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After the criticism surrounding Windows 8, we take a look at whether or not the constant stream of updates from Microsoft is really benefitting consumers.

Keeping and updating software can often be tricky for businesses trying to manage their budgets whilst staying cutting edge.  Microsoft’s recent software policy has raised some intriguing questions about the value of constant updates.

The upgrades

Microsoft recently announced that they were to withdraw support for Windows XP, Office 2003 and Exchange 2003 from April 2014. Reactions to the news have been varying, to say the least.  Some people are simply so used to these particular programs that they’d prefer to use them without the necessary support, whereas others seem nominally happy to move on to the latest software.

Microsoft, for their part, will carry on regardless, hyping their Get 2 Modern initiative above all: an initiative that’s focused on getting businesses to upgrade to the latest generation of Microsoft products like Office 365 and Windows 8.1, amongst others.

Is upgrading essential in terms of helping to keep IT systems healthy?

In some senses, yes it is. On many occasions, companies can genuinely be held back from performing at their optimum levels simply because their ageing applications and systems are holding them back in terms of workflow. Some of Microsoft’s latest software such as Office 365 and the latest Exchange suite have a genuinely impressive list of new features and are considered by many people to be far safer than their predecessors. As such, it seems genuinely puzzling that customers would simply refuse to upgrade full stop and continue to work on obsolete desktops and laptops that are still running Windows XP.

The pressure of the vendor

Another notable side effect of Microsoft’s attempts to get customers to upgrade by dropping support for older products is that a great deal of pressure has been applied to business application vendors.

Many writers of business software are failing to commit themselves to upgrades with the same urgency that Microsoft are showing, and as a result many software applications are actually becoming incompatible with the latest versions of Windows. As a result, the developers and vendors of software could well end up suffering from a drop in sales due to this issues, whilst Microsoft could end up cleaning up through their latest upgrades.

Unfortunately, this confusion is causing a number of issues for businesses caught in the middle.  Ideally, companies should be able to upgrade their software as soon as is necessary, and to enjoy the increased security that comes as a result.  On some occasions, though, this simply can’t be done, and those responsible for IT end up stuck in between development companies and Microsoft.

Get 2 Modern

Finally, it’s worth noting that the Microsoft upgrade programme has become less compromising in recent months. For instance, some Office 365 subscriptions offer the ability to license desktop versions of the software for up to 5 devices per user. No bad thing at all. However, with this also comes the necessity to upgrade to every new version of Office within 12 months of its release. The company will have to automatically upgrade to all new versions of Office when they’re released. As this is done automatically, there could be further issues with external software not being compatible. In this sense, Microsoft could perhaps do with taking a more ‘softly, softly’ approach.

In conclusion

Whilst it’s a good idea to upgrade software generally, at the very least it’s important to keep on top of upgrades so that the various software packages being used by your team continue to function as they should.

Autor Bio:

Damian Coates is a director at Utilize, a large provider of IT support services in the South East. He and his team are constantly advising clients of the latest Microsoft updates and end of life support cycles and work to ensure that all systems are fully optimised and secure.

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