Why is Patch Management Important?

why is patch management important?

Patch management has become a must-have for every enterprise IT environment’s safety and efficiency. Find out how it can protect your tech from over 70% of today’s cyber attacks.

Why is patch management important? Because – simply put – without an effective patch management solution, you’re in serious danger.

Today’s tech-savvy predators are pouncing on enterprise security vulnerabilities more frequently than ever before. And even the smallest software gap can expose your devices to viruses, malware, ransomware, and other cyber attacks that do $1 million or more in damage.

That said, software updates and patch management can be a hassle for end users and IT admins alike. But these tasks don’t have to be.

Let’s start with the basics.

What are software patches?

A software patch is a piece of code that – when applied to an application – changes its existing code to “fix” it. Whether that means repairing broken functionality, adding new functionality, or closing security gaps that currently exist. In its simplest form, think of a patch like a bandage for your enterprise software.

Like bandages, however, patches aren’t designed to be a long-term solution. They’re built by software companies to correct security vulnerabilities until an updated version of the product can be released that permanently prevents hackers from exploiting these gaps to harm the corporate networks they reside within.

If software patch deployment sounds familiar, it’s probably because you’ve been doing it for a while – whether you knew it or not. Patches have been a go-to solution for smooth and safe IT operations since the ancient days of Windows Update in technology’s pre-Windows XP environment.

Whether performed manually or via an automated tool, common business applications like Java, Adobe Reader, and Microsoft Outlook have operated with this model for years. And – thanks to the innovation smartphones and mobile work solutions have inspired – this methodology has never been more popular than it is today.

What are the different types of patches?

Software patches are as unique as the technologies and software systems you use to get work done. And they’re often just as important to understand, too. Here are a few of the most commonly used patch types you’ll encounter:

Hotfixes

Unlike typical that require you to restart or close the affected software application, a hotfix is designed to apply to a system while it’s still running. That’s because these fixes are typically created to resolve a mission-critical issue or limit the business impact of a software failure as quickly as possible.

Due to the nature of the vulnerabilities these patches are designed to resolve – as well as the severe effects any potential problem could cause – hotfixes are not always disclosed to the public.

Point Release

Also referred to as a dot release, these patches are a minor software update designed to fix a specific flaw in the application’s code. These updates also don’t include functionality updates or additions.

Maintenance Release

Similar to a point (or dot) release, these updates are designed to resolve specific code errors between finalized software version releases. However, these patches fix multiple issues rather than just one.

Security Patches

A security patch is released whenever a software provider needs to correct a security vulnerability it discovers within its product. By correcting the gap in its existing code, these updates prevent the potential for a hacker’s potential exploitation of the error by removing (or, at the very least, minimizing) the specific vulnerability.

Service Pack or Feature Pack

This patch is actually a combination of all previously described types built as a singular, installable package to provide a variety of updates, fixes, and/or feature additions to an existing software solution. In its most common form, a Service Pack or Feature Pack is used as a regularly scheduled operating system update to perform several tasks at once.

Unofficial Patches

Unlike the other patch types mentioned above, these updates are published by a third-party company or user community due to lack of support from the original application publisher. This most commonly occurs when a software provider either goes out of business or a product reaches its defined end-of-life support date.

Monkey Patches

These patches (also known as guerilla patches) are designed to expand or change the default behavior of a software application without altering its source code.

Now that we’ve got the basics under our belt, let’s explore patch management and why it’s so important to keeping your technology safe and efficient.

What is patch management?

For the most part, applying a software patch is a simple and straightforward process. Your vendor discovers a security vulnerability in their product, builds a solution, and then notifies you that an update is available to correct the issue. Sounds easy, right?

Not exactly. Because your organization probably isn’t using a single software product. You’re likely implementing new technologies more rapidly than ever before – especially as new remote work solutions are implemented to support today’s work from anywhere world of business.

As must-have fixes to keep your technology safe, patches can be applied to almost any operating system, device, router, server, or infrastructure element in your IT environment. But discovering and implementing these solutions on your own is growing increasingly impossible for any professional – especially if you consider the number of new technologies your organization will need to adopt moving forward.

Which is precisely why patch management has become important to today’s technology management initiatives. In this model, a dedicated team or automated process looks for all relevant system patches, determines whether or not they’re essential to your technology’s security and functionality, and ensures each update is smoothly installed and implemented.

An effective patch management solution tests and verifies any potential code change made to your software to decide not only the appropriate patches for each application used, but also how to most efficiently schedule these updates across all affected systems.

For you, this is doubly valuable. Not only does patch management minimize your likelihood of system crashes and security breaches, but also refocuses your IT team on core capabilities and less time-consuming tasks.

But not all patch management services are created equal. In fact, a poor solution can be just as devastating as a lack of one in the first place.

How does poor patch management leave my company vulnerable?

Whether you use an inadequate patch management solution or none at all, your enterprise leaves the potential for holes in its technology systems. And that means gaps that can expose your devices, data, and employees to growing threats like viruses, malware, ransomware, and more.

After all, 70% of current security breaches targeting known vulnerabilities can be prevented with a simple patch… Not to mention help you avoid these five security challenges:

  1. Absence of coordination in security measures taken by IT and other operations departments
  2. Inability to comply with regulatory standards
  3. Failure to automate security channel
  4. Inability to protect mission-critical technology systems
  5. Failure to upgrade existing software and applications to improve overall security

How does patch management help protect against cyber attacks? 

Considering 60% of 2019’s major data breaches were attributed to unpatched system vulnerabilities, maintaining the security of your technology through patch management has never been more important than it is today.

By implementing an effective patch management solution, you help protect your organization against serious cyber attacks through four primary advantages:

Controlled Patch Deployment

Rather than deploying and implementing each patch independently, a patch management service helps you rollout software updates in an organized, efficient, and secure manner to all technologies involved so you can be sure every IT element is protected.

Custom Reporting

Patch management also gives you organized data feedback to identify your device environment, software, and usage security risks before they have a chance to impact your business’ bottom line.

Smart Device Grouping

By dynamically generating technology groups that align to your specific business needs, tracking patching needs and measuring their success becomes easier than ever – preventing your enterprise IT environment’s most serious risks.

Controlled Risks

Identify and reduce the amount of unused and unpatched software residing on your networks to reduce the potential for future data leaks and network exposure.

As the number of cybersecurity threats you face explodes, an intelligent and powerful patch management solution is the best defense to keep your employees, customers, and networks safe. See how FileWave’s patch management tools help organizations around the world eliminate the downtime and negative outcomes that keep your technology from focusing on the work that truly matters.

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