So it’s Monday morning and you are about to start responding to the backlog of emails you received while relaxing over the weekend and your computer tells you that you need to update Java, and Adobe Reader, and there is another update from iTunes. You may be thinking that the updates could be meaningful, but you remember that you’ve got 32 unread messages and you need to dig in, so you press the “remind me later” button on all three. Later that evening when you are cooking dinner for your family, you use your iPhone to pull up a recipe and you get a notification that the latest version of OSX is ready for installation. If you proceed, dinner will burn, so you press the button to ignore the message and soon you forget than an update was ever waiting.
This may sound like you or you may be thinking, “yeah, and on my iPad, and my other computer and the GPS in my car.” If you’re remembering how annoying this is right now, trust me, you aren’t alone. But what you probably don’t think much about is what all those software updates actually do for you. You get so many notifications that, even if you knew the importance of the updates, you are numb to them. So let’s get to the point. What are updates so important? I’ll give you three key reasons.
The most important reason why you want to apply software updates is for security. Unfortunately we live in a world where a certain faction of people find pleasure and often financial reward in hacking software. Whether it’s to steal identities, credit card information, or sensitive documents or to sell known exploits to other hackers, there is a lot of money in the dark corners of the Internet driving this sort of behavior.
Fortunately there is another faction of people out there working to alert software companies of known exploits. Sometimes it comes from the aftermath of a hack and other times these people try to hack the software in order to collect a bounty paid by software companies. The information gathered is used to write new software code that fix these security flaws. New code can be applied to software and devices via a downloadable update from the end user.
While the greatest burden is placed on the software companies to fix these security holes, the benefit of the fixes is only available to users who download and apply the updates. It may sound as if the burden is passed on to the user, but in reality, the real burden would be on the user if he didn’t apply updates and his software got hacked. We see a lot of people who come in with viruses and worms and some have even paid a ransom to hackers in order to unlock their computers or unencrypt data that has been locked up.
Considering that software updates are free, the security implications alone should be enough to motivate you to apply updates when prompted.
2. Fixes & Feature Additions
Like with found security flaws, software companies are alerted to general problems with the functionality of their software from the general public as well as from internal teams setup to identify improvements. Because software companies want users to have a good experience with their product, many companies make bug reporting and new feature requests easy for everyone to make. Some mobile apps, for instance, will allow you to shake your phone at the precise time that you have an issue so that it can log the state of the device when you are having a problem.
All of this information will make its way to the software development team to be written into new lines of code for future updates. Most of the time when you are apply an update, you will receive software changes that deploy security fixes as well as bug fixes and feature upgrades. Usually when applying an update, the software will tell you what you can expect to be different, and if there are even any noticeable differences, after the update is applied.
Some say that ignorance is bliss, but just imagine if you continuously ignored everyone when they told you that a computer was better than a typewriter.
Last, but not least, all of these updates create other problems when it comes to the compatibility of different software and devices. Today, we use hundreds of different pieces of software on a daily basis that often must work together. Whether it’s receiving texts and phone calls from your smartphone on your laptop or if it’s just a single application that you need to work on one device or another, you will always have software that relies on the latest operating systems as well as software that relies on another application having the latest version.
One day you apply updates to your computer and you notice that your phone stops syncing. It could be that you just have to adjust the settings, but over many iterations of updates, you’ll find that some things simply won’t work anymore – not without running the updates on the corresponding device. In some cases you may need to get a new device all together, but that’s a whole different discussion.
Going back to what I discussed above with regard to new features, sometimes you may not even know that two devices or two pieces of software were capable of communicating with one another in a new way until you download updates.
Making Your Life a Little Easier
While it’s always a good idea to run software updates when you receive a notice to do so, let’s be real here, you’re probably still going to be ignoring an update every once in a while. Those emails are just too darned important. At the very least, it’s a good idea to schedule a time once a week when you can apply updates to your software. For the most part, it shouldn’t take more than 30 minutes to download and apply the updates from all of your devices and applications as many of them will run in the background, only requiring a restart when the process is complete. You may find that some weeks you might not have any updates to apply, if you’ve stayed on top of them.
The last piece of wisdom that I can impart is to always be sure you have an up-to-date backup of your computer. Whether you have an external hard drive that automatically backs up or if you have an automatic cloud backup solution, there is no excuse for not backing up your computer and devices. Major updates will recommend that you run a backup before updating due to the potential of lost data after the process is complete. No matter if your data is lost due to an update (a very rare occurrence) or simply due to a crash of your system (or your phone going overboard on a boating trip), the hassle and frustration of not having a backup is too great for anyone to be okay with.
If you have questions about updates, security, device and software compatibility or data backups, I encourage you to pay a visit to one of our locations. All of our team members are proficient and can often provide many answers on the spot. They may also recommend a class that can prepare you to be a better steward of your own technology.