Microsoft will be releasing the next version of IE soon, but you might want to hold off. If your organization relies on Web-based applications, you should make sure everything works with the new software before your clients upgrade.
A lot of the industry talk speaks highly of Microsoft's next version of Internet Explorer. There are several new features, including private browsing, advanced screening of malicious Web sites and downloads, and a compatibility tool that allows the software to correctly render pages designed for older browsers. Microsoft will be distributing IE 8 via Microsoft Update as a recommended upgrade for all Windows users.
The only problem with this plan is that unless your tech team is centrally managing your Windows updates — with Windows Server Update Service or Systems Management Server 2003, say — the clients on your network might upgrade to the new software automatically. Unless you have tested all your critical Web apps to make sure that they will work with IE 8, you could be in for some user support nightmares. Nothing will screw up your clients' day like not being able to get their work done after an automatic update.
It probably won't be easy to roll back to IE 7 once the later version is installed, so better to keep it from getting applied until you are sure you're ready to support it. If you don't have WSUS or SMS in place, Microsoft has released a tool that can help you. They call it the Internet Explorer Blocker Toolkit, and it consists of an executable registry script (which can be run on any machine) and a template for Group Policy administrators. If you use the Blocker Toolkit, your machine won't apply the IE 8 upgrade as part of its automatic update schedule. If you have users on your network with admin accounts, though, be aware that IE 8 can still be applied with a manual visit to Microsoft's update site.
So, if you're worried about supporting IE 8 on your network, start your planning now. You can download the beta and start testing your applications, and then apply the IE Blocker if the upgrade is not for you.