Upgrading software and staying in your software maintenance contract is good for your business, much like exercising and eating healthy food is for your body. Taking care of your business' network and the devices it supports, helps to keep these systems healthy and working as they should. It also helps to prevent your business from contracting an assortment of computer-related ailments, such as viruses, ransomware and other malware.
But as is the case with physical health, it's human nature to put such things off as long as possible, or to ignore the warning signs until the symptoms have already appeared.
Case in point, the recent Petya ransomware attack showed the world just how many people still don't install software updates even after receiving repeated warnings.
In June of 2017, “Petya,” and it predecessor by two months, “WannaCry,” were unleashed into the world. They wreaked havoc, encrypting countless computers, effectively holding their data ransom and then demanding a hefty sum from owners in order to recover the data. These two attacks collectively infected hundreds of thousands of computers in companies big and small in over 150 countries by exploiting the very same vulnerability in Microsoft's operating system. As WannaCry was gaining traction, media outlets and cybersecurity companies around the world sent out warnings to encourage people to update their computers and business networks.
But, here's the kicker: The vulnerability that allowed both attacks to occur was fixed by Microsoft in a March security update. Anyone who kept their computers updated in the first place was protected. The Petya attack actually targeted computers that weren’t updated the first or the second time around.
5 Good Reasons Upgrading Software Should be a Priority in Your SME
Here are the top 5 reasons why you should always be upgrading your software to the newest version:
1. Protect your systems from cyber crime. Cyber crime isn't going away any time soon. In fact, according to a recent report by the Irish Small and Medium Enterprise (ISME) Association, four out of five Irish SMEs have been victim of cyber crime in the past 12 months, and cyber crime now tops the list of business threats among Irish companies.
Perhaps most telling is that the vast majority of system breaches rely on bugs that are 10 to 15 years old. Simply put, the longer a piece of software is out, the more time hackers have to find vulnerabilities to exploit. As they are discovered, software companies then release a new version of their software to address these security issues. Since many businesses rely on a network of connected computers and devices, and malware is designed to easily move between devices, all it takes is one weak link to bring your entire system down.
2. Give your business an added lined of protection. So, what if you have anti-virus software already installed? While installing an anti-virus program is good business practice, it's not a fool-proof solution. Before hackers unleash an attack on a business network, they could actually get into the system beforehand and disable the antivirus software.
3. Protect your valuable data. When breaches do occur, the chances of data loss are very high-- and that's even in situations where there are good data backup policies and tools. The reason for this often has to do with the speed at which an attack can spread to connected computers, devices, and even USB drives. Unless, a business has a real-time backup solution, some data will inevitably get lost.
4. Improve system performance. Software updates will generally lead to an enhanced user experience with better or more functionality. Bugs that you didn't even realize were slowing you down will be fixed, and new features could be added. Plus, older versions of programs don't always play nice with newer technology. Older programs will eventually get left behind and have a harder time keeping up with newer platforms and devices.
5. Get the support you need. Over time, software vendors will stop issuing updates for their older applications since most users have moved on to the newest versions. A few years ago, Microsoft decided they wanted to stop supporting its Windows XP operating system after doing so for nearly 20 years. What they didn't realize, however, is just how many businesses are still using this flagship product.
And... a Few Words About Maintenance Contracts
Getting a software maintenance contract may seem like a luxury expense, but these days that couldn't be further from the truth. A good maintenance contract will ensure that any bugs, bad codes, and compatibility issues are fixed once the software has been installed or integrated with other in-house systems. It also covers the system for major breaks that otherwise would cost a business a significant amount of money and time to fix.
Of course, each vendor will offer various types of maintenance, so a business would have to figure out what coverage makes the most sense. But in most the cases, the expense will pay for itself with the prevention of downtime, reduced IT costs, and a whole lot of piece of mind.