April 2018: Some small businesses aren’t seeing the trickle-down benefits of always-updating cloud platforms. When they sign up for the platforms, it seems like a great way to take advantage of the subscription model to streamline and save some money. But using platforms that constantly update means your organization must constantly upgrade as well.
Here’s a look at two approaches and some strategies for avoiding auto-upgrade unintended consequences:
Approach #1: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
If there doesn’t seem to be a problem with the existing IT environment, then changing it can seem nonsensical to some people. Why mess with success? Organizations with highly skilled engineers on staff often take this approach because their engineers can tinker with anything that goes wrong and make it work again. A clever IT team can get a lot of life from old solutions and save some costs using ingenuity and workarounds.
Problems arise with this approach, however, when old solutions need to work with new ones. Initially, old and new solutions may work together just fine. But then, one day an always-updating cloud platform isn’t available anymore — suddenly old technology is no longer supported and the engineering team is scrambling for workarounds. Sometimes there are no workarounds and the organization has to give up some functionalities or possibly use workarounds that aren’t secure. This is when Approach #1 results in technical debt that can hold organizations back.
Approach #2: Staying on the technology curve
Organizations that stay on the curve pay attention to the life cycles of technology required to access their cloud platforms. They know part of the reason platforms can offer low-cost services is they don’t offer a lot of support — especially for the older configurations that tend to have the most problems. So, to avoid having nonstandard technology that isn’t as secure, doesn’t function the same way, or interferes with operational management, they prepare for the upcoming automatic updates.
Staying on the technology curve is a mindset. It includes routine life-cycle management processes that continually evaluate assets, stay current with each app’s supported products and end-of-sale dates, and follow a budgeting strategy that allows the company to stay relatively up-to-date on its technology and avoid surprises.
Approach #1 vs Approach #2
How do the two approaches play out in real life? Here are a couple of examples:
Microsoft Office updates
The software you probably use to operate your business updates automatically. Microsoft doesn’t send notices about the changes it’s making. It’s up to you to keep up. So, if your team has old Androids that suddenly don’t work with the latest Office 365 update, you have a business bottleneck. Companies that use Approach #1 might be able to find a way to work around it but it probably won’t be the best way to meet their business goals. Companies that use Approach #2 already know the changes are coming because the information is on the Microsoft website. Anyone on the team that uses an old Android will be notified in advance that it’s time to upgrade.
Apps that protect your network or generate income
The newest versions of antivirus software may not install on older computers, and popular apps like Adobe and Java may not work with an older operating system (OS). Many software companies have already stopped providing support and feature enhancements for Windows 7, for example. Other times, a platform update will require a more current OS version to operate. A company using Approach #1 could be in a jam if this new requirement catches them off guard. Quickly updating to the latest OS without knowing how other apps could be affected by the upgrade could lead to unintended consequences. Instances of incompatibility between a subscribed always-updating application and access to a favorite legacy app are common. And having different computers running different OS versions and apps isn’t usually the optimal way to run IT. Companies using Approach #2, on the other hand, will have known in advance about the app and platform so they can plan for the smoothest transitions — or possibly find alternate software, if necessary.
Even if you only have part of your operations in the cloud, nothing lasts forever. You have the choice of dealing with inevitable changes smoothly or painfully. Planning for smooth changes is better for business.
How to make auto-upgrading your friend
- Don’t just tinker with your IT environment. Stay on the curve. If you get too far behind, it will be painful to catch up all at once.
- Don’t ignore available information. Be proactive about what’s coming down the pipeline. The information you need to know about life-cycle management is out there, so create a process that encompasses all of your assets so you’re prepared.
- Don’t overestimate your ability to catch up. Make changes in bite-size chunks. Big changes can mean big adjustments, but the differences between one version and the next aren’t usually that drastic. It’s easier and cheaper in the long run to keep up.
- Don’t try to leverage an expired investment. Take life-cycle management seriously. Hanging on to software and infrastructure that’s beyond end-of-sale dates (and especially beyond end-of-life) will slow you down and eventually bite you.
Leapfrog believes growing organizations should leverage currently available technology. If technology is central to how your business generates revenue, it’s even more important to stay current — falling behind puts you at a competitive disadvantage. Our experience has been that clients who invest in staying on the technology curve spend less in the long run, either in time or money or both. Not every organization needs the latest, greatest everything, of course, and Approach #1 can be successful even if it does take longer and require considerable troubleshooting. But for organizations that want the benefits always-updated cloud platforms provide, Approach #2 is the way to go.
If your company struggles to stay on the technology curve, you’re not alone. Cloud platforms, operating systems, third-party apps — they all change quickly, and keeping up with related support issues is literally a full-time job. At Leapfrog, we have dedicated staff who ensure smooth sailing for our clients’ IT environments and offer cloud services for fast, secure operations. If you need advice about how to best manage fast-paced technology changes for your organization, please contact Leapfrog today. We’re here to help.
If you liked this post, don’t forget to subscribe to FrogTalk, our monthly newsletter.