If your site is running any type of software, it will require updating as new versions and security or bug fixes are released. It is always important to keep on top of software updates, but it is not always a good idea to immediately upgrade to the newest available versions.
Always keep on top of security fixes
If a new version of your software has been released which addresses security fixes, it is essential that you upgrade as soon as possible. NEVER, ever ignore these updates. I used to, and once lost the entire Just Chat message boards.
I think we lost around 100,000 posts and 1,000 members overnight. Of course, I had no backups either at that time. Don’t repeat my mistake – keep on top of security upgrades and always keep backups.
Delay the cosmetic upgrades
Having said all of that you may now be a little confused as to why I am advising against the immediate upgrading of non-security related updates of your software.
The reason I advise this is because new versions of software often contain bugs which cannot be identified until the software is used on a large scale.
Minor incremental upgrades should be fine; I would always advise on the immediate updating of phpBB 2.0.22 from 2.0.21 as these updates stay loyal to the existing codebase and solely address bugs and security issues.
phpBB – Keep on top of security upgrades but beware of phpBB 3.0!
Soon, phpBB 3.0 will be released and thousands if not millions of people will immediately upgrade their forum with this software. I will not be one of them.
Regardless of the thoroughness or complexity of the beta testing periods, there will always be bugs and security issues that do not reveal themselves until the software is put through its paces by a large demographic of users.
Similarly, the new release of WordPress 2.2 had many bloggers keenly downloading and installing the new version. Unfortunately it soon became clear that there were some issues with this download; it was affecting some sidebar widgets that had been installed and generally causing issues that were not present in previous versions.
Keep security immediate and cosmetics delayed
In conclusion, I recommend always keeping on top of security updates. Sign up to the mailing lists of your software providers so you are always alerted to any priority updates. As soon as they are available, upgrade.
If a brand new version of your software is released which only offers updated features and cosmetic changes, I would always advise waiting a while before you take the plunge and upgrade.
You can determine the stability of new versions by checking out sites that have upgraded and seeing if they mention any issues, or see if you find any yourself! Additionally, the blogosphere is a wonderful way of remaining clued up on any issues with upgraded or newly released software.
What do you think of this approach? Do you feel that all software should be upgraded as soon as possible regardless of the potential bugs? Do you agree with me that you should immediately update security fixes but allow time for new software versions to be ‘broken in’ before you upgrade? Let me know by leaving a comment below.