Upgrade vs. Update - What's Right for You

Question: When do we need to upgrade the lab computers? Is an upgrade the same as an update?

The IT Guy says:

According to the manufacturers of many computer operating systems, the answer to the upgrade question is probably “right away, as soon as it becomes available!†The reality for schools, however, is that upgrading can involve a variety of factors plus financial burdens – all of which make a persuasive case for upgrading later rather than sooner.

Whenever a new computer operating system is introduced, there is always the danger that some computer programs which may have run stably in the past now require a “patchâ€, or even worse, a paid upgrade to restore full compatibility. This is not always the case, but the more software applications installed on the lab computers, the more likely there will be operating system compatibility problems. For these reasons, it is generally a good idea for school campuses and districts to wait at least six to twelve months before jumping on the bandwagon of new software upgrades. It’s also wise to schedule upgrades for the end of the school year so one has the summer months to fully test for compatibility and performance issues.

Upgrading the operating system of the lab computers is not the same as “updating†the computers, however. Operating system manufacturers regularly release new security patches and bug fixes which are downloadable from the Internet , and generally should be installed on a frequent basis, at least monthly. For the computer lab, this may mean creating a new “pristine†disk image with the installed updates and re-imaging every computer. Virus definitions should also be updated regularly, but on a weekly basis using a corporate version of antivirus software which can download updates from a shared network folder rather than directly from the Internet. This can reduce bandwidth traffic rather than having each lab computer directly connect to the Internet to download updates. These updates should be scheduled for late at night when no one is using the computers (if they remain on all the time) or during periods of inactivity in the lab.

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