The term Long Term Support, or LTS for short, refers to long-term supported software or operating systems, primarily in the open source context. The term thus stands symbolically for stability and reliability over a long, usually clearly defined, minimum period of time.

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Definition “Long Term Support”

What does LTS mean?

The term Long Term Support or LTS for short refers to software or operating systems with long-term support, primarily in the open source context. The term thus stands symbolically for stability and reliability over a long, usually clearly defined minimum period.

Software with long-term support receives important updates in a promised period, but rarely new features.

(Image: RyanMcGuire / Pixabay

Long Term Support is an essential feature in the life cycle of applications, because for the standard versions of Open Source Software often only has short-term support. Long-term support is usually bought with the fact that new functions are rarely, late or not integrated at all. In return, support guarantees continued stable work with software that is still functional .

With short-term support, each software update offers the user new features, new functions ity, but often also new risks. For example, the removal of an old bug may have led to a new, previously unknown bug. The development of the software does not necessarily correspond (in parts) to a stringent progression, but can also be regressive.

This means that users lose functionality or compatibility because they work with the standard version and its Short Term Support. New features are often only submitted later in long-term support if they are established as safe and reliable in the standard version – i.e. with some delay, if at all.

Patches and updates appear less frequently, but this increases the reliability of the basic software. However, Long Term Support does not necessarily mean that technical support is still guaranteed for the user. Rather, it means that the software itself is kept alive and thus supported in the long term. However, this is handled differently from manufacturer to manufacturer.

LTS is also often used in connection with alternative software tests, in which several different program paths are published as standard versions and new features and bug fixes are used in a functionality test can be subjected to. Even though long-term support is mostly associated with open source software, commercial applications often offer both forms of support.

Windows 10, for example, was launched in 2015 with an (extended) short-term support of 18 months, the long-term support is currently estimated at ten years, but only for the Enterprise Edition. Manufacturers such as Microsoft are aware of the caution of professional users in particular and with LTS they therefore offer attractive options for using older software without security gaps and with current hardware.

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Pros and cons of Long Term Support

A firmly announced and communicated support period for Long Term Support makes it for easy for users to assess how they can continue to use their software safely and reliably in the future. That also makes it easierInstallation of patches, as these have already been tested via Short Term Support and have proven to be functional without (further) bugs. Also legacy software that comes with an application, plug-in or operating system always works, keeps working.

With LTS there is no risk of regression and thus IT departments or private users can plan better. The use of a version with long-term support is therefore less risky, but the maintenance patches or service packs appear less frequently.

This means that users are more likely to have access to advanced functionality in the STS cycle, and even the longest Long Term Support does not protect against the end of the lifecycle a software. Therefore, private and business users should keep a close eye on when the time frame of the LTS ends and the software has to be replaced with a new version.

Providers like Adobe have put a stop to any long-term support with systems like the Adobe Cloud – users can no longer purchase software, only subscribe to it. This means that users no longer have the choice of which software version they use, they are automatically in Short Term Support with the subscription and current versions are updated when accessing the network.

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Of course, this is only the extreme end of the spectrum, while legacy versions such as Linux Kernel or Windows enjoy long-term support, some of which goes back decades.


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