We managed to get some time with a Global Technology Program Manager working for a company which manufactures and markets equipment and services for the mining industry globally.  Having been in the role for 3 years and taking responsibility for SDL WorldServer (hosted by SDL), this customer shares his thoughts and experiences around upgrading.

What are your initial thoughts when you receive new release notifications?

I check out the bullet points listed to see what’s changed, what new functionally is available and whether this could improve process/usability for our end users. 

What is your decision making process when considering upgrade? For example scheduling/timing aspect, resources, existing projects, available resources etc.

There are multiple considerations to whether we decide to upgrade or not.  A major factor is cost, it helps that SDL upgrades hosted systems at no cost.  Next is understanding what issues upgrading will fix for our translators and end users. In addition, I have to factor in the best time to upgrade to avoid any major disruption to their work and my company. The final consideration is the ease with which we can upgrade.  Our system is not heavily customized and SDL takes responsibility for the upgrade process and core product so it is fairly simple. 

Typically what internal and external stakeholder(s) are involved during the upgrade process?

The chain of stakeholders in my organization is quite streamlined.  After completing due diligence, I then only need to get approval from my line manager. Typically this involves confirming my decision to upgrade, and sharing the upgrade schedule. 

Once the upgrade is scheduled what further preparation do you undertake?

There is not much further preparation required.  I work with SDL to finalize the upgrade details, start and end times, and date.  Following which, a notification is dispatched to the translators, my line manager, all system users, and the help desk for sharing details of when the system will be offline.

What are your biggest concerns whilst upgrading?

There are always concerns when upgrading a major system.  First and foremost, regression, breaking something that was not broken before.  Secondly, extended downtime… not being able the use the system due to an unforeseen issue that arises. In both instances, SDL assures me that the core product is tested for this and if a critical issue were to arise, the system would be rolled back.   Thirdly, content loss.  I put content loss last because while it’s huge concern, backups and snapshots are taken of the DB and VM prior to upgrade so there is a contingency plan for data retrieval, the rollback.

Have these concerns changed over time?

Not majorly - these three are pretty much consistent concerns.

What are your biggest internal challenges during upgrade? For example customers often tell us of users who attempt to access the systems during an upgrade …

We don’t have too many challenges.  I hand over to SDL to perform the upgrade and to my knowledge they generally run fairly smoothly.  Where a user tries to access WS, they will not be able to.  Generally the user will then contact either me, or our help desk, who confirms that the system is offline for upgrade.  Our users span globally, so it is unavoidable for some users not to be affected by downtime.

When do you consider the upgrade as being completed?

We do not consider the upgrade complete until we have performed our own internal validations and the system appears stable.  This can take a couple of days.

What validations would you recommend undertaking post upgrade?

Post upgrade, we test everything.  We validate daily tasks and those lesser tasks that may not seem as important.  We try to navigate the entire system, run test projects to ensure all functionality is working. I would recommend this as a worthwhile activity to avoid missing any future issues.  

Should you have experienced issues after an upgrade was completed, what were these?

Generally our upgrades go well, but we did have some issues following our last upgrade from WS10.4.5 to WS11.1.1.  These related to a specific URL failing to redirect.  As a consequence we had to have users update their browser bookmarks.  While it was a nuisance no major issues affecting our Production work occurred.  Keeping in mind that we only have one Production environment, we are unable to test the upgrade process or version prior to upgrading in the live environment.  I also had an issue downloading the new Java file for the new Explorer but that ended up being specific to my own work station (other colleagues were able without issue) so we just left that as is.

What is your advice for those who are considering upgrading?

I would say it’s not as painful as you might think.  The long-term benefits of the upgrade outweigh the negative aspects as it cuts away some of the bugs and issues you may be experiencing by working from an older version.  Which is why, we will continue to upgrade to new releases as SDL recommends and as we feel ready. 

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