What is software regression?

Almost every business and organization is utilizing technology and software to deliver products, services, and experiences to some degree. These software-based solutions are rarely standalone and will generally interface with other software systems in some way.

For example, anybody that develops an app nowadays must ensure it’s compatible with Apple, Android, and Windows systems, not to mention any other software solution it may need to communicate with. To complicate things further, each independent software solution will likely need to be patched at some point during its lifetime. As solutions are patched or otherwise updated from version to version, organizations find themselves at risk of software regression.

Software regression is a type of software bug, caused when a feature that has worked before stops working after changes to the software’s source code. The addition of new features, routine system patches, and even prior bug fixes can all contribute to the problem of software regression — as does the rate at which software solutions evolve and interface with one another.

Fortunately, regression testing via a properly designed plan on the part of DevOps teams can help prevent the growing problem of software regression. Additionally, effective patch management on the part of organizations and their managed service providers (MSPs) can help ensure regression is never a problem for your team.

Growth of the digital business landscape

The rapid rise in collaboration and communication technologies is part of the wave of tech trends transforming the workplace, and the proof is in the pudding. Hybrid work and learning reports show that the global video conferencing devices market is estimated to grow sixfold by 2025.

This will make it harder to keep up with and manage effective IT solutions. Where organizations used to supply onsite workstations via locally-managed IT, now employees are reliant upon mobile hardware resources and mobile IT solutions. Unfortunately, this unprecedented growth in the digital landscape also means that the risk of regression-related bugs has never been higher.

Varying quality of IT resources

Not every solution is equal in terms of quality or efficiency and, with so many options available, it can be difficult to choose the right IT resources to avoid software regression. Some companies go with the break/fix model instead of managed IT. This is fine for smaller organizations, as well as organizations with a robust enough team to keep downtime to a minimum during a break-fix situation. That said, remote monitoring and management as well as the “as-a-service” model are seeing extremely high popularity nowadays because of the scalable nature of each.

Unfortunately, patch management is getting harder. The hybrid work environment means that security holes are more widespread than ever and that different versions of software and hardware are going to be operating within the same environment.

Make sure that your devs or the MSP you work with are up to snuff and perform regression testing that accounts for all of these variables. Automated regression testing is a highly desirable solution for those able to afford it.

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Knowledge gaps

As IT resources are deployed at a heightened rate, knowledge gaps relating to IT can result in software regression — and these can come from the IT team, management, and even just your office workers. Perhaps your IT team hasn’t yet realized that your recently updated security monitoring system isn’t working correctly with Apple’s latest version of iOS. Or maybe one of your managers forgets to inform their employees to install the latest patch to avoid downtime.

Whatever the scenario, gaps in knowledge are often at the root. Keep an eye on advancing technologies and embrace the challenges and changes that stem from them. This will help future-proof your IT skills and keep your organization’s IT department agile.

Legacy systems

A legacy system is an old or outdated method, computer system, application, or program that is still in use. A good example of a legacy system would be Windows XP. Mainstream support for Windows XP ended in 2009, while extended support ended in 2014. This didn’t stop people from knowing and using what they loved — especially when Windows 11 looked so different in 2022.

The problem is that legacy systems no longer receive patch updates and are not accounted for when it comes to current software integrations. Make sure that your systems are up-to-date and that your work model is operating by current standards and methodologies to avoid regression-related issues.

Incompatible systems

The growing popularity of the hybrid work model leaves the door to variation wide open. This is because certain aspects of the hybrid model and network will always be out of the employers’ hands. For example, if your organization requires users to connect to a secure network via VPN, but one of your users is trying to work off of a mobile hotspot, that user may have a problem — same as any user with restrictive internet speeds.

While the above represents more of a hardware issue, the takeaway is to make sure that your IT team is aware of every system on the network that may be intercommunicating with the others. If an update renders one of these systems incompatible, not enough regression testing has been done.

Unique setups

Every organization is going to have its unique network and IT setup. This is just as true now as it used to be, but new experiences and situations give rise to new, sometimes less-than-optimal methods.

One thing that will help any organization, no matter how unique, is logical and physical network diagrams. A network diagram is a graphic representation detailing the hardware or software nodes in a business. It’s essentially a blueprint for your network systems and all the components attached.

You or your IT service provider need a clear view of all connected devices and potential software running on your system to ensure consistency between patches and to avoid software regression.

For the sake of standards compliance, security, and system availability, you’ll want to make sure your IT department or MSP’s patch management methodologies take into account regression-related issues. Quality resources and knowledgeable providers can help you thrive in a growing digital landscape, no matter how unique your setup is. Make sure that all your bases are covered.

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