It’s become an annual ritual—Apple announces a new iPhone model and iOS update. One of the things that has made Apple so popular—is its regular cadence of new releases. Even a modest update to iOS brings useful new features and sometimes a whole new look and feel to the phone. It’s another example of software driving value in hardware (please see my last blog here).

And the new release of iOS 7 is no different. Announced in June at its annual Worldwide Developers Conference, iOS 7 is going to change to look and feel of the iPhone. Some great coverage and detail on those changes can be found here. The really big change that has been most discussed have been the new enterprise management features that Apple announced. This is the biggest leap for the enterprise since iOS 3 launched basic MDM. See my colleague, Chandra Sekar’s blog on how Citrix is supporting the new iOS 7 enterprise features.

Some of the key enterprise features include:

  • Managed Open In—This is one that many IT managers have been waiting for.  This lets IT dictate which apps can open and store corporate data—usually obtained through email. Now enterprises can manage the where and how their data is stored.
  • Per App VPN—Instead of running all data through the corporate VPN, Apple will support split tunneling, with non-corporate data avoiding the VPN. This cuts down on the amount of traffic that companies host on their VPNs and helps keep privacy to the end user, especially important if that end user has bought their own device.
  • Single Sign On–iOS 7 enables single-sign on (SSO) authentication to multiple business apps to keep data secure, but make it easier for the end user.
  • App Prioritization–Apps that are constantly in use over time will develop a pattern which enables background updating and intelligent scheduling.  It’s not really true multitasking—but it does a good job of balancing app needs and battery life.  This will be important for third-party apps, like messaging, that want to take advantage of push vs. synchronization.

So should users update to iOS as it becomes available and should enterprises support it? If previous experience proves anything, the majority of users will upgrade to the next version of iOS as soon as it becomes available. Many enterprises will support it too. Most have been testing iOS 7 on a few models of phones through the summer. And the new OS certainly has enough features to warrant updating. But common best practice for new versions of software is to wait a week from GA before allowing end users to update devices. Why? Sometimes new updates have bugs that can impact enterprise systems. Enterprises have a large legacy of vendors and a variety of servers and applications—sometimes changes, even small ones, can impact these systems, even if testing has been done previously.  This is true, even for Apple products.  Past updates have caused issues that were only found when a large number of devices (hundreds) impacted the enterprise network. For example, Apple launched iOS 6.1 at the end of January this year. Many companies saw that there was a bug that with Microsoft Exchange, caused the phone to drain the battery quickly. A fix didn’t come out until a month later. This wasn’t the first time that an Exchange problem had arisen with a new iOS update. It’s not that big a deal, it happens in other technology areas—but any bug can cause user issues, which causes support needs to go up and adds costs. So what should companies do?

The main things companies should do is:

  1. Create an upgrade schedule. The best practice would be to wait at least a week before recommending users to update.
  2. Alert users to the potential issues of updating. Recommend that they wait a week before updating.
  3. Check new sites and forums to see if any problems in scaling or integration with enterprises servers or applications arise.
  4. Create an update schedule with gradual rolled-out updates. Recommend users update according to a schedule based on depart or last names.
  5. Recommend users back-up before updating. Many users rarely connect to iTunes, so now is a good time to do so.

iOS is a great update and one every company should support. The question is not if, but when, and the prudent company should try to delay a week. This may end up causing fewer headaches and problems than by updating immediately.