Firmware upgrades are not an excuse!

The increased use of software-based solutions has made firmware upgrades a common and often necessary part of the security systems sector. However, this does not mean that is acceptable for manufacturers to launch half-finished products, and patch them as they go!

Some call them upgrades, others patches or firmware updates, whilst a few admit openly that they are bug fixes. It matters not what type of software you use, from dedicated business systems through to simple office-type applications, we have all – at some point – had to download and install some form of software upgrade. There is, in itself, nothing wrong with that, and often it’s an accepted price for using the flexibility of IT-based systems.

The most obvious and noticeable upgrades are pushed out on a monthly basis by the suppliers of mainstream computing operating systems. These tend to be a mix of fixes for newly exploited vulnerabilities, along with upgrades and tweaks for various features and functions.

Whilst there are occasions when software upgrades are issued to address failings within a product or package, the reality is that in the consumer and IT sectors, such circumstances are rare, and often are carried out speedily when unforeseen issues arise.

It has to be accepted, with the best will in the world, that not every eventually can be tested for prior to a product or program launch, and there will always be some configuration or combination of circumstances in which a minority of users may not receive the type of performance they expect.

Such thinking is common in many sectors that use software as a key element of their systems, and increasingly security systems are moving towards such a model. That’s why updates exist!

The correction of minor bugs has to be applauded, and enhancing performance or stability is also welcomed. Sometimes firmware upgrades will be necessary because of changes to IT platforms that may affect how the software runs. On occasions, firmware updates are launched to introduce new features, functions and capabilities, which is always good.

However, it is wholly unacceptable when a manufacturer launches a product or a program that is so buggy it is either difficult or nigh-on impossible to use, and then dribbles out a series of firmware updates to its customers as it attempts to ‘finish’ the product development. It never sits well when you end up acting as an unpaid development engineer for a product you have purchased, especially when your customer is demanding the performance they have paid for!

When a product or program is launched, it should be fit for purpose. Firmware upgrades should never be a substitute for the manufacturers doing their jobs properly.

We have seen products or systems that have almost daily firmware upgrades, each to cure a separate niggling problem. We have also seen problems so complex that the firmware update radically changes how the product works, so any established integrations fail once it is installed.

There will always be small issues – we must accept that – but if products and systems are sold in an unfinished state, and then patched over time, the manufacturers must be told that such an approach is totally unacceptable!

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