General patch management strategy includes several processes: scanning networked devices for missing software updates, downloading these patches when they become available, deploying the patches to the necessary devices, and ensuring they are properly installed.
Patch management for Windows machines tends to rely on two software updating services, depending on the size of the networked environment. Small- and medium-sized companies can get by with Windows Server Update Services (WSUS), which manages and deploys updates for Microsoft-specific operating systems and software across multiple machines. System Center Configuration Manager, which is designed for large-scale enterprises, builds upon the capabilities that WSUS provides but includes greater functionality for scheduling and automated patch deployment.
Windows patch management best practices will help with the Microsoft infrastructure, but things get more complicated when considering the various third-party applications and programs that many companies rely on to achieve their strategic and organizational goals. That’s why implementing a patch management software solution is often key. Patch management software not only helps to ensure that Windows server patching best practices are maintained, but that open source patch management needs are seen to as well—thereby helping ensure that all applications within the computing environment are kept up to date.
Why is patch management important?
Proactive patch management policy and best practices provide several benefits, security being perhaps the most obvious and important. In fact, one 2018 study found that more than half of data breaches could be traced back to identified vulnerabilities that had been left unpatched. Because patches identify the specific vulnerabilities they’re meant to fix, it’s essential that they be installed quickly, because hackers and malware can start to exploit those vulnerabilities within hours of the patch’s release.
However, patch management best practices can also help to optimize business-critical functions in other ways. Take productivity, for example. While patches help to prevent the exploitation of vulnerabilities in software code, many of them also provide performance improvements, leading to fewer application crashes and system downtime. Automated patch management also helps to ensure that organizations stay abreast of the latest technological developments and updates, which can include new features and capabilities that often increase the ease and speed of use for end-users.
One other benefit that patch management provides is compliance. Because of the ubiquity of cyberthreats, many regulatory bodies require businesses to demonstrate they’re actively staying on top of security updates and best practices. Failure to do so can result in legal and financial ramifications.