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Spring has sprung. It's time to think about gardening.

It dawned on me today that rather than weeding my garden a little bit each weekend it would be much more efficient if I just spent this entire weekend pulling up weeds. It would be the same amount of time, just consolidated into one weekend instead of spreading it out across the entire summer.

Yes? The person raising your hand in the back row has a question. How would this work since it's the beginning of spring and I haven't planted yet?

Ok, you caught me. This plan won't work at all.

However, I do know plenty of companies that put off IT maintenance as if it will work just as well.

Why don't we do our security upgrades once a year? Why don't we buy a virus scanner that requires manual updates? We skipped upgrading our CRM system to the new version last year and the world hasn't collapsed, why not do that every year?

When talking with management it is important to explain things in terms that they understand. The gardening analogy is well suited to any explanation of the value of regular maintenance.

I often say, "don't upgrade software on a whim. Wait until it solves a real problem or adds a feature that fills a specific business need." Yet, there is the famous AT&T Wireless story where they "saved money" by not upgrading their CRM software so many years in a row that soon they couldn't reliably upgrade to the new version and it became easier to sell the company than to fix their IT problems. There are times when regular upgrades become a maintenance issue.

Local customizations that lock us into a particular version of software are dangerous. Sometimes the value of upgrading is that it forces you to reexamine the customizations you've made to make, making sure they are still needed and to see if they were done in the vendor-recommended way so that they survive upgrades.

I can think of many times that I've avoided upgrading a particular server because of the customizations I've made. When an upgrade really was needed, I was in trouble. Of course, now its a lot easier to maintain a list of changes on a wiki and isolating changes via PAM and other technologies. (also, servers need a lot less customization than they used to)

Comments? Examples? Thoughts?

Posted by Tom Limoncelli

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