As more contractors equip their employees with mobile devices, it has become increasingly necessary to develop policies to guide management of those devices. One of the issues that mobile-equipped companies struggle with is how to handle operating system (OS) updates. When an OS update comes along, tech leaders need to decide: Should we update? What other systems and processes could be affected?
Updating Existing Devices
The fact is, during ownership of your devices, there will be many updates available—likely more updates than your business would prefer. When a new update becomes available, you need to determine whether users should apply this update or delay.
Your information technology (IT) team should investigate and understand what fixes and what improvements are included in these OS updates. It is important to understand very clearly if it is worth the trouble to push the updates out at this time to all devices. Only after IT believes it is useful should users update their devices.
The Risks of Updating
Upgrading your device OS creates the possibility that some apps might become unusable due to incompatibilities. If your team relies heavily on a business-critical app, your IT department should consult closely with the vendors to ensure compatibility before pushing out new OS updates.
Users also face risks when upgrading a device OS in general. In rare cases, performing an OS upgrade can wipe out the device memory or, worse, “brick” the device (that is, make your device unusable). Your IT team should test any updates to devices that are critical to your business.
Quantity and Frequency of Updates
Why are there so many OS updates? Many OS vendors, like Android and Apple, are not able to do large-scale smartphone and tablet testing on OS versions, mainly because there are so many variables that come into play. There are hundreds of different kinds of devices and tens of thousands of applications (especially with Android) that can be downloaded. A new OS certainly may fix reported issues, but it could also break functionality or apps that your staff use daily. So, these companies often rely heavily on their customer base to test the product and report issues. In turn, this often results in more updates.
For example, iOS 9.0 was released September 16, 2015; iOS 9.1 was released October 22, 2015; iOS 9.2 was released December 8, 2015; and iOS 9.2.1 was released January 11, 2016. Notice a pattern? Apple (and other manufacturers) release a new build within their versions roughly every 30 days. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it just means manufacturers identify bugs and release OS updates to fix them frequently.
Deciding When to Update
Applying updates is not required. If your team is not experiencing significant issues with devices, you may not want to make a change that could cause new problems.
If updates are released every 30 days, your business may never be completely up-to-date with the latest OS version. You should factor in the importance of the update, the cost, and the time it takes to apply updates. For many businesses, it is simply not worth the time and money to push out OS updates every 30 days. When to update depends on business needs, but you should only push out OS updates if they bring significant value to your business. For some businesses, this could mean updating only when devices are experiencing incompatibility issues that can be fixed by an update. Others will want to update more frequently. There is value in making sure devices are as up-to-date as possible; therefore, there could be value to pushing out updates once every 90 days, or maybe every six months, as long as your IT personnel has done the necessary homework and testing.
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