Challenges of an organization-wide PC operating system update

Challenges of an organization-wide PC operating system update

While we’re used to having our mobile apps be automatically updated, the same cannot be said about the operating systems of our workstation PCs. This normally requires IT departments to either work around staff schedules or make staff take extended coffee breaks to implement the updates. And, depending on how vastly different the new OS is from the old one, you’ll need to allocate time to train staff as well as expect help desk requests to increase.

These negative impacts on productivity usually elicit groans among rank and file and management alike, so you must gently remind them why OS updates are critical in the first place:

  1. You’ll get new and better features – updates grant users new functionality as well as improved versions of existing features. Sometimes, updates also take away obsolete or bothersome features. This means that sticking to your old OS means missing out on new opportunities.
  2. Updates patch software vulnerabilities – Hackers are a crafty bunch who’ll take advantage of security flaws as soon as they see one. Software vendors race to discover these holes and create patches in the hopes that they are able to block ne’er-do-wells in time.
  3. Updates keep everyone secure – It only takes one infected device to cause a viral outbreak in your organization. If not quarantined, you might also pass it on to your business partners, friends, and family. However, a sweeping OS update across your entire company can prevent these from happening in the first place.

However, getting your staff to cooperate is just one hurdle among many you’ll still have to face. Fortunately, you can partner up with a managed IT services provider (MSP) to help you out with all of these challenges. Here are just some where an MSP will prove itself invaluable to you:

Existing hardware might not be able to handle the update

OS updates are meant to take advantage of the higher processing powers of newer machines. This means that older machines might run the new OS more slowly or downright crash on you.

Avoid these by verifying the hardware requirements for the OS update first. Your MSP can help you determine if all you need is more memory or a new processor, or if it's more economical to simply replace your machine, especially if it's a laptop.

Setup processes can fail in the middle of the update

Every update has a risk of setup failure, especially if the machine has components with incompatibility issues or if it does not have enough disk space. If setup fails, you’ll end up with an oversized paperweight — it can’t run either the old or new operating system.

To save yourself some grief, consult with your MSP, who’ll exercise due diligence before proceeding and have workarounds on hand in case setups indeed go south.

The apps you use might not run in the new OS

Never assume that the apps you use for vital business processes are automatically compatible with new operating systems. Part of the due diligence that your MSP will perform prior to the OS update is a comprehensive software audit. In this, they’ll check with software vendors to see if their programs will run properly in the new OS, require minor workarounds to work, or have to be replaced entirely.

Furthermore, an OS update may be substantial enough to make itself incompatible with your custom applications. A good rule of thumb is the hamburger test: it’s best to cook only one patty first to check for flavor, adjust seasoning as needed, then proceed to cook the rest. In the same manner, an MSP will update only one PC first to see if your app will run on it. If it does so without a hitch, they’ll proceed with your update sweep.

However, if the new OS is unable to run your app, you’ll need to have the latter updated to make it compatible with the former. In the meantime, your MSP can try to run the program in compatibility mode, or open the old OS in a virtual machine and run the app from there. If these things sound like Klingon to you, don’t worry. They just mean that your service provider will do everything they can so that you’ll still be able to use your app while waiting for the updated version.

You might lose user data during the update process

It is common practice for users to save files locally on their machines and only keep one copy of their data. While OS updates usually leave user data alone, mishaps can occur and cause staff to lose irreplaceable data.

Your MSP will be familiar with this, so prior to upgrading your machines, they’ll recommend a data storage strategy that’s best for you. It can be to:

  • Move user data to a partition that's separate from the one on which the new OS is going to be installed;
  • Store user data on another hard disk; or
  • Move user data to a server on your network or a cloud location.

A major version change could cause user resistance

While it’s acceptable to think that users can absorb minor changes in operating systems, major changes or new releases are often met with either user confusion or user resistance. The success of any new software rollout ultimately comes down to user adoption. Without training or adoption tools in place, users may seek answers through unproductive internet searches, bother their colleagues, or flood the help desk with “how do I...” questions. Speak with your MSP for help on OS training and user onboarding, and consider outsourcing your help desk so that you can focus on the next strategic objective.

An OS update can introduce significant productivity, security, and performance improvements for your organization, but they can be challenging and potentially problematic. For best results, rely on the expertise of XBASE Technologies. Contact our specialists to learn more about how our Exponentially Better™ IT services can have you enjoying the latest and greatest IT tools for your business in no time.

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