Top Tech Challenges of Nonprofits: Obsolete Technology

This is the second in a series of tips and resources addressing top technology challenges facing nonprofit organizations. If you have a suggested topic, please email us, and we will try to address that topic in an upcoming article!

Knowing when to upgrade and install updates is critical to keeping your data secure, but it can be challenging to keep up with it all, not to mention that we typically recommend waiting on some updates, particularly for operating systems, until all the bugs are worked out. You also want to make sure your hardware and other solutions are compatible with any upgrades before installing them. Sinu takes care of these updates automatically, but if you are managing your IT in-house, here are a few tips on avoiding obsolete technology.

Anti-virus Updates

It goes without saying that anti-virus software is a must, particularly for PC-based computers. While we realize it’s frustrating to get the pop-up notices that your software is out of date, it is a good reminder that your computer is at risk of being hacked. Be sure to set your software to automatically download updates, and to automatically check for viruses when you turn on your computer. This automation will make time management easier.

Operating Systems

Keeping your operating systems (OS) up to date typically means your computer will run smoother, have fewer bugs and often work better with other solutions. According to Gizmo, “New versions of operating systems are released on a regular basis to eliminate bugs, incorporate improvements and user friendly features, and these can assist performance by enhancing software and hardware compatibility.”

However, it is important to determine whether the new OS is compatible with your current hardware and other solutions before installing any OS updates.

Firewalls

A firewall is a piece of hardware or software that helps prevent malware and malicious attacks from entering a computer or a network of computers through the Internet. Sinu recommends using firewall hardware because it protects all the computers on your network. It is also easier to maintain, administer and update than individual software firewalls. However, like most solutions today, the lifespan of firewalls is about 3-4 years. Newer firewall hardware can examine more information and stop more sophisticated threats so it is important to keep. Keeping hardware firewalls up-to-date will allow you to take advantage of advances in technology that allow them the ability to examine more information and block more intrusive attacks. The best solution is a hardware firewall integrated into a comprehensive security solution that includes DNS and Web Traffic filtering technology to prevent employees from going to malicious websites in the first place.

Software Updates

We recognize that today’s nonprofit professional utilizes a variety of software and applications, often distributed over multiple devices. Updating the software doesn’t simply make the application run smoother, the updates also often contain fixes to bugs and important data security patches. The University of Delaware recommends keeping all your software up to date, prioritizing:

  • Operating system

  • Internet browser

  • Antivirus program

  • Flash player

  • Adobe Reader

  • Java

  • Microsoft Office products

Browser Updates

Nearly everything we access in the cloud, we access through our browser. Most people don’t realize that it’s also critical to keep your browser application up to date. It’s true, Internet access works more efficiently with a current browser, however, there are very serious security issues if you don’t keep it current. SecurityCheatSheet.com notes, “Visiting certain web pages could allow a hacker to take control of your computer. Web browsers are sometimes powerless to defend against these attacks until a new version or update which addresses the vulnerability is released. Hackers work to discover flaws that allow them to download malicious software to your computer. Once malicious software is installed, your computer may be hijacked.”

Retiring Obsolete Technology

It’s important for organizations to have a planned strategy for retiring their technology. For nonprofits, that can often take a backburner to more pressing organizational issues, but planning ahead can save your budget for a variety of reasons.

While we tend to recommend a 3-4 year lifecycle of computers, devices are more like 1-4 years, depending on the device. It’s smart to plan to retire 20-30% of your technology each year to ensure no device is older than four years old. For more detailed information on this, take a look at our blog, “Protecting yourself from the risks of obsolete technology.”

At Sinu, we recognize this barrage of updates takes time away from the important mission-critical work that nonprofit employees are primarily tasked with focusing. However, when it comes to updates and data security, a stitch in time really does save nine. With our NYC IT support services for nonprofits, clients can rest assured because our team takes care of keeping devices and computers current and secure. If you have questions about how to prioritize updates, our experts are just a phone call away!