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I’m a strong proponent of “Don’t fix it ‘less it’s broke” – or in other words, upgrade as needed, not always. But here are some of the things to consider when making an upgrade decision:
1) Are you currently experiencing a problem that the upgrade is known to solve? Check with our support staff if you aren’t sure.
2) Are you buying new hardware that requires this release? For example, our new ZF7055 AP requires 9.6.
3) Are you so far behind that if you wait any longer you’ll be far outside our normal upgrade window? Like many vendors, there are a limited number of releases back that you can “jump” to the latest release. So wait too long and the upgrade process can turn into quite an adventure. (the release notes specify the valid upgrade paths, and we’ve also got several KB articles on this)
3) Is my equipment supported in the new release? For example 9.3 was our last release for the ZD1000 – it’s not capable of running more recent software.
3a) Do I need some client support in the new release (for example WIndows 8 phone)
4) Is this going into a lab or production network?
5) Are there new features that I need? But this question must be balanced with..
6) Can I afford to spend (down)time on new issues that might come up?*
9.6 is what we call a major or “GA” release (for General Availability). More formally, it’s 9.6.0 – the first version which includes the new features introduced. We also have MR (Maintenance Release) versions. For example, 9.5.1 is the 1st MR of 9.5. Maintenance releases are the preferred target for upgrades unless there is some strongly compelling reason to use the GA version in production.
MRs are specifically created to address issues that might — in spite of our best efforts — crop up in newly released features.
Hope this helps, and if you have your own suggestions for best practices around upgrades, please join the conversation with a reply.