What is Patch Management?
Patch management is the process of installing (and managing) the latest patches - code changes which improve the system or fix security vulnerabilities — on various systems within a network. Tasks like deciding what patches are appropriate for particular systems, ensuring these patches are installed properly, testing systems after installation, all fall under patch management. The objective of patch management is to keep various systems in a network up-to-date and secure against various kinds of hacking and malware.
Patch Management — Manual or Automated?
Usually, automated patch management is preferred over manual patch management as the latter involves tasks which are quite tedious for IT admins. Whereas automated enterprise patch management streamlines the entire process by automating the delivery of operating systems and application related updates via a centralized patch management server.
How Does Automated Patch Management Work?
Most automated enterprise patch management tools carry out the patching process by deploying or installing agents on target computers. These agents provide a connection between the centralized patch server and the computers to be patched. They also carry out patching related tasks like sending alerts to the server, storing patches locally on the target computer prior to installation and automatically retrying failed patch installations etc.
Patch Management — Benefits:
Some of the benefits of patch management are:
- Security: Security is the most obvious benefit offered by patch management, as software vendors most often release patches to fix security vulnerabilities which are being exploited by malicious software or people intending to damage the IT systems or network. Applying these security patches at the right time will greatly reduce security breaches of various kinds.
- Productivity: Another major benefit of patch management is increased productivity. Often patches come with performance improvements for the products they apply to or fix crashes. Helping employees (their systems to be more precise) get rid of these issues will lead to a productivity boost. Which, in turn, means reduced downtime.
- In Possession of the Latest: The world of technology is moving at a fast pace. And having an automated patch management software in place will help your organization keep up with the latest advancements in the technology without you having to do much about it. Because software patches usually contain new features or functionality and extend support to additional platforms.
Patch Management — Essentials:
A good patch management solution will contain the following capabilities:
- Comprehensive Scanning: The patch management tool you use should have comprehensive scanning capabilities. That is, it should be able to scan your network thoroughly and identify missing patches. And the results it produces should be definitive with minimal false positives. It should also take into consideration when patches are updated or superseded. Otherwise, you'll be inundated with outdated and useless information.
- Efficient Patch Deployment: Your patch management tool should efficiently install patches and updates across your network, taking into consideration bandwidth and other concerns such as spanning multiple domains or IP ranges. Efficient patch deployment is probably why you go for patch management tools. And if they cannot offer it, it's better not to go for such a product.
- Detailed Reporting: Reporting is an important feature in virtually every enterprise network management product. IT administrators need a broader view of the overall patch status, current deployment progress, and issues which need addressing. So consider the types of reports you may need and select a patch management tool with reporting capabilities that match your requirements.