While software updates are symbols of progress, IT departments can find them tedious.
From keeping track of update schedules to analyzing security capabilities, IT professionals make sure that updates are not a hindrance to the business employees they support.
Then again, patching is part of the IT day-to-day. Microsoft regularly schedules security updates on the second Tuesday of each month, aptly named "Patch Tuesdays" – and other vendors have followed suit.
This Tuesday marked a more significant release for Microsoft. The company rolled out its 2022 Windows 11 update to more than 190 countries, 11 months after the operating systems debuted.
IT departments have to schedule deployments around these installations.
Windows 11, in addition to features that will aid cybersecurity management across a workforce, is changing its release cadence. The company will have one feature update annually in the second half of the year. Microsoft will also release security and bug updates monthly.
“Frequent updates mean that IT pros must conduct more testing and are more likely to have to respond to help desk ticket issues that may result from user experience issues,” Andrew Hewitt, senior analyst at Forrester, said in an email.
Hybrid work has increased the overall complexity of IT operations, too.
In June, close to one-third of IT professionals said the acceleration of hybrid IT increased the complexity of their organization’s IT management, according to a SolarWinds study.
Businesses can also have a more complex time implementing updates due to technical constraints or devices tied to other equipment, such as microscopes or point-of-sale devices, Eric Grenier, director analyst at Gartner said in an email.
The more updates come up, the more planning IT has to do. IT teams have less time to test and spend more time keeping track of update release schedules to manage changes in user experience, according to Hewitt.
Hewitt provided three tips for IT teams in the process of updating systems, such as Windows 11:
- Always implement security-related updates as soon as possible.
- Link larger updates with device refresh. This can often simplify the process by installing a brand-new version of Windows 11 on a brand-new PC, reducing the risk of issues. The more devices can be updated in this manner, the better.
- Start with the least-risky user base, such as IT professionals, and then expand the update process based on risk. Executives generally are last in this model to avoid disruptions to their productivity.
In many organizations, IT pros are used to annual updates so anything more frequent requires a mentality shift, according to Hewitt.
Windows Autopatch, which was released earlier this year, allows IT admins to push off non-security updates to annual releases, but businesses need to make a plan in order to have a smooth transition.
Businesses should still monitor updates as they come out. Some tweaks could improve productivity or usability, Grenier said.
“Eventually all of the updates are going to need to be installed, whether it’s when they are released or through a cumulative update that combines them all in one deployment package,” Grenier said.
IT departments need to use their time wisely as software updates roll out.
“Significant version updates introduce risks that can wreak havoc on users if they are not thoroughly tested in the environment,” Mark Tauschek, VP of infrastructure and operations research at Info-Tech Research Group, said in an email. “In many cases, these types of updates require additional user training to ensure that users understand how the changes and new features will impact them.”