Why Software Updates Are Worth the Trouble, or Don't Be Typhoid Mary

Many applications today are smarter than they used to be. You probably think I’m talking about the applications themselves, and while it’s true that today’s applications do a myriad of useful and clever things (PG Calc applications among them), I’m referring to the applications’ built-in intelligence around updates.

In the dark and distant past, you would have to rely on the application vendor to inform you of an update to your desktop application, a communication about which you may or may not have taken notice. And when you did happen to notice the vendor’s email, you had to make arrangements to receive the update, perhaps by email, or heaven forbid, on a CD-ROM via snail mail.

Once having downloaded or received the update, you would have to install it. If you were lucky, you had an IT person to help you with the install. Otherwise, you had to face the daunting task of installing software on your desktop machine, yourself. Yeesh!

Welcome to the World of Automated Updates

Flash forward to today, where many applications are web-based, and are updated while you are sleeping, shopping, or perhaps, bungee jumping. In any case, it happens automatically, without your involvement. You just login the next day, and voila, a newly updated application with cool new features. BTW, you can number PG Calc’s GiftWrap, GiftCalcs, and PGM Anywhere among those hosted applications which are web-based and updated without user involvement.

And for desktop applications, such as PG Calc's Planned Giving Manager (PGM), your web browser, or perhaps office applications, things have improved as well. These applications are programmed to notify you whenever an update is available. All you have to do is click a few times, accept the update, and stand back as the update is delivered without human intervention over the Internet and installed. You might have to restart the program and/or your computer as the last step of the installation process, which could be inconvenient, but is good practice in any case.

So, good news/bad news. With convenience comes the ability to defer. When that little reminder box pops up, you may be presented with the options to do the install now or have the application “Remind me later.” Of course, in many cases, later never comes, as we keep clicking on the second option and continue doing what we are doing. Or, in the case of web browsers, you actually have to navigate to the browser settings screen to begin the update process. So many things to remember, so little time.

Four Reasons Why Desktop Updates Matter

So why, you may ask, does it matter? Your application is working just fine the way it is. Is there really any substantive downside to deferring (perhaps forever) that latest update?

Of course, the answer is a definitive YES. And here are four reasons why you should update your desktop applications.

  1. Software updates do many things – a typical software update may include new features, bug fixes, and security updates. These items may range from nice-to-have to mandatory (in the case of security updates), and rather than spending even more time deciding the value of these items, you are always safer to do the update (assuming that the vendor has done a good job of identifying needed functionality and coding), not to mention the fact that the update represents a service you’ve already paid for.
  2. Updates patch security vulnerabilities – as noted above, software updates typically include security fixes. My IT colleagues here at PG Calc will insist that this is the primary reason to update your software, and I can’t say that I disagree. The Internet is a battlefield, and those not wary become victims. Software vendors are constantly monitoring the latest security issues and respond appropriately with fixes that either prevent or remediate those issues. Timely installation of updates with security patches is simply a form of self-protection that you can’t afford to forgo.
  3. Updated software makes for better support – In the undesirable event that you do run into a problem, whether a bug in the application, or a consequence of a security hole, having the latest version of the software in question makes it much easier for both the vendor and your IT staff to troubleshoot the problem. In the end, that is in both your and your organization’s interest. If you have been hacked, the horse has left the barn and closing the door won’t help, but keeping your applications updated improves the likelihood of being able to identify the source of the vulnerability, i.e., your application, which could prevent future problems.
  4. Don’t be Typhoid Mary – in this cold and unfeeling world, your friends and co-workers represent relationships of value. Don’t jeopardize those relationships by providing hackers with a vehicle, i.e., your un-updated application, for infecting the applications, computers, and data of those friends and co-workers. They won’t like you for that. Also, being the source of a malware infection on your organization’s network, for example, will not do your career any good, especially knowing that keeping your applications up to date might have avoided all the unpleasantness, and potential economic harm.

So, the bottom line is that you should update your desktop applications on a regular basis, either with the help of your IT staff, or on your own. You and your organization will be better, safer, and happier for it. And, I haven’t even discussed updating your computer’s operating system, but that ‘s a topic for another time.