Patch Management | Everything you Need to Know
As an entrepreneur, your primary objective is scaling your business. Along with delivering quality products and services, there are other factors that influence how fast and to which extent your business will grow. The key among them is efficiency.
In the past, organizations were largely reliant on manual processes. As such, achieving optimum operational efficiency was a significant challenge. With technological improvements in recent decades, companies can now turn to various solutions, such as the use of software to streamline processes and improve efficiency. They allow you to deliver better customer experiences, make better decisions, and increase productivity, among others.
However, software use comes with risks such as cyberattacks that can lead to data breaches and other liabilities. As such, keeping your software up to date is integral to mitigate such risks. In this regard, patch management is an essential practice for ensuring the software you use does not present cyber attackers with an easy access point.
What Is Patch Management?
As you seek to learn about patch management and why it is important, you must first understand what patches are. Over time, the software may develop security holes, or its ability to perform certain functions may reduce. Patches are software codes that add new functionality, fix security holes, and repair broken functionality.
Any delays in installing necessary patches affect the functionality of software and expose you to numerous risks. Considering that organizations rely on many software solutions these days, determining and applying necessary patches manually is a recipe for failure. This is where patch management, the process of distributing and installing patches to software, comes in. You can use it for patches for operating systems such as Windows and Linux and other software such as Java, Office, Adobe, and others.
With patch management, you’ll be able to manage the detection, downloading, installation, and reporting of patches on computer systems centrally. Such automation reduces the amount of time needed to check for patches and apply them.
Why Is Patch Management Important?
The purpose of applying patches is to restore or improve the functionality of a software and reduce vulnerabilities. Whereas it may not seem like an urgent matter so long as the software is still functional and no signs of a breach, that not remotely accurate.
Today, cybercrime is arguably the biggest threat organizations face. If hackers gain access to your systems and data, they can exploit you and your clients in many ways. For instance, the proprietary information that gives you a competitive edge may be exposed. In the case of your consumers, it may leak their financial information and personal information such as their address, contacts, and health conditions.
When such an incident occurs, you may be subject to legal action and face hefty non-compliance fines. Due to their effects, data breaches attract a lot of scrutiny and may erode trust between you and your clientele. It may take several years, possibly longer, to restore your brand reputation, depending on the scope and effect of the breach. According to a Ponemon Institute research, 60% of breaches occur due to vulnerabilities where organizations fail to apply patches.
As such, what may seem like an unnecessary process may turn out to be what’s keeping the bad guys out and your data secure. It is also a requirement for you to remain compliant with regulations and avoid fines within some industries.
In summary, patch management is important for the following reasons:
- Security- By fixing vulnerabilities in your software and applications, patch management significantly reduces susceptibility to cyber-attacks.
- Compliance- The increase in the number and magnitude of cyberattacks in recent years has increased compliance requirements for companies. A key element for maintaining such compliance is an effective patch management system.
- System uptime- Patch management ensures operational continuity as it prevents app downtime by ensuring all the necessary updates are present.
- Feature Improvements- Over time, software developers add new features to their products to improve present functions or add new ones. Patch management allows you to access such features and capitalize on them.
- Customer Satisfaction- For organizations that require customers to access products or solutions via software or app, patch management is essential. It ensures that your systems are running smoothly at all times and consumers do not have to contend with delays and other issues.
- Product innovation continuity- If you offer solutions via software, you must continually improve your offering. Through patch management, you can quickly deploy innovations and improvements to your solutions at scale.
The Patch Management Process
Applying necessary patches allows you to maintain or improve functionality while reducing risk exposure. However, you should not implement patches immediately they are available. Be strategic with patch management and begin by considering the impact such patches will have while determining the most security-focused and cost-effective approach. It is advisable to apply patches within 30 days of release. However, your technician may advise against implementing others.
The key steps for effective patch management include:
- Creating an up-to-date inventory of all your production systems
- Coming up with a way to standardize your operating system and other systems under one version type
- Ensuring you have an up-to-date list of the security controls in place
- Comparing the vulnerabilities, you discover against your inventory
- Classifying the risks
- Testing patches on a sample representative of your assets
- Apply the patches
- Track software and applications to ensure successful patching
Best Practices for Patch Management
To achieve desirable results with patch management consistently, there are some practices that you should adopt:
- Have clear expectations and ensure each team is accountable for their role
- Promote collaboration with technical teams to ensure everyone is on the same page
- Develop a backup plan and disaster recovery process
Integrate Patch Management Into Organizational Culture
Undoubtedly, software use simplifies processes and enhances efficiency in the organization. With this, your company is in a better position to capitalize on present and upcoming opportunities. However, it also comes with threats that are increasing as you adopt more solutions. As such, patch management is increasingly becoming an essential element for maintaining operations and managing risks.
Are you in need of patch management support? Technology Advisory Group is an IT company serving the regions of Rhode Island and New England. Contact us today for IT solutions that will help scale your business.