Steve Ross: Orly airport – why software upgrades matter

Shackleton Technologies managing director Steve Ross
Shackleton Technologies managing director Steve Ross
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Failing to upgrade your company’s computer systems could cause more than just compatibility problems – as France’s Orly airport recently discovered.

In November, a glitch in a computer system caused chaos at Orly, initially grounding hundreds of planes, then causing disruption to thousands more across the continent.

We tend to think of airports as complicated places: a variety of interconnected IT systems working in synchrony to move passengers to and from destinations all over the world – which makes the reason for Orly’s “technical glitch” all the more surprising.

After an investigation, the cause was deemed to be a result of Orly’s Air Traffic Control system running Windows 3.1, 1995’s favourite operating system.

While delays are never fun, we accept them as part of the air travel experience. That Orly’s problem was an out-dated OS, however, especially one the majority of IT professionals would assume is completely obsolete, is eyebrow-raising, to say the least.


This year, Shackleton have talked a lot about software upgrades. Microsoft recently ended support for two flagship platforms – Windows XP and Windows Server 2003 – sending many businesses into a panic as they sought to rush upgrades through. Our advice is always to plan and take care of an upgrade ahead of time, since the consequences of using outdated software tend to creep up, creating a deceptive comfort zone, even as businesses are exposed to multiplying threats.

Usually, the effects of out-dated software are not as dramatic as Orly’s example, but left unresolved, they can be devastating for businesses. But what happens when you delay upgrades?

Probably the most important reason for any business to keep software updated is to ensure their network is secure, and can protect itself against emerging viruses and malware. When developers end support for software, they also cease to protect it from new cyber-threats – meaning you continue to use it at your own risk, potentially becoming a prime target for cyber-criminals.

Security issues are not the only problems an out-dated operating system faces, however – overall performance gets worse over time, with many software platforms developing bugs and other performance issues that developers resolve with regular updates and patches. By delaying upgrades, businesses miss out on the full potential of their software.

Out-of-date or unsupported software may fall behind or fail to meet certain professional standards and regulations – leaving organisations unable to take advantage of business opportunities even if they’re in an otherwise healthy shape as their software becomes obsolete. Advanced technological capabilities require newer and newer software platforms to host and deliver them, meaning businesses still stuck in the past may not be even be aware of the competitive edge they’re missing out on.

Secure your future

It’s important to realise that a software upgrade is more opportunity than chore. When you upgrade, you’re not only reassuring clients you are a modern, secure organisation, but giving your employees the tools to improve performance and help win new business.

Whilst it was unlikely businesses are using software as historic as Windows 3.1, by living in the computing past, you could well be damaging your future potential.

• Steve Ross is managing director of Shackleton Technologies