Thought leadership
    11 January 2019

    James Francis

    Why updates are important

    ‘Please install this new update’. That message can appear in many different ways, and on many different devices, but the sentiment is universal: your device needs to be updated.

    ‘Please install this new update’. That message can appear in many different ways, and on many different devices, but the sentiment is universal: your device needs to be updated.

    What a pain! Not only does it eat your valuable data, but updates can take a long time depending on your connection speed. Why do your apps and other software need constant updating? And why is it a bad idea not to update?

    Why updates exist

    Software is updated for three reasons:  to add new features, to make it faster and to close security holes. The first two reasons are obviously great because your favourite apps become better and faster. The third is important because those same security flaws are what the bad guys use to breach your system and steal your data.

    But why isn’t software ready the day it is released? Clayton Campbell, CEO of Onsite, explains:

    'Vendors are constantly striving to better their software and release new features. But with new features and software, there are some time issues that creep in even after testing - issues might not be related to the device themselves but to users business applications and environments.'

    Software - meaning apps and the operating system - is like a garden. You can’t isolate a garden. It needs access to air, sunlight, water and critters that help enrich the soil and fertilise the flowers. But weeds and pests get in as well, so you have to keep an eye, pulling out unwanted plants and getting rid of things that attack the plants.

    Software is the same. It always evolves based on new features, changes to the device and breakthroughs developed by clever engineers. The Facebook app you use today is much better, faster and smarter than the one you used a year ago. You can’t keep the software isolated or it will wither and die.

    Why are updates important for security?

    Many updates are for new features and improvements to the software. But a majority of them are for security reasons. So while you might not care about a better app, you should be concerned about protecting your data.

    Using our garden example, imagine it is protected by a big fence that keeps pests away. This is a complicated fence made from many wires - and it changes slightly every time you change features in the garden. So there is always the chance that there is a hole through which the pests can crawl. Even though engineers pace the fence every day, looking for holes and covering 99% of them, the insects just need one hole to get through.

    Every time the engineers find a hole they patch it through an update. But if the insects get through, the fence becomes useless. Updates help reduce the number of holes. If you don’t update, you leave holes open that become known to the invaders. In the software world, this can open your private details to criminals and even give them a way to attack your workplace.

    Make updates your friends

    Here are a few tips for managing your updates

    • Devices used at businesses can be managed with services such as Vodacom’s Secure Device Manager. Mobile device managers can ensure that workplace devices have the latest security patches installed and can prevent the devices from accessing the business network if they are not up to date.
    • Apple and Android devices update their apps through their Stores. You can change if they should auto-update or not through their settings (on Android this is in the Play Store’s Settings -> General and on Apple it’s under the main Settings -> iTunes & App Stores). If you turn off auto updates, be sure to manually update often.
    • Get rid of unused apps. These will have new updates even if you never run them, which means they just take up space and eat data.
    • Operating system updates are very important. If your device says it wants to upgrade the operating system, give it the time to do so. Plug it in when you go to bed and let it do the update while you sleep.
    • If your device gets too old, it won’t get as many updates anymore. This is because it’s not able to run the latest improvements. Sadly, this means you should consider upgrading your device.

    James Francis