A new year has arrived, and this is an excellent time to consider applying any upgrades that you were putting off until the end of 2011. In some cases, you may have delayed software upgrades in order to verify compatibility with your web applications, or you may have simply delayed your upgrades to make sure you did not have any server downtime. The new year is usually a great time for transitioning, so here is a checklist you can use if you decide to upgrade.
1. Backup and Check Backups – Before you upgrade, do a system-wide backup, including databases. Then, check the backups to make sure they were completed correctly. If you somehow manage to cripple your system, you will still have all of your data on your backup device.
2. Run Virtual Machine Tests – If you have any qualms about upgrading to the latest version of a particular software package, use virtualization to test it in a safe environment. If it works in a virtual machine configured to match your server, you should be fine.
3. Schedule A Maintenance Window – Even if it is expected to be a routine upgrade with no downtime, you never know what might happen. Tell your customers ahead of time that you will be performing maintenance. If all goes well, they will only be pleasantly surprised that the maintenance had no effect on their sites or service.
4. Run Post-Upgrade Diagnostics – After the upgrade, make sure all services are functioning properly and also working together with your upgraded software the way you intended. Once you have verified all normality, you can kickoff the new year with your up-to-date software.