Recently the cashier at my local IGA told me about a web site that lets you know if the stuff in your fridge is still edible (www.stilltasty.com) and it made me think “Wouldn’t it be nice if there was a web site that let you know if all your business software was still tasty?”. Not keeping your business software up to date can lead to some expensive problems down the road when you have to upgrade to a new operating system or hardware.
For example, I recently updated the 8 year old computer for an accountant at a large, established company. They were still using Quickbooks 2002. In order to upgrade their three large company Quickbooks files I first had to upgrade the Quickbooks from 2002 version to 2007 on the existing computer (luckily it just made the system requirements for that version) and convert the files to the 2007 format. Then I had to upgrade the 2007 version of the files on the new computer running Quickbooks 2013. A long process that significantly added to their IT bill and all that time the accountant couldn’t do her job.
Quick rule of thumb is if the software or computer is older than three or four years you need to upgrade. Unfortunately a lot of folks don’t keep a detailed inventory of their technology that tracks the date they bought stuff.
So how do you figure it out? First you need to know what operating system and version you are running on your computer. On Mac, click on the Apple icon (usually in the upper left hand corner of the screen) and choose About This Mac (pictures here: http://support.apple.com/kb/HT1633 ). Take a screenshot of this information and save it into a Word document so you have this handy. In Windows, right click the Computer icon or My Computer icon and click Properties. Take a screen shot of the information by pressing Alt-PrtScrn buttons simultaneously and paste into a Word document and save it.
The most current version of OS X for Mac is 10.8 or Mountain Lion. Officially Apple only supports versions 10.6 to 10.8. The current version of Windows is Windows 8 (just released October 2012). The only earlier versions of Windows I recommends folks to use are Windows Vista and Windows 7. XP is so old it is a security sieve, if you are still using XP you need to budget to upgrade this year.
To check your software on either platform, open the program and click Help in the Menu bar. Click About. This usually gives you the version, the copyright date and the company web site. Quick rule of thumb again is three to four years old you need to upgrade. Go to the manufacturer’s web site and check to see what is the current version of the software. Also check the specifications. This will tell what kind of processor speed you need, the amount of RAM and the disk spaced required to run the latest version. Compare that to your computer system information. Note that Microsoft is notorious for underestimating their system requirements particularly for RAM. If Microsoft indicates you need 2GB of RAM for a program, you can bet that you probably need 4GB to have it run quickly.
For Office software, the current version for Mac is Office 2011. Office 2004 for Mac will not work on the last two versions of OS X. Office 2010 is the current version for Windows but Office 2013 is due to be released end of January 2013 or early February 2013. Anything earlier than Office 2003 will not run on Windows Vista or later.