SMB Nation Blog

SMB Nation has been serving the Bainbridge Island area since 2001, providing IT Support such as technical helpdesk support, computer support, and consulting to small and medium-sized businesses.

Keeping Up with the Releases

There are a lot of great things to say about the faster release cycles we see with software these days. Bugs are fixed and features become available to us sooner, security issues are resolved quicker too. In a lot of cases, our operating systems and software packages are smart enough to check themselves and let us know updates are available or automatically install themselves.

I work between two different machines regularly and depending on my schedule sometimes favor one software updatemachine over the other for several weeks at a time. For better or for worse (mostly for the better), Windows 10 takes care of itself for me, as does Visual Studio Code and Docker for Windows. This means I often find myself sitting down at the “other” machine and once again waiting for those updates to install. While sometimes I admit to rolling my eyes in frustration every time I get an update alert, I do appreciate that I don’t have to think about those updates otherwise.

But for software that doesn’t automatically update, I will sometimes find myself wondering why demo notes I’ve drafted on one machine suddenly aren’t working when I try them on the other machine or worse, blaming documentation for being incorrect when the commands don’t work as instructed.

When it comes to documentation freshness vs software freshness… Let’s not go there today. I generally always start with docs.microsoft.com when I’m looking for information about Azure and other Microsoft products. While nothing is above being error free and sometimes out of date, more often than not my problems exist between my keyboard and monitor – in the form of some piece of software needing an update.

The top two things on my machines that I have to manually update regularly are:

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Windows 7 update guide: How 'security-only' and 'monthly rollups' differ

Microsoft in 2016 changed the way it rolls out updates for Windows 7 and Windows 8.1, leaving many IT admins and users confused. Here's how to sort out what the company is doing.

By Gregg Keizer

Senior Reporter, Computerworld

 

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It's been more than a year since Microsoft ended the decades-old practice of letting customers

choose which patches they apply, and instead instituted a cumulative update maintenance model for Windows 7 and its shadow-of-a-sibling, Window 8.1.

And yet some users still don't grasp the new scheme.

"There are plenty of people who don't know which kind of update they should use," Chris Geottl, product manager with client security and management vendor Ivanti, said in a recent interview. "'Which one should I do? What non-security features are included in the monthly rollup? There's still some confusion."

No wonder there.

Microsoft asked for a lot last year. It asked enterprise IT administrators to upend ingrained patching practices. It asked them to make radical changes to how they maintain Windows 7 deep into its lifecycle, when there were just three years and change remaining before retirement, a phase most admins probably thought they'd be coasting as they prepped for Windows 10. It asked customers to absorb new terminology. And it changed the rules more than once after the new process debuted.

In return, users had questions - ans still do. The top query may seem among the simplest - what's the difference between the two types of Windows 7 updates now offered - but as Computerworld found out, appearances are deceiving.

What's in the security-only update? Just as the name implies, this update includes only security-related fixes, the kind that Microsoft has issued for 14 years on the second Tuesday of each month (aka "Patch Tuesday").

Just as important, though, is that the security-only update contains this month's fixes, and nothing more. (Again, that characteristic is what has defined Windows patches for years.)

What's in the monthly rollup? The Windows 7 and 8.1 monthly rollups include not only this month's security patches, but also all past security and non-security fixes, going back to at least October 2016, and possibly further. In other words, a monthly rollup is a superset of the month's security-only.

Side note: "Rollup" is a term Microsoft has used for ages to label catch-up updates, those that bring a program or operating system up to current status by bundling all past fixes. (Usually from a specific point in time, say, the last major release, which in the past were called "service packs" and abbreviated to "SP" as in "SP1" to designate the first such collection.)

Microsoft has touted rollups as a customer convenience, because they allow a long-out-of-date PC to be made current with just one download and install, rather than being forced to retrieve scores, maybe hundreds, of individual updates. That's exactly how the company described what it dubbed the "Windows 7 SP1 convenience rollup" it issued in May 2016.

"Install this one update, and then you only need new updates released after April 2016," Microsoft said at the time of the convenience rollup, which preceded and presaged the monthly rollups announced three months later.

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Dell Software Announces Release of AppAssure Version 5.4

Dell SoftwareThis morning, Dell Software announced the release of AppAssure 5.4. I was able to speak with Michael Grant, director of product marketing, data protection, and Jason Raymond, director of product management, data protection, Dell Software, yesterday, both of whom took me into the latest version updates for this solution.

To start, I spoke with Michael Grant, who explained that he joined Dell in the mid-90s. Michael said that, like many of you, he is seeing a major industry shift in both the amount and importance of data. Today’s organizations, particularly in the SMB segment, are bound to be on 24/7 and they need to provide immediate services to customers. “This shift has really exacerbated the SMB problem,” said Michael Grant, in an interview yesterday.

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