Upgrading Software And Hardware, Why The Pain Might Be Worth It - Part Two Of Three

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by Scott Lewis

Before you start an upgrade, what are some of the checklist items you should consider? Some software vendors prefer to do upgrades themselves, which could be an excellent option because the vendor is then responsible for the upgrade’s success. Other vendors will leave the process to paid consultants or allow your internal staff to perform the upgrade. However, hiring a consultant to perform the work might be money well spent. Each option has pros and cons, but you need to follow a process regardless of who is applying the upgrade. According to eLearning Industry, here are some of the steps you should take before you start any application or operating-system upgrade.

- Publicize your intention to upgrade, and engage owners, end-users, trainers, administrators, and other software vendors. Such communication will allow you to work through compatibility issues, discuss how the upgrade will affect each party, and identify what may be required, such as testing and reporting issues.

- Choose a change control planning team and be aware than technical issues are only some of the issues that may arise during an application upgrade.
Typically, the most significant gap in this process is communication with people who are not directly involved in the process, creating public relations issues on the upgrade’s backside. Often, third-party consultants or developers may need to be in the loop on the upgrade’s timing and testing.

- During the site and software review, document and track customizations within the software or applications that push or pull data from the software to be upgraded. Specifications regarding hardware and software settings open a door of retreat if the upgrade goes sideways. Documentation also will allow integrated third-party applications or hosted applications to connect and be tested following the proper upgrade process.

- Develop upgrade and roll-out plans. Who is going to do the upgrade? Are you upgrading only one application, or other applications and add-ons that need to be upgraded at the same time? Do your current hardware and operating systems support the software upgrade? Consider the timeline. When, how long, and what human resources will you need to test the upgrade and any integrated software? If the upgrade extends to workstations, who is performing this task? Can these upgrades be pushed from the server? Who is communicating with the end-users, and what do the upgrades mean for them?

- Back up! I cannot say enough to back up your systems, software, and data. Unless you have the system capacity to ultimately build a new system and run the new and old in parallel, your only saving grace will be your backup. Don’t just do a backup, but also a test restore. Make sure that the backup is usable and there are no issues that will come back to bite you later.

When upgrading hardware, remember the basic housekeeping tasks that also need to be done, regardless of your servers, workstations, or even your phone system. Completing these tasks will make things easier for you and remove some of the risks from the upgrade. Uninstall unnecessary software, such as apps, software that was in use for years but has been discontinued, or test software. It might be time to remove that software completely from the system, or at least from the production system unless you are keeping it for historical reasons. There are reasons you might want to keep such software (or databases) around; however, move them to a separate system that operates independently of your production system. By isolating old software and operating systems, you can protect the integrity of historical data and avoid compromising your production security or slowing down the production system.

Scan your system for viruses, malware, crypto, and ransomware. The last thing you need is to have a ransomware virus execute in the middle of your software or hardware upgrade, which will make a long night even longer and more frustrating. If the inevitable happens, your backup could save you, so make sure you have a well-tested backup. Viruses have become very intelligent and, in some cases, are more destructive now than ever before. Some can be triggered by events; they hide on your network and wait for a specific condition to exist, then they activate and spread.

Defragment your system, or complete general, disk-management steps to ensure that you do not have a hard drive that’s failing or compromising the upgrade process. It is much easier to make sure that your system is in good shape before you upgrade. I know that sounds contradictory to why you are upgrading, but systems in good health stand a higher chance of being in good health following the upgrade.

Watch for Part Three of this article in next month’s Small Business Monthly!

Scott Lewis is the President and CEO of Winning Technologies Group of Companies, which includes Liberty One Software. Scott has more than 36 years of experience in the technology industry and is a nationally recognized speaker and author on technology subjects. Scott has worked with hundreds of large and small businesses to empower them to use technology to improve work processes, increase productivity, and reduce costs. Scott has designed thousands of systems for large, medium, and small companies, and Winning Technologies’ goal is to work with companies on the selection, implementation, management, and support of technology resources. Learn more about Winning Technologies at www.winningtech.com or call 877-379-8279. To learn more about Business Manager 365, visit www.businessmanager365.com.