Running an old version of SPSS Statistics? Here’s why it’s worth making the move to the latest version

With v28 of IBM SPSS Statistics just released, should you consider an upgrade if you are running an unsupported version of SPSS?

In terms of eagerness to upgrade, our customers fall in to a few categories:

Some will upgrade as soon as they feasibly can – either due to IT policy or because they would like to be on the latest, most developed version of SPSS software.

Some will upgrade every few years because the process is reasonably time intensive for their particular set up and they are happy running a version out, safely in the knowledge that they are still in support.

Some will have cancelled the maintenance on their perpetual contract and will be happily running an old version – sometimes so old that the version is no longer supported by IBM

If you fall in to the final category, why should you consider an upgrade? There are a few reasons why we’d always recommend running the latest version of SPSS if you can.

Upgrade to take advantage of the latest functionality

With each new version come new functions and analysis techniques which users have asked IBM to include. So, the latest version will have the most cutting edge tools to analyse your data and it will also have also been developed to run on the latest operating systems making it faster and more efficient. There’s more information here about how the functionality of SPSS has developed over the last few versions.

Stability and technical support

If SPSS software is critical for your organisation, then running on the latest version – or at least a version which is still supported by IBM (currently IBM will support versions which are up to 5 years old) – provides peace of mind should anything unexpected happen.

This could range from simple computer crashes where the license needs moving to a new machine, to the software ceasing to function due to Windows/MacOS updates. These issues can be complex to resolve without a support contract and a supported version of SPSS.

If you are unsupported or running an out of support version then IBM would require a purchase reference number or the original code used to activate the software. We have had a lot of users request help with finding their codes but in these circumstances there is little we can do. Some users will no longer have access to this information or the original purchaser may have left the organisation and the details may have been lost.

Once you have your code and IBM have released it from the previous machine there is still another hurdle – finding the installation files for your old version of SPSS. This is nearly impossible for anything older than version 21 and even the latest ones aren’t simple to file, ensuring you are downloading from a safe and reputable site.

‘How to’ support and saving time

If you have an active SPSS maintenance contract through Smart Vision then you are entitled to ‘how to’ support as well as telephone technical support. ‘How to’ support means you are welcome to contact our support team for help to overcome any challenges faced with particular features or processes. Some common queries we receive include the following:

  • Enquiries about the installation of R and extensions. The process for accessing R and python addons has changed so many customers contact us about this. Finding the right add-ons can be confusing and time consuming but our support team lots of experience and can get this resolved for you quickly.
  • Clarification on the functionality within modules and if you have the modules to meet your needs.
  • People who know the interface well but have syntax queries because they want to adjust what they are doing slightly. Syntax can be particularly helpful for those running repeat processes but there have been many syntax changes over the versions so we can support you as you encounter error messages.
  • General user experience – we get many calls from customers who are trying something in the software for the first time and they just can’t quite get the software to do what they need. Our support team are happy to help in this situation to save you the hours you might otherwise lose trying to resolve the issue

IT requirement

IT will usually want software to be on the best support programme with the developer. If you are not on a supported version of SPSS then you will receive no support from IBM even if you have a current support contract.

Issues can arise from running older versions such as incompatible ODBC driver connection and operating software updates. These issues won’t have a patch/fix pack as IBM have made them obsolete and will only ensure the latest version will run with the ever changing IT setups.

IT teams have the added complexity of so many people working from home these days. This increases the already tough job of internet/network security and only the latest versions of software can be updated/adapted to the new security threats.

Concurrent licenses

  • Organisations running concurrent licences are always encouraged to be on the latest version due to the inherent use of networks and database connections. The license manager itself is updated with ever version with changes to how IT systems require different connections to retrieving the license.

Overall our recommendation would be that customers remain on a supported version of SPSS. Practically this means you could buy a perpetual licence of SPSS then cancel your maintenance and continue working on the version you currently have for several years until the version is no longer supported. Then you can re-instate your perpetual licence – which essential means you are re-buying it at a much reduced price – and begin the cycle again.

The benefits of this approach are that you save on the annual maintenance charge involved in keeping an active maintenance agreement. The downsides are that you miss out on the functionality available in the latest version and you don’t have any access to technical support should you require that at any time.

We are always happy to discuss upgrade strategies with you. We realise that any change will involve extra work for our customers so our support team are very actively involved in making the process as straight forward as possible. 

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