Should you upgrade to Internet Explorer 9?
Microsoft's latest version of Internet Explorer – released two weeks ago – has to be treated with a bit of care as IE is a fundamental part of Windows, something which made the spyware outbreaks last decade so problematic, so any change to the inbuilt web browser can ripple through your entire office network.
Internet Explorer 9 itself is a decent improvement over earlier versions with improved loading speeds, a download manager and integrated search, all features which had been lacking against the competing Firefox and Chrome browsers.
Most importantly, IE 9 has a range of security features that makes it a lot safer to use than previous versions. However those safety features are where the problems can lie, as legitimate programs may be blocked along with the bad guys.
The immediate problem with IE9 is that many organisations are still in the Dark Ages of Internet Explorer 6, having locked themselves into bad technological choices at the beginning of the millennium, and so will struggle with the new versions. If you deal with the websites of these organisations, who are often government departments and financial companies, then you can expect some hiccups in their online communications.
Inside your office, you may find some of your older software doesn't play nicely with IE 9, this is probably the major reason why many businesses have hung back from updating to Windows 7 from Window XP. If you are still using XP then Internet Explorer 9 won't be an issue for you as it only runs on Windows 7 or Vista.
Microsoft isn't making IE 9 available for Windows XP, which is probably the strongest sign yet that the software giant is going to make a concerted effort to move users off what is now a decade old operating system.
For businesses, if your systems support it then IE 9 is a good and important update, however it's best to use an alternative like Firefox, Chrome, Opera or Safari for day-to-day browsing and reserve the Microsoft tools for the sites that insist upon it.
As with all major upgrades you have to test your systems before rolling out the new program across your network. Install the revised software on one or two key staff members' computers and get them to test the new programs in a working environment to check that key operations aren't affected or, if they are, how you can fix or work around them.
Overall, Internet Explorer 9 is a worthwhile update and an important part of Microsoft's trying to stay relevant in a world where computing revolves around the Internet rather than the desktop.
Whether Microsoft can manage to stay relevant is a topic for another day, but at least IE9 keeps them in the game.
Paul Wallbank is one of Australia’s leading experts on how industries and societies are changing in this connected, globalised era. When he isn't explaining technology issues, he helps businesses and community organisations find opportunities in the new economy.