Anyone using computers in business will eventually need to update the operating system and application software. It can be tempting to put this task off, but in doing so you may find yourself unable to receive support, missing important functionality enhancements or struggling with bugs that have been “fixed in a future release”. Even worse the venture may be taken on impulsively without proper groundwork. Before you put that CD in the drive and click “set-up” there are some important first steps.
No matter what the platform, begin by taking an inventory of all existing hardware including processors, drives and memory along with the versions of software currently in use. Don’t forget routers, switches and other devices that may require firmware. With this information you can accomplish two tasks:
1. Check the supported hardware list for the operating system, layered software and business applications to make sure your hardware is sufficient.
2. Develop an upgrade path to understand any required transitional levels. For example, if you are currently running Windows XP and upgrading to Windows 8, find out whether or not there are any intermediate steps required. The same goes for your business applications. Also take note the order upgrades can be executed. Figure in any necessary dependencies.
Once this planning is complete move on to the next step. Assuming you have the available resources, a verification stage where a test environment is setup is important. Your goal is to test the upgrades to the system software as well as any applications used to run your business. Not only will it ensure the success of the updates, but will give you time to train on new functionality and see how it may affect your business processes.
Finally it will help you develop a window to understand how long the project will take. Include on your timeline, backups. You should complete them before you start the upgrade, at key intervals and when you finish. Add time for testing particularly with a load on your systems.
At last you are ready to begin working through your plan. Have your media available, customer support numbers handy and plenty of coffee. And remember, the more often you upgrade the less of a task it will be the next time.
Ted Saul is a computer professional and business coach that assists with Business Plans and Project Management. He holds a master certificate in project management and has earned his MBA from Regis University. Ted can be reached on LinkedIn, TedS787 on Twitter or emailing Ted@tsaul.com