Product Blog

1 Post authored by: veroa Employee

Reducing the Upgrade Blues

Posted by veroa Employee May 24, 2016

We’ve been talking with many of you over the years and from some of those conversations we know that upgrade days, or rather, nights and weekends, aren’t really your favorite part of your job. Also, we’ve learned that SolarWinds Orion product upgrades haven’t been as easy as they could be.


With the upcoming release of NPM 12 we decided to focus on improving the Orion upgrade experience. Check out some of the initiatives we’ve worked on and why, and learn how you can help us as we continue to look for ways to improve your upgrade experience with SolarWinds Orion products.



Our initial objective for the upgrade project was to baseline the upgrade process in the real world. We interviewed dozens of Orion users who had recently upgraded and asked questions such as, “How/where do you find out there is a new version of your SolarWinds product?”; “When you find out there is a new version, where do you go to find out more and what do you do next?”


You told us there were three top pain points when upgrading: planning, execution, and cleanup. For planning, we learned that information wasn’t centrally located; most of you use Release Notes at some point, but there were gaps in the data they provided, and that it wasn’t always easy to answer the question “is upgrading worthwhile?” A big theme for the execution and cleanup phases was that upgrading generally isn’t so much difficult as it’s tedious, time-consuming, and manual. For large customers, dealing with multiple products and additional polling engines only compounds the issue.



We ran surveys with hundreds of users and validated that the pain points were true for most. Then, we were off to problem-solving land!  We created multiple versions of new content, tested it with users, made changes, and started the process all over again until we were confident that we were providing content that really addressed the pain points. We also worked with individual users to review current installations “in the wild” to look for opportunities to reduce time to upgrade and automate where we could.



To help you with the planning phase of your upgrade experience, we worked on enhancing the release notes by highlighting key features and gotchas, providing an upgrade guide/checklist, including new feature technical overviews, as well as version comparison content and training videos on new features.


Enhanced Release Notes



When you’re actually doing the upgrading, you’ll be able to take advantage of over 100 automatic system checks and compatibility checks that let you know prior to installation when certain things might be blockers. If we find a potential problem, we even tell you what to do to fix it. For example: if you’re running antivirus, we check for that and recommend you turn it off on your Orion main poller.


We also took a hard look at the performance of installs—literally, how long it takes users to install the bits for an upgrade (or for that matter, a new install). Our intrepid dev team has done some behind-the-scenes tuning, so you should experience faster performance during the actual installation.


Take a look at what's new and how to upgrade to NPM 12.



Below are some comments from users who have seen all of these changes:


"I wish we had this when we were upgrading from 10.5"


" . . . this really covers everything I need to know about upgrading. Everything is in once place. It used to be I had a list of features, then I had to go somewhere else for upgrade instruction, somewhere else for gotchas, somewhere else for troubleshooting. This has everything in one page and I like that."


I’ll be sending these links to my boss and coworkers.


"I like (the new Release Notes); the layout is nice and clean, I like the pictures on it, keep up the good work!"



And of course, so much more is in the works! As always (you all should know what’s coming by now), we never solve every problem, and we never will make perfect software or perfect experiences… but we always strive to do better! Which is where YOU come in.  If you haven’t already, use the big button below to sign up for UX feedback sessions. You’ll get a chance to provide feedback and influence product, feature, and customer experiences that are in the works. If you’ve already upgraded or gone through RC, check in here and let us know what your experience was like. Your feedback is very valuable to us!



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