photo, docs etc. But I still had no real idea of how the system would cope. Did help knowing it was a quad core 2.4GHz with 2GB RAM.
Still, the move to IE8 had unexpected consequences on my ability to work from home. Also, the multimedia remote is still not supported.
I would say that this was a successful upgrade but these things could have been bigger issues.
Take the issue with IE8. This currently absolutely prevents a move it W7 at work. At least one major application used doesn’t work in IE8. This came out in long tests and User Acceptance Testing hasn’t even begun.
Vista failed to be deployed at all in the organisation but that is mainly down to it’s appaulling performance.
Now we haven the horizon IE9. Now it is very likely the issues with IE8 have been resolved but perhaps new ones will occur?
We just don’t know so a whole range of tests will be required to confirm it’s suitability.
Even the longest trials don’t expose all issues that all users will have. Companies with huge numbers of employees have to make decisions based on the majority of users and most important job functions and it is inevitable that some users are going to consider themselves disenfranchised with any change. Problem occur then if these affected users are all in a pocket and must change a well established business process. If the process is important enough there can be ‘exceptions’, ‘bypasses’ or even the programme/project managers worst nightmare ‘rollbacks’.
It rarely comes to that though if UAT has been successfully completed or an extended trial taken place.
IS is a balancing act of many variables (yes, cost is one but not the most important – usually.). This is true at home as well as in the work place.
You should always give yourself a budget but you must alway also ensure that the item being purchased is appropriate and fit for purpose. It it harder at home to ensure that you have Covered all the potential issues.

Some tips:

Ensure you understand the Upgrade.
What is it?
What does it replace?
Why is it recommended?

Read up on the Upgrade.
Google is a good source of information.
As is Wikipedia.
Ask around.

Find out what you gain from the Upgrade.
Check the new features list.
Check the changes list.
Search out information about how these can be used.

Find out what you lose from the Upgrade.
Check the changes again.
Write down a list of how you currently use what you are upgrading and find out if any of that is lost. It is possible that an improvement removes something you cherish.

Ensure that you can use the Upgrade.
Check the compatibilty lists.
Check that you can make use of the new features.
Check that you understand the new system.

Try before you buy.
Sometimes tricky but even as a home user try to get your mitts on a copy.
Check that you can find your way around with the minimum of fuss.
Ensure that it does the job.

Ensure you have a backout plan.
Check what is replaced by the Upgrade and back it up.
Find out how he old system may be re-activated if you can’t get on with it.
Find out if there is a limited time money back gaurentee or the like.
With contracts, find out if there is a cooling down period or ask for one.

Never, ever feel pressurised.
If it is an impulse buy make sure it is not an investment you will regret.
You cannot always get your money back even if you never use the Upgrade!
WALK AWAY from anything you are unsure about.

This is all simple stuff but it is vital to make a list of how you use the current system, how the new system improves this, how it adds to this, how it detracts from this.
This will hopefully tell youhow well you understand the Upgrade and it’s impact on you.

Never be afraid of upgrades, most are fixed pretty quickly if there is a major problem, but be prepared to have to spend time getting use to it or working around problems.

Be prepared!


PS those two early examples;
ADSL is an easy upgrade to get wrong. A move to the potentially faster ADSL2+ can leave you with an actual speed much lower that the original ADSL2. Possibly even less reliable.
Upgrading your phone contract can be a great opportunity to improve how you communicate! Add more minutes and talk to Mum more, that’s my advise!

About harlekwinblog

"Thoughts of an idle mind." Information Security professional.


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