Why you need to update software applications regularly

It’s hard to take time to update applications, but it’s a task that’s completely essential. Find out what it takes to keep software up to date.

minute read

Last Updated May 20, 2024

A smiling woman sits at a desk, looking at a laptop. She knows that her cloud partner is handling app updates for her.


It’s one of those things you think about doing, but don’t always get around to: updating the applications you use at work every day. If you manage your own server, you’re definitely on the hook for making sure the software you run on it is up to date. Why? Because failure to update applications comes with serious risks.  

For starters, cyberattackers feast on unpatched applications. But neglecting updates has other consequences, as well. You might not be able to get vendor support for expired software. You’re likely to experience performance issues. Your apps might not work together as they should if you don’t update all of them. And you’ll almost assuredly miss out on new features.  

It’s critical to update applications, but it’s also a hassle. Updates come through at different times from one app to another. And while some apps update automatically, others don’t. In either case, you need to make sure that your app update was successful and is working as it should.   

How often should you update software applications?

Just how much of a pain is updating applications? The problem is that it can be unpredictable. The general rule is that you should update most of your apps once a month. (Yes, accountants, that includes tax season.)  

The monthly update routine should include updating desktop operating systems, malware and antivirus software, security tools, virtual private network (VPN) clients, and standard applications such as tax, business and productivity software—like QuickBooks® and Excel, for instance. Server operating systems and applications should also be on your monthly update schedule. 

Those are not necessarily easy tasks to manage. Updating your server operating system can be time-consuming. Getting the latest version of an operating system up and running on computers can be complex and frustrating. While you can set some apps to update themselves automatically, others don’t have that capability.  

You’ll need to keep an inventory of all your apps and note which ones update automatically and which ones require manual intervention. Then, no matter how updates happen, you’ll need to make sure they all complete successfully. Even automatic updates can fail.  

Then, there are critical updates—those that need immediate attention because they patch security vulnerabilities that a cyberattacker could use to steal your data. A critical update can hit at any time, and you must make sure you deploy it right away. The Cybersecurity Infrastructure and Security Agency (CISA) recommends that you install updates immediately, no matter what kind they are. 

Why should you update software applications? 

The most pressing reason to update applications regularly is cybersecurity, but there are other factors that come into play as well.  

Zero-day vulnerabilities 

This is the driving issue behind why updates are so important for security purposes. Zero-day vulnerabilities are both dangerous and very common. In an attack on a zero-day vulnerability, cybercriminals find a way to get around security weaknesses in applications that developers haven’t yet had a chance to fix with patches.  

Attackers know which patches developers are releasing and exploit those vulnerabilities even after patches are available, knowing that many organizations don’t update applications automatically. Failing to update or patch your software leaves your network wide open to intruders. And this is not a small problem 

The  Zero Day Initiative, a research team dedicated to identifying zero-day vulnerabilities, discovered 1,558 known equipment and application vulnerabilities between January 1 to October 17, 2023. Research from NinjaOne reveals that 57% of data breaches could have been prevented with the installation of a patch that was available to the victims. Updating software is not optional—and it’s not something to put off doing.  

Applications with expired support 

Software applications don’t last forever, at least not safely. Vendors routinely “sunset” apps, which usually means they stop supporting them and almost always means they stop issuing patches for them. You might not be able to get help from a support call. Worse, an unpatched app is an open door to your network, and an app that has sunsetted is an unpatched app.  

Vendors won’t sunset an app without telling you, but it’s your responsibility to make sure you upgrade to a new version of the app—or choose something else for the same work—before support for the software expires.  

Performance issues 

Unpatched applications are often slow applications. Patches can increase performance and eliminate elements that slow responsiveness. Bug fixes in updates get rid of annoying malfunctions in the software. If you don’t update applications regularly, you’re likely not working as quickly or efficiently as you could.  

That means you’re taking more time to do routine tasks, complete your essential work, and respond to clients and customers. Lost time can lead to lost opportunity and employee frustration. Buggy apps are just annoying in any case.

A cloud partner can update applications for you 

So, you could keep software inventories and manage update schedules, and you could spring into action when critical updates appear. Or instead of running your own server, you could let someone else handle updates. When you work with a cloud partner, experts handle updates for you. You don’t even know they’re happening. The apps you run in the cloud just work without you having to intervene.  

Plus, in the cloud, you and your clients or customers can work with the same information in real time from anywhere and at any time, all while professionals back up your data and take care of cybersecurity. In the cloud, you don’t need to worry about getting around to updates at all—or much of anything else. 

Are you ready to worry less? Move to the cloud today.

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