There’s no such thing as perfect software. All software is a work in progress. This is true of all software, whether it’s an early beta release—and is expected to have bugs—or is the latest production version of a widely used platform.
When problems are discovered post-release, vendors issue software patches to fix them. Patches are updates to the software’s underlying code made to repair functionality or fix security vulnerabilities. Since they’re issued in response to freshly discovered problems and newly created vulnerabilities, their release doesn’t follow any predictable schedule. As a further complication, the management and installation of patches is the responsibility of the end-user.
Patch management software helps IT teams monitor and manage the deployment of software patches. In this Buyer’s Guide, we discuss:
IT departments—even in SMBs that may only have an IT department of one or two people—have been patching software for as long as they’ve been around. Patching software is, in fact, one of the central operations required to keep a company’s IT both up and running as well as safe and secure.
To that last point, it’s been estimated that “99% of exploits are based on vulnerabilities that have already been known to security and IT professionals for at least one year.” (It's Time to Align Your Vulnerability Management Priorities With the Biggest Threats, Gartner, available to clients.) Only when the vulnerabilities are successfully patched can the risk of falling victim to an exploit be minimized.
Patch management software is designed to simplify and automate various aspects of the patch deployment and monitoring process. It addresses patch management for a variety of IT components, including individual endpoints, servers and network applications.
Because IT varies widely between verticals and company size-tiers, patch management software comes in many shapes and sizes. It’s not uncommon for an enterprise to have several IT teams and find each using different patch management software.
While SMBs have simpler, more focused patch management software needs, they must still search within a highly fragmented and complex patch management software market to find the solution that best meets their needs.
This section highlights the central applications of patch management software and provides a good place to begin your search.
|Patch inventory||Patch management software helps keep track of a company’s IT inventory, including its endpoints (PCs, tablets, POSs etc.), databases, servers and applications. Inventory tools also help track which versions of software are installed on the devices and their patch history.|
|Patch catalog||A repository to store and manage patches active in your company’s IT ecosystem. Catalog tools can automatically download patches from software vendors, ensuring solutions are up to date. They can also help confirm that new patches are necessary and aren’t, for example, superseded by an earlier patch or update.|
|Patch prioritization||Prioritization tools help IT admins determine which patches should receive the most immediate attention, based on the organization’s IT profile. Some prioritization tools incorporate Common Vulnerabilities and Exposure (CVE) ratings to better identify vulnerabilities that need the most immediate attention.|
|Patch installation||Installation tools assist with the deployment and installation of software patches, helping to automate what can be a very time consuming manual process. Apart from saving time, they also increase the quality of patch management processes by minimizing downtime and reducing human error.|
|Patch integration||Patch management tools can often be integrated with other IT service management tools, like help desks and tools for IT asset management. These integrations can improve workflow efficiencies and provide more transparency into the current state of all of a company’s IT assets.|
|Reporting||These tools report on the current (and historical) state of an IT environment, letting admins see at a glance which patches have and haven’t been implemented. They can also help maintain patch compliance in circumstances where patch installation is left up to end users or individual (non-IT) departments.|
While we touched on some of the benefits of patch management software in the sections above, here we’ll lay them out in a more organized fashion.
Improved IT security: Improved IT security across endpoints, databases and internal networks is the most significant benefit of a successful patch management software deployment. Note that patch management software doesn’t make IT security software unnecessary, but it can improve its effectiveness.
Better system stability: Patches do more than just fix security vulnerabilities, they can also restore functionality, prevent errors and ensure that production IT equipments always runs at full capacity. Better systems stability is a benefit that all IT users can appreciate.
Time savings: Deploying patches manually can be extremely time consuming. Patch management software greatly reduces this burden. It also saves time for IT end-users by reducing the need for lengthy update processes, re-installations and reduces the need for damage control following a malware infection.
Keep in mind, however, that these benefits are contingent upon proper selection and implementation of patch management software. Some tips for this are in the following section.
As with all software, the success of a patch management software implementation depends upon accurate alignment with company-wide goals. Additionally, consider the following best practices when planning your company’s implementation:
Patch management can be a significant burden on IT departments, but given the myriad risks associated with using unpatched software, it’s a necessary burden. Careful patch management software selection and implementation can greatly reduce that burden without introducing extra complications.
Our service is simple and 100% free to customers like you because software vendors pay us when we connect them with quality leads. You save time and get great advice. Vendors get great referrals. It's a win for everyone!