Once upon a time, enterprise-grade software products were updated every two or three years. For customers, new release upgrades are expensive and traumatic, requiring months of planning.
In practice, many customers delay or forgo upgrading, forcing vendors to support several version of a product. If the company releases interim updates to a version, at any time, there could be dozens or hundreds permutations of a product in the field, each with their own foibles. 
Then along came Salesforce CRM.
Salesforce CRM is the world’s first and finest cloud-based enterprise software platform, used by over 100,000 companies (including 11,000 non-profits) and two million users world-wide. Since 1999, Salesforce has been the leader in cloud-based computing, and its approach to releases is one of the great advantages of using Salesforce CRM.
Salesforce releases product updates three times a year, and updates every CRM instance automatically. Once the update rolls out, every Salesforce user is using the same version of the package, worldwide. The updates are included in the base Salesforce license, keeping consistent both your monthly investment — and your monthly return on investment.
To provide seamless, automatic releases to all of its customers, Salesforce enforces a number of best practices. For example, any custom code must include automatic tests that exercise its features. Salesforce also provides customers with development environments called “Sandboxes”. The sandboxes are updated first, to give customers a chance to try customizations in the new release before the production environments are updated.

Many Salesforce environments use plug-in products from the Application Exchange. All Exchange apps are subject to stringent testing and security reviews before being added to the catalog. Of course, App authors can also access pre-release sandboxes to ensure that everything continues to work as designed.

Each new release also brings a new version of the Salesforce programming API. With the Winter’12 release, we’re moving to API version 24. But, all 23 prior versions are still available to Salesforce programmers, so that custom code remains backwardly compatible.

The Salesforce release schedule is fully documented on the trust.salesforce.com site, along with other vital statistics on how every Salesforce instance is performing.

By fully leveraging the cloud-based nature of SalesForce CRM, everyone benefits — customers, partners, and, of course, Salesforce itself. With the automatic, tri-annual release schedule, we all stay on the same page, making it easier for all of us to help each other succeed.

For more about the latest and greatest Salesforce release, see our Winter’12 blog. ​