ESRI inc have always stated that ArcGIS service packs should be installed across the board, especially since the ubiquity of Direct connect, so Desktop, ArcGIS server and geodatabase should all be upgraded together.
I’m sure we’ve all been very blasé over this in the past and upgraded as and when we saw fit, I know at times I have and it never seemed to matter too much. However it’s time to think again. On a project I’ve been working on we’ve had our fingers burned twice by assuming that everything was service packed when it wasn’t. As it turns out we’d been caught both ways. On the first occasion the geodatabase was at 9.3.1 SP2 and the client at SP1. We were trying to turn on archiving for layers stored in oracle spatial and the archive tables were getting created but the user_sdo_geom_metadata was corrupt so no data could be inserted. Applying SP2 to the client fixed this.
Having got correctly patched clients we were given access to another database to update and needed to run the fix utility (http://support.esri.com/en/knowledgebase/techarticles/detail/38089) for re-versioning tables once they have been versioned and un-versioned. The utility would not run until we realised that in this case the new database wasn’t patched to SP2. Again patching the database fixed the problem.
So, from now on I’ll believe what it says – though in fairness neither of these was caused by intentionally not patching the whole landscape and in both cases these were test servers. It’s worryingly easy however to miss patching machines in a large environment, especially where desktop software is installed directly on user’s own desktop or laptop machines. We are increasingly seeing organisatoins implementing desktop through Citrix or other RDP technologies and this makes consistent patching of all machines a lot easier to manage.