There is one simple but effective rule in the IT industry “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”!
This is a common piece of advice, but to computer service geeks it means one particular thing – stability. When we had slaved for weeks installing, testing, debugging and updating software, and finally reached the stage where everything was working exactly to the client’s specifications (which do have such a propensity to change!) all we want you to do is keep your and your staff hands off it! Automatic updates do so tend to interfere with that wish and are definitely in the black books of all IT technicians! These automatic updates breed like rabbits and quite possibly, cause as much damage as the aforementioned creatures.
Pretty much every computer system these days will have a number of programs which will attempt to update themselves. And the worst of it is that they will attempt to update themselves without warning… every single time they detect a live internet connection. Why do they do this?
Well, at least in theory, it is a great idea to have your software take care of itself. The developers’ logic goes something like this “Our programs are improving all the time, our customers want the latest and best available version of our software. We will deliver it to them”. In the kind of world where free will and human curiosity do not exist, it would be impossible to flaw that logic.
So what’s the problem?
Well, most of you, owners or employees, will, despite all warnings to the contrary, will have some additional software installed on your machines, for example, Skype, MSN Messenger, etc. The different bits of software do not always get along with each other if installed unprofessionally; this is where automatic updates can be the proverbial last straws and stuff the entire system up.
However, even in the world where free will does not exist and people follow warnings, problems can still occur. Let me remind you of the keyword loved by all computer service technicians – stability – and then offer you a couple of scenarios that occur far too frequently for our liking.
Imagine that you are a computer service technician and you have spent a week working 24/7 setting up your client’s computer system exactly the way you want it. You have done your best to ensure that the system works and minimises any risk of having your client’s business go offline due to computer problems. You have removed any unwanted programs and unpleasant bugs, sorted all the files just right and got your system purring like a kitten – pleased with yourself, you “shutdown”……AND THEN YOU SEE THIS:
‘Installing update 1 of 38. Do not turn off your computer, it will turn off automatically.’
You are a positive sort of person, so, you go to bed thinking that the smart people at Microsoft et al are not going to upset the delicate balance of your newly built computer system through their updates. Feeling content in the knowledge that your system is well protected with all the latest security updates and performance enhancements on the market, you sleep.
The next morning, instead of a grateful call from your client saying that the new system is working beautifully, you get a panicked call from his Administrator telling you that the business is down, the system is down and NOTHING WORKS!!!
Feeling sick in the stomach, you log in and instead of the familiar desktop, you see the following:
‘NTLDR is missing’
Or, perhaps, you see a pretty blue screen with lots of unintelligible squiggles…or maybe you see the ‘Loading Windows XP (or Vista, Or 7)’ message…. over, and over, and over….
Congratulations, you are now the next victim of Windows automatic update service.
And yes…..you can cancel your plans for the next 24 hours….because you will be spending them deep in your client’s computer system.
And here is another scenario.
One early morning, your client’s employee decides to forward the latest email joke to colleague. This dedicated employee hits the send button and faces a little box containing the following message:
‘The host ‘mail.nowhere.com’ could not be found. Please verify that you have entered the server name correctly. Account: ‘mail.nowhere.com’, Server: ‘mail.nowhere.com’, Protocol: SMTP, Port: 25, Secure(SSL): No, Socket Error: 11004, Error Number: 0×800CCC0D’
The dedicated employee keeps quiet about this particular occurrence, but he does attempt to send the latest work update to the boss’ email address and gets the same message. Here is where he sounds the alarm, calls the Administrator (still on her way to work) and the Administrator has one of those pleasant chats with you….
Has this mail server been attacked by terrorists overnight? That is, of course, entirely possible, however, unless you work for the White House, it is just having a ‘problem’.
This is most likely because your secure and wonderful firewall software has just been updated (without your permission) courtesy of the developer, and unfortunately, they did not get the changes quite right….
We know that this is not a perfect world, that people do have personal preferences (that may sometimes interfere with the rest of the computer system) and occasionally (yes, no kidding L) even the best software companies make mistakes. That is how your computer systems get messed up overnight and your email starts sending you funny messages.
So, please turn off all automatic updates and do not ever click OK for any program (no matter how well known) to update your computer. If your computer is part of a system managed by a computer service person, you are guaranteed that this system is being looked after and that all updates will be installed. However, if done professionally, they will be installed in a way where they do not negatively affect the stability of the whole system.
There is, however, one type of automatic update we, computer service people, have no problem with whatsoever. Most reputable antivirus companies deliver virus signature updates automatically – and this is a very very good thing. Virus signatures are little parcels of data used by the antivirus programs to diagnose viruses on your system – and the more often these are updated, the better.
I hope this helps )
Over and out