Deciding when to make the upgrade to a new piece of software is a decision that can be tricky enough for homeowners trying to balance their budgets with the relentless onward march of technology.
For businesses, the dilemma can be even worse, and there has long been a debate as to when the best time is to pull the plug on old software.
After all, if you make the upgrade to a new product too soon, you might find you’ve bought something where the flaws have yet to be ironed out – or the old software might still be supported for the next couple of years, so you’ve invested before you needed to.
Getting it right can be tricky but one thing is for certain: at some point, you have to pull the plug.
Scaling back support for old software
Where many of the problems arise with this is when businesses feel that suppliers did not give them enough warning before pulling support for their software, leaving them with software that even doesn’t work at all or is effectively useless since it isn’t properly supported.
Take payroll software as an example – this is a vital piece of software for many businesses, and even though an old version might continue to work when support for it has been pulled by the vendor, a company can’t really continue to use it because the software relies on that support to keep up to date with the legislation governing the payroll.
This means that the business would have to make the jump to the latest payroll software, but in the meantime could be left hanging without a viable product. Of course, most of the time when software providers choose to pull the plug on a particular product, they give plenty of notice. They often make it known years in advance that they will be withdrawing a particular piece of software, and typically support older versions of software for years after newer versions have come out.
This is beneficial for the companies that use the software, but there have been some cases where there has not been enough notice (or at least not enough publicised notice) given to businesses about upcoming changes, which naturally leads to problems – and this can be expensive to put right.
Cloud computing – the future?
One thing that could help to take care of this sort of issue is cloud computing. Now, with more data than ever before stored in the cloud, businesses’ systems are less likely to be negatively impacted when, for instance, their computer operating system is upgraded or an internet company withdraws support for the web browser they’ve been using for years.
It means that at least the company’s data will be safe when the upgrade happens. The ability to do more over the web also means that businesses are less reliant on physical computers, which as well all know can be susceptible to compatibility issues from time to time.
This is all very positive. However, cloud computing is unlikely to solve all of our software problems. This is largely because software providers still have to make a living somehow. Of course, many of them have other sources of revenue. To go back to the payroll software example, providers of this software often run payroll training to keep users up to speed as well as generating revenue.
Despite this, there will always come a point when businesses will be required to make another investment in order to obtain a software upgrade. This means that even though things have moved on considerably in recent years, the debate as to when we should pull the plug on old software isn’t going to go anywhere any time soon.
This is an issue that affects all types of software, from payroll solutions to CRM software and Microsoft Office. It seems that businesses need to be careful about where they purchase their software so that they can benefit from support for their product for as long as possible. It is perhaps inevitable that everything will become obsolete at some point, but when a company is making a significant software investment, it stands to reason that they will want to be able to use that software for as long as possible.
Most software providers understand this, and should advise businesses if they are planning to withdraw support for their products any time soon. There is always the risk, though, that such acts will come as a surprise to companies, and so it pays for businesses to be on the lookout just in case the plug is pulled on their software before they decide to pull it themselves.