In recent years, both Apple and Microsoft have migrated to a model of continuous upgrades for their operating systems. Apple offers three operating systems: macOS for Macs, iPadOS for iPads, and iOS for iPhones, while Microsoft offers Windows as its standard computing OS. Additionally, both companies allow for any customer to download and test the latest OS on a pre-release basis. This model of continuous updates and direct-to-client relationship, even prior to releasing a final product, creates many challenges for Amherst College, some of which are:
- Security: How do newer operating systems interact with College systems? For example: does VPN work as expected; can the user still use all resources as with the previous version of the OS?
- Reliability: Should we entrust valuable data to untested operating systems? Will the new OS cause data loss? Will the user encounter an unacceptable amount of system crashes or freezes with the new OS? Will the new OS work well with existing devices on campus, such as iPads, iPhones, Apple TVs, projectors, etc?
- Usability: How much has the new OS changed? Do we need to offer workshops and training sessions prior to a rollout? Will the user be at least as efective in performing expected tasks with the new OS as with the previous OS?
- Release Timeline: Companies do not align their product release with academic schedules, and they often release an update just prior to or during the academic year, which does not allow for internal testing. In order to prevent disruption during the academic year, we postpone all major releases for the summer, which allows us to test new operating systems and software during the academic year and discuss the changes with faculty and staff members. As an example, Microsoft released Windows 10 on July 29, 2015 while Apple releaseed a new versions of iOS and macOS in September 2015. The release schedule does not allow us to test the new software thoroughly prior to the start of the academic year, and does not allow faculty members enough time to rewrite course materials that may change with new software. While both companies provide pre-release versions, these versions are great for preliminary testing but cannot be used for final testing prior to releasing them for production to our community.
These challenges are not new to Information Technology professionals, but they are new to regular users since companies are now catering directly to the customer even with pre-release software. We will continue to support our users by addressing the concerns above and providing timelines for the coordinated deployment of new operating systems.
What does Amherst College IT Recommend?
We recommend that you do not upgrade to pre-release operating systems for any computer used to access Amherst College systems, and to wait for an "all clear" on recently released operating systems. We test all new operating systems on all College applications and notify the community of our plans for phased rollouts, and provide workshops as necessary. We understand that you may not have a choice about which operating system to use when you purchase new, personal computing devices. We will do out best to provide assistance with operating systems that have not yet been deployed on campus.
Prevent Your Computer from Upgrading: Pay Careful Attention to Upgrades from Apple and Microsoft
Both Apple and Microsoft release regular updates to their existing software, and you will want to continue updating your computers and devices since those updates maintain the security and enhance the stability of your computers and devices. You will want to pay close attention to the type of update, as Apple and Microsoft will make major announcements about new OS releases. These upgrade alerts will not look like the usual update alerts you receive for your current system. Whenever in doubt, please contact us. Here is a screen capture of what the upgrade offer will look like on a Macintosh:
Here is a screen capture of what the upgrade offer will look like on Windows:
If You Have a Need for the latest Operating System
Should you have a specific need to use the latest operating system from Apple or Microsoft that is not yet deployed on campus, please contact us for assistance. You may call us at x2526, write to AskIT@amherst.edu, or visit AskIT online. We will work with you to verify all the applications you use and the computer you use can run on the latest operating system, and will help you create a backup of your data prior to an upgrade.