Friday, November 8, 2013

Should We Upgrade Our Software, and Is It Really Necessary?

Posted by Robert Murray

In the Automation Industry, a premium is often put on stability. Once a server, system, or platform is successfully implemented, consumers often take a “don’t touch it” approach. They elect not to perform updates or upgrades under the belief that this is best for the stability of the system—but is it really the best approach to provide on-going stability and operational efficiency?

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At Kepware, we believe that the “set it and forget it” mentality, as it relates to upgrading software, is actually a riskier approach. The best stability and software performance is achieved with regular and planned software upgrades. In fact, we strongly recommend that you keep your software up-to-date for a number of reasons. Let’s discuss a few of these reasons now.

New software revisions include new features and functionality that increase your efficiency.

Kepware is continuously developing new products and enhancing old ones. These new features and improvements increase productivity, improve ease-of use, and ensure that you are maximizing your performance. Additionally, Kepware routinely updates software to add new driver support or to ensure that our drivers stay current with changes made to the vendors’ equipment that we support.

New software releases correct bugs from previous revisions.

Kepware recognizes product quality is a priority, and we will not release a product until it has successfully passed all stages of our rigorous quality-control process. Given the many customer environments and varied industries and ways in which our software product is deployed, however, there will occasionally be new bugs that are identified after a software version has been released. Kepware quickly fixes these bugs as they are identified, and incorporates the fixes into the next version of software before they will likely ever affect you. Being on the latest software version protects you by allowing you to implement fixes and avoid these issues.

A regular update schedule ensures quality and testing while minimizing potential issues and the “getting caught off-guard” scramble.

With a regular maintenance and upgrade schedule, you control your environment and avoid some of the following common traps:

  • Having a change in your environment that is not supported by an older software version, resulting in a hurried rush to upgrade
  • Having delays or unforeseen costs as a result of being caught with obsoleted versions of the software
  • Having employees who infrequently touch the software, to the point where their lack of familiarity may cause issues when trying to implement changes
  • Being forced to upgrade to support new server requirements or other needs without having adequate time for testing

Newer software releases allow for the best possible Technical Support from your vendor.

When those occasions arise where you do need support from your vendor, many factors can assist in the timely resolution of your issues. Being on a uniform release of the software can save a great deal of time in resolving issues. Different versions have different patches and fixes that have been applied to them. Different versions have different tools and reporting to assist in troubleshooting. Different versions have different paths to navigate through the software. Focused knowledge on a limited number of more recent releases will result in faster resolution of issues and overall improved performance.

Conclusion

For these and other reasons, Kepware strongly urges customers to regularly upgrade their software. These software upgrades are available as a feature of Kepware’s Support & Maintenance Program, which is a comprehensive service plan for your Kepware software applications. The program was developed to enrich and lengthen the lifetime of your Kepware software. It combines software updates and upgrades with expert Technical Support services to help keep your critical automation projects performing at an optimum level. It also increases your personal operational efficiency by providing access to Kepware’s industry-leading expertise.

We’d like to hear your thoughts on the necessity of software upgrades. How often do you upgrade software in your automation environment? Are software upgrades built into your planning process? How important is quality vendor technical support to your operations? Submit a comment below to join the conversation.