After learning the hard way a few years ago that Microsoft updates sometimes do bad things to nice servers I have always been extremely careful in how I update my internal SharePoint server. Now the box is nothing special, simply a stand alone server running nothing but SharePoint v3. The major difference is that it is a virtual machine running on Microsoft Hyper-V.
The advantage that a virtual machine gives me when doing updates is that I can shut it down, take a snap shot, power it back up and install the updates. If they go bad (which they did in this case) I can simply roll back to that snap shot quickly and easily. This ability allowed me to isolate KB983444 as the cause of the my issues (although I thought it was the Dot Net updates initially).
A further advantage of the virtual machine is I can take a copy of the machine and run it up elsewhere and test the exact system without interfering with the production system. When I locate the problem on the copied system I can apply it to the production system. Simple as.
The small amount of servers that I do maintain for testing purposes are all virtualized and having been that way for a few years now I’d never consider anything else. If you are an IT Pro and you haven’t looked at virtualization, especially Microsoft Hyper V for Microsoft server then I’d recommend you do if for nothing else than testing purposes. I can’t tell you the number of major update dramas I have been able to avoid by having the luxury of rolling back to a previous snap shot.