When to Upgrade

Two weeks ago, Internet Explorer 9 came out I immediately upgraded my copy of IE on my home computer.  This week, Firefox 4 was released and I immediately upgraded my work and home computer.  I like to get the latest software releases, since the new versions have more features, typically run faster, and include bug fixes.  I have Internet Explorer 8 on my work computer, and you’ll note that I did not immediately upgrade to version 9.  This is because I have to use IE when I run our payroll through our provider.  It seemed prudent to check with them first and make sure I’d still be able to pay my employees after upgrading!

Generally, upgrading or downgrading a browser is not a big deal, so I don’t worry about too many risks. After all, it is pretty trivial to go back to a previous version of a browser or even use an alternate browser.  What about eCommerce?  Mission critical software is a different matter.  When or how often should you upgrade to the latest version?  I know of several ShopSite stores that are running versions of our software that are over 10 years old!  Those merchants are happy with the feature set of the older version of ShopSite and it does what they need.  Other merchants always want the latest updates and embrace the newest features, like those added for Social Networking.

You may think that the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mindset is the way to go.  But by doing so, you will miss out on new features and probably better performance.  And perhaps that is ok for you.  But what happens if it does break because of a software flaw that had been patched in an update?  Is being down for a day or several days acceptable?  Two recent situations illustrate how being on an older version may cause your store to go down or be down longer than desired as a result of the actions of 3rd parties.

At the beginning of this year, the United States Postal Service decided to change both the names that are returned and the data that is returned by their real-time quotes interface for a few of their shipping options.  Unfortunately, there was no advanced warning that these changes were coming.  ShopSite, like many other carts, had to scramble to adjust to the changes.  Obviously, patches were easiest to do on the latest version of ShopSite and were released to hosts and merchants using v10 sp2 (service pack 2) first.  Those merchants that were already running sp2 could have their host copy over a few files and quickly be back to getting the latest USPS rate quotes.  This was much quicker and easier than for the merchants that needed to upgrade from an earlier version of ShopSite before applying the patches.

A more recent example happened just last week when PayPal moved their data center for Payflow Pro users.  PayPal warned both merchants and us of the coming move and no problem was expected.  However, there was an unforeseen change in how some of the data had been formatted/transmitted.  This caused a problem with some stores that were running the original version 10 of ShopSite, but it had no effect on stores running service pack 2.  ShopSite 10 was released in 2008, service pack 1 (sp1) was released in 2009, and service pack 2 (sp2) was released in July of 2010.  There’s no software fee for the v10 users to get sp1 or sp2, so the reason for not upgrading sooner was probably either a “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mindset or concern that upgrading may break something.

Fear that an upgrade could break something is a valid concern.  A software upgrade can change the way something previously worked, so it is often prudent to wait a little while before upgrading.  That being said, I would think that within 1-3 months any significant upgrade issues would have surfaced.  It is easy to ask your host how upgrades have gone or to check with other ShopSite users in the forum.

If you do not immediately need the new features that an upgrade provides, waiting a few months for any minor wrinkles to be ironed out makes sense.  However, the more successful your store is, the more important it is to stay current with the latest and greatest version. The internet is a rapidly changing animal.  ShopSite is keeping pace by continuously evolving to support the latest interfaces, features, and standards.  It’s great when you can use the same product for 10 years, but our recommendation is that you upgrade more often than once a decade!


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