Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

Should You Upgrade Your Software? (Personal Computing)

Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

Should You Upgrade Your Software? (Personal Computing)

Article excerpt

The buzz these days among many computer insiders is about the coming releases of upgrades to Microsoft Windows and Microsoft Office.

Windows Server 2003, an operating system designed for computer networks, was scheduled to be released in late April. Office 2003, combining word processing, spread-sheet and other programs, should be out this summer. And the successor to Windows XP, code-named Longhorn, will likely be released in a couple of years, but already it's being written about in the computer press.

Anytime major software like this is upgraded, it again brings to the forefront questions about the. desirability of upgrading your own software. When does it make sense to upgrade? What problems can upgrading cause?

To answer them, "do a cost-benefit analysis," says Al Cole, president of the Independent Computer Consultants Association, at .

Among the benefits are new features. Using company promotional material and software reviews, rank the new features by their importance to you or your organization.

Another benefit is compatibility. If clients, suppliers and others you work with are using the upgrade, you may need to as well to seamlessly exchange data with them.

A third benefit is continuing to receive support. Software companies typically provide technical support and bug fixes for only a limited time. Jerry Dennis, who runs a handyman contracting business in Dryden, N.Y., is among many who feel this is unconscionable. Imagine a car dealership saying it won't service your car unless you trade it in for a newer model.

Microsoft started phasing out support for Office 97 two years ago, and with Office 95 your only choices are to search around Microsoft's Web site yourself, ask questions online of fellow users or use a consultant.

But feeling compelled to upgrade is a computer reality. "You should always upgrade when the software vendor stops supporting your current version," says Jan Klincewicz, a computer pro who has worked for Hewlett Packard and Compaq.

Then there are often the significant costs of upgrades. The cost for a single user to upgrade to the latest version of Adobe Premiere for the Mac is $140, Corel Designer $200, and Microsoft Project Professional $500.

Sometimes upgrading software requires you to upgrade hardware as well, such as a computer's memory or hard drive.

You also should factor in the time it takes to install the upgrade and, particularly for organizations, the training that's often involved in getting users up to speed with the new features. …

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