Another way software updates can screw your business
I wrote about the potential perils of software updates recently. Downtime is an irritation if you have a hobby. If you have a business then time spent not being productive is a much more serious issue.
But if you have a full backup of your boot disk, you can update important software safe in the knowledge that if something goes wrong, or if the update proves buggy, you can always return to your original set up.
Well that's true. But we had an issue recently where our backup was of no use to us.
Like almost everyone else who uses a digital audio workstation, we use virtual instruments here.
There happened to be one that we particularly like to use for which an upgrade had recently been announced. By recently, we mean not too recent for any early bugs not to have been cleared up. We have a business to run so we like to be cautious.
We bought this particular virtual instrument as part of a suite of instruments and, as it turned out, the price to upgrade the whole suite was very attractive. So we unlocked the vault in which the Audio Masterclass debit card is securely kept and made the purchase online.
Part of the plan was that we would download the update for the particular instrument we were interested in, then upgrade the rest when the DVD came via snail mail. The downloads were HUGE and the one instrument alone took all night on our broadband connection.
Next morning we applied the update to our main DAW system. Of course we have a backup boot disk, so we could get back to work quite quickly should the update prove problematical.
But the update went smoothly and the instrument functioned perfectly. A success therefore!
So back to work... let's open the session we are working on and earn some money.
The session uses the newly updated instrument, and the old versions of the other instruments in the suite.
Although the updated instrument worked fine, the others required reauthorization. (They authorize via iLok.)
No problem, we had the authorization keys. Except they didn't work because they had already been used.
So to cut to the chase, we could only use one instrument out of the suite of instruments. And since the problem was with the authorization, we couldn't use a different DAW, or return to the old version on our backup boot disk.
We couldn't install the other upgrades because we didn't yet have them.
In short, we were screwed.
So the next step was to contact support. We have a support code so we were hopeful of getting a quick solution to our problem.
So we logged a support request expecting a prompt answer.
Prompt? The response took a full EIGHT DAYS! And it didn't solve the problem.
Well fortunately we had already resolved the issue by downloading the other updates, which took a whole day and night because of their size. We spent that day working on a different project that didn't require these instruments.
And the moral?
Well the moral of the story is that there's always another snake in the jungle that's out to bite you.
The problem here was that the license on the iLok covered a whole suite of instruments. When updated, it covered only the new versions of the instruments and the old versions could no longer be used.
It may have been possible to use iLok's Zero Downtime if planned for in advance. Apparently you can load 14-day licenses into a spare iLok and activate them should a problem with your main iLok occur. That of course costs $49.95 for the spare iLok and a $30/year subscription. That's the money honest users have to pay to cover the cost of software piracy.
Ultimately the only real safeguard against problems such as this is to perform upgrades only when you have a reasonable window of time before you have a paying client in the studio, or a project to finish against a deadline.
And as I said before, if recording is a fun hobby for you, then upgrading can be part of that fun. But if you run a business, make sure that the money keeps on rolling in!