Proper planning and justification for an upgrade should be proportional to how critical the system is to the business.
- Make sure you can clearly articulate the benefits of the upgrade in business terms (time, money, and efficiency).
- Understand the business processes that will be affected by the change.
- Make sure the upgrade maintenance window is not close to a business-critical process (such as quarterly or monthly business closure).
- Obtain executive and operational approval for the maintenance window. The approval must come from the owners of ALL the systems/information affected by the upgrade, not only from those that own the system being upgraded. The approval must be done in a formal (written or e-mail) form.
Technical and operational:
- Re-read the Release Notes for the technology you are upgrading. Supported hardware models, upgrade paths, and known limitations should be clearly understood.
- Make sure your upgrade maintenance window does not overlap with any other maintenance window on your infrastructure.
- If you have any premium support offer (such as TAM, Premium Support), do a capacity planning exercise to ensure the new firmware/software version does not take more hardware resources than you currently have.
- Create a backup, whether or not you have scheduled backups. Create a new fresh backup.
- Obtain offline copies of both the currently installed firmware and the new version.
- Create a list of systems with inter-dependencies to the system you are upgrading. For example, if you are upgrading a FortiGate; understand the impact on any FortiAP, FortiAuthenticator, FortiToken, FortiManager, or FortiAnalyzer you have on your environment.
- Ensure you have a list of adjacent devices to the upgrading platform and have administrative access to them, just in case you need to do some troubleshooting. Are you upgrading FortiWeb? Make sure you can administratively access the Web Applications. Are you upgrading a FortiGate? Make sure you can administratively access the surrounding switches and routers.
- Have a step-by-step plan on how to perform and test the upgrade. You want to make sure you think of the worst situation before it happens, and have predefined courses of action, instead of thinking under pressure when something already went wrong.
- Define a set of tests (that include critical business applications that should be working) to make sure the upgrade went fine. If any test does not go well, define which ones mandate a rollback and which ones can be tolerated for further troubleshooting. This set of tests should be run before and after the upgrade to compare results, and they should be the same.
- Define a clear rollback plan. If something goes wrong with the upgrade or the tests, the rollback plan will help you get your environment back to a known and operational status. The plan must clearly state the conditions under which the rollback will be started.
- Declare configuration freezes. A little bit before and after the upgrade. The idea is to reduce the amount of variables to take into consideration if something goes wrong.
- Perform a “Quality Assurance” upgrade. Grab a copy of the production configuration, load it on a non-production box and execute the upgrade there to see if there are any issues on the process. Then adjust your plan according to the results you obtained.
- Have a list of information elements to be gathered if something goes wrong. This ensures that, even if the upgrade fails, you will collect enough information so you can troubleshoot the issue without needing to repeat the problem. Get help from TAC/Support departments if you need to check what else could be missing on your list.
- Define a test monitoring period after the change was completed. Even if the upgrade went smoothly, something could still go wrong. Make sure you monitor the upgraded system for at least one business cycle. Business cycles may be a week, a month, or a quarter, depending on your organization’s business priorities.
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