How to deal with operating system updates as an organization

Hey there! Welcome to another episode of Design Under Influence. We specifically focus on helping architecture, design, and engineering professionals use technology as a competitive advantage. In other words, we empower you to let tech do the groundwork so you can do your best work.

Today, my co-host Boris Rapoport and I discuss an important subject that we all deal with daily, even though the way we deal with this issue varies from company to company. We’re referring to the process of upgrading your operating system to the next release.

What prompted this conversation is Microsoft’s latest release— Windows 11. As for Apple, MacOS Monterey has been out since late November. I just got a new MacBook— the M1 and Monterrey is already pre-installed on mine. Due to this, I’ve had to deal with some issues that compelled me to discuss the timing and how to deal with these updates as an organization.

Since we have several clients that would have to deal with this, Boris will be taking us through different strategies to enable a smoother upgrade implementation.

How to Implement Smoother Operating System Updates as a Company

Your overall strategy as a company should be to wait. Though you might be itching to get your hands on the latest and greatest, you’ll want to make sure that it will be compatible with all your other tools once you upgrade to that operating system.

The best tactic is to wait until the software providers of your organizational tools have released updates compatible with the newest operating system before you upgrade. You also want to make sure that the new OS is not bug-ridden because what typically happens is that it takes 1 or 2 release updates before the system is stable. The first release is usually a sort of beta and is not compatible with all the devices out there.

What is the Recommended Period to Wait Before Upgrading to a New Operating System?

While this depends on the size and complexity of an organization, six months to 1 year is a realistic timeline.

How Do You Make Sure The “Wait” Strategy is Consistent Across the Company?

Ensuring this uniformity is essential not just with operating systems but with significant software upgrades like Autodesk Suite, ArchiCAD, or Vectorworks. This is because all these tools need to be on the same update across the board to be functional. As soon as a team member upgrades, everyone else has to in order to access shared files. With this in mind, it is expected that organizations already have these types of processes in place to prevent workflow issues.

Training your people about this is essential. It can be as simple as saying, “Look, Windows 11 is out, but please don’t install it.” To make this more effective, what we do for our customers is offer them specific tools to block these updates. For example, we have a client who is still on macOS Catalina because all the applications they use in their day-to-day would not run on Big Sur or Monterey. So we prevent this by blocking chances of a team member accidentally upgrading since downgrading on some of these systems can lead to losing all your files, needing to reformat your hard drive, and all that. 

Does Staying One or Two Systems Behind the Current Make You a Target for Security Breaches?

We understand the importance of cybersecurity. So much so that we even offer a free course on the subject and an ebook/guide. Yet, we advocate the “wait” strategy for OS updates which might leave you wondering how safe this tactic is.

With both Windows and macOS, the operating systems are still in full support. This support usually lasts for an average of 5 years. For instance, Windows 10 will be in full support until the year 2026. This means that security updates are still being included for those systems, which we highly encourage that everybody installs.

The point is, older operating systems are still supported. What you are missing out on are the features. If what you want is a feature that only Windows 11 has or only Monterrey has, then you are holding yourself back, but from a security standpoint, you’re still solid.

Which Architecture or Engineering Software Typically Lag on Updates?

The typical laggers are your major design tools, e.g., Autodesk Suite, ArchiCAD, and Vectorworks. This delay is because you could be using the older version of the software. Let’s say you’re using AutoCAD 2018, and all your consultants are still using this version, preventing you from upgrading.

What if AutoCAD 2018 doesn’t work on Windows 11? This hiccup leaves you with a bit of a challenge. You either wait until you have completed the project before switching to Windows 11 or convince all the consultants to upgrade. This scenario is common with larger firms that handle projects with longer completion times.

What Should Architects Expect Their IT Providers to Do When Projects are Lengthy?

As IT providers ourselves, we understand how essential it is to communicate and comprehend the firm’s workflow and the project’s level of completion. This is because waiting before upgrading concerning a nearly completed project is more feasible. However, if it is something that is still going to go on, then we need to have conversations that make it clear that we’ll have to stay with the older OS until we are finished. Often, conversations like this are enough to withhold any upgrade plans.

Recommended Update Setting for Those Working With Home Computers

The biggest challenge with upgrade settings on home computers is that you can either set it to automatic or manual. When you set it to automatic, it automatically tries to install everything, but with manual, you have to remember to check for updates at least once a month.

The suggested setting would be manual because this leaves you with some control. However, the downside is that you must remember to make monthly checks for security updates and such. Depending on the operating system, you could set it to check for updates but not to install. If there are updates, you get a notification and then decide on the right time and which particular update you want to install.

Operating System Features That Could Make It Desirable to Make the Switch Sooner

Since this discussion is taking place towards the tail-end of 2021, we are focusing on Monterey and Windows 11. There isn’t necessarily anything, from a business perspective, that should push organizations to rush towards adoption. However, you could be looking at this situation from the angle of wanting to tinker with things. For example, the new interface of Windows 11 is generally considered sleeker, much like a MacOS with nicer, more accessible icons. But the downside is that the new look could make it more difficult to find your stuff.

Regarding Monterey, the most basic feature, which turns out to be quite impressive, is how easy it is to locate the button “focus”. It is tempting to get interrupted by other notifications when doing deep work, but this feature minimizes distractions. The focus button not only affects the computer but works on the iPhone simultaneously, allowing you to be completely immersed in your bubble.

This is not to say that the OS doesn’t offer other really cool features like its layout. It’s just that “focus” is one of the small things from which we obtain the most significant productivity gain. Another is finding a file in “finder” is somehow easier. However, we are still new to the operating system.

Things That Can Go Wrong With New Operating System Updates

Some issues you could face with new operating systems range from challenges with compatibility to user interfaces difficulties, as we have earlier hinted. Both will impact your productivity, but you will still need to upgrade eventually as your software outgrows your current OS.

The way we usually work with clients is that we identify one or two people that can pilot the new operating system. These pilots are generally more technically savvy and are okay with changes that are possibly there, and we keep a spare with the old setup just in case. Over time, we check in with them for reports on any issues they notice that could cause a business disruption. We gather the feedback. If positive, we can decide to roll out the update to the rest of the organization.

If a larger company has several departments, they would need one person from each to test it out because software, tools, and workflows are different. In this case, we can roll out the update department by department. However, it has to be first tested and then released as a one-time event for the whole company because we want to ensure everyone uses the same system. This precaution is because frequently, incompatibilities between team member software can be problematic. 

Don’t Hesitate to Reach Out to ArchIT

People might have many questions on this topic because a lot of the “how-tos” and tips are situational. We encourage you to reach out to us with inquiries or concerns on our website’s work with us page. While we’d love to serve your company with your IT needs, you don’t have to hire us to get our help. All you need to do is fill out a form, and we’ll do our best to help you figure out a path forward for your particular situation.

If you have questions or need help please reach out to us. ArchIT specializes
in providing IT services for architecture, design, and engineering firms.