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Before going on to IOS upgrade process it’s important to understand Cisco IOS Naming Convention for different versions of IOS.
Once you have the basic idea regarding IOS naming, you may decide whether the upgrade is needed or which version you need to go and upgrade and so on. If you’re already familiar with IOS Software naming convention, skip the following and jump right over to Cisco device management Upgrade Cisco Router IOS process Cisco vends multiple variants of IOS software for routers and switches.
Cisco network equipment is powered by the Cisco IOS software which is stored in flash memory of the router and moved into the RAM during boot process.
Fundamentally it provides the area to execute commands to configure and administer the device.
This is the necessity question that also touches on soft costs such as the time and resources to accomplish the upgrades measured against the weight given to each of the factors such as vulnerabilities.
Cisco provides two major commands to check IOS version and related information includes model number, types of interfaces, amount of memory, software version, and configuration setting.
You should comment on when not to upgrade also, as it can be a waste of time, human resources, and cause downtime when jumping between major versions that might cause features to no longer work or the config syntax has changed, and so on.
Network devices exist to connect things, ignoring security just because a device is "isolated" has burnt many companies.
Use Cisco's Feature Navigator to help identify potentially different feature-sets (assuming you're licensed to use them).
I would add it depends on how critical the equipment is and if it's redundant or not.
The first popular command is “show version” to check IOS info.