New Relic application performance monitoring (APM) provides the flexibility to monitor any part of your application. This is made possible through the power of New Relic agents, which collect your telemetry data and send it to New Relic. Like any other software, you need to take care of your agents, which means keeping them up to date. In this blog post, you’ll learn the top three reasons you should upgrade your agent, along with best practices for doing so.

1. Reduce security vulnerabilities

The number one reason to update your agents is security. Hackers can take advantage of weaknesses in outdated software, which can lead to a wide range of issues, including theft of sensitive information,  unusable files, and more. Agent upgrades often include software patches that address security vulnerabilities. If you don’t update your agents, you are putting your customers, teams, and company at risk.

2. Improve your monitoring capabilities

Agent upgrades often add new features that improve visibility into your systems and dramatically speed up the process of finding and fixing issues. Here are some benefits you get from the latest New Relic APM agents:

  • Decode system complexity with distributed tracing:  The latest APM agents include distributed tracing automatically. With distributed tracing, you can see all your service dependencies and quickly drill down into individual requests and errors to find the root cause of issues.
  • Troubleshoot faster with logs in context: The latest APM agents automatically add context to logs. There’s no need to manage third-party log forwarders. Minimize context switching and troubleshoot issues faster by accessing logs inside the New Relic APM UI alongside other relevant telemetry data.

  • Record and monitor critical events: The latest updates allow you to define, visualize, and alert on three times more custom events than previous agents. Event data represents discrete occurrences with a high level of detail, making it well-suited for detailed analysis and making queries that are relevant to your business.
  • Access production telemetry data in your IDE: Our latest agents offer CodeStream support so you can see all telemetry data associated with specific lines of code. You can use CodeStream to discuss code, track issues, review pull requests, and jump from errors inbox directly to the relevant code in your IDE.

3. Access technical support and bug fixes

 As older software ages out, you have fewer options for technical support. Tickets to technical support teams may take longer to resolve as a result—or there may no longer be support at all. Software teams focus on bug fixes and feature support for the latest agents, meaning that it’s harder—or sometimes even impossible—to get updates to older software. By updating to the latest agents, you’ll benefit from the bug fixes and features provided with newer versions.

Best practices for upgrading your agents

1. New Relic recommends updating to the latest agent version as soon as it’s available. If your organization has established practices that prevent you from upgrading to the latest version, you should at least ensure that your agents are regularly updated to a recent version that was released within the last 90 days. 

2. Review which version of the agent you’re using to know when an update is needed. You can turn on the Agent Groundskeeper app on your account to identify which agents are using outdated versions.

3. Try to keep the same version of the New Relic agent installed on all your services. Mismatched agent versions can result in an inconsistent troubleshooting experience. For example, if some of your agents are reporting distributed trace data while others are not, you'll have broken traces that make it more difficult to find the source of an issue across multiple services.

4. Use automation to deploy and upgrade agents. See the Update New Relic agents section in the documentation for more details.

5. Read the release notes for New Relic agents, so you can take full advantage of our latest features, enhancements, and important security patches, as well as get end-of-life announcements. You can subscribe to the RSS feed so you're alerted when there are any changes.

Sonya Judd, Chief of Staff for Security & Compliance at New Relic, contributed to this post.