Patch Management Best Practices

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Unpatched systems are a serious security liability and leave networks vulnerable to attack. Patch management is an important element for compliance with government regulations such as HIPAA and PCI. Periodically applying patches is the only sure way to keep vulnerable systems from being exploited.

Patch management best practices  include prioritizing necessary updates, downloading and installing new versions of the required service packs, hot fixes and dot releases from software providers. The primary goal for IT teams enforcing and updating patches for diverse systems requires sorting through a multitude of patches provided by vendors and applying only relevant updates.

Suppose Microsoft releases a major patch update of Windows Vista, Windows 7, Windows Server 2003 and Office. Some of the patches are labeled critical, so speed is essential because unpatched systems pose a significant risk. Downed systems could mean a disastrous loss of productivity. Further imagine your IT team manages more than 2,000 systems with various platforms, operating systems, security policies and authentications. They use different remote access tools to download, install and test the patch on each system. With 2,000 systems in the environment, it would take weeks to identify and update each device. And even then, every system that needs the patch is not assured of being updated.

Automated patch management strategies that can reliably assess and remediate network and device vulnerabilities include:

  • Dynamic filtering to target the right group of computers to receive automatic patch updates
  • Running patch updates in the background using automated policies based on priority and system requirements
  • Allowing end user options to download and install patch updates based on their schedule and activities to avoid business disruptions

Intelligent, automated patch management would enable your team to control system scanning schedules and remediation practices. Patch updates would allow the team to download and distribute only the patches relevant to their business needs and system configurations. Automated patch management also provides features to minimize business disruptions and target the right group of computer devices for the right patch update.

Automated patch management could enable a single IT administrator to access a pre-populated patch policy. He then could execute the command and with the press of a single button, download the patches from Microsoft’s website, install them on a test machine and test for compatibility issues. Meanwhile, an automatic inventory check could search for systems with the affected software, wake them up, check their readiness and push the verified patches out to waiting machines. The patches would then be automatically installed on each system, and they’d reboot as necessary. The final step is an automated report on the status of the remediated devices.

Standardize Patch Management Processes Automatically

Standardized patch management processes could allow for daily assessment and remediation of client devices and weekly assessment and remediation for servers. Reports can then be generated to validate system status on a weekly or bi-weekly schedule. A systems monitoring task that used to take days now takes minutes, and patches are deployed more completely and consistently across the entire IT environment. A single IT administrator can proactively manage thousands of systems tasks in the same amount of time it took an entire team to do the tasks manually.

Learn more about automated patch management strategies and best practices. Listen to our webinar, “Patch Management: 4 Best Practices and More for Today’s IT Leaders” here!

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