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How to Resolve Your Patch Management Challenges with Ease

Patch management, fixing bugs, and keeping software updated and up to date can be a big challenge for today’s IT teams. As our CEO notes in a recent blog, endless cybersecurity and data protection threats come with ineffective patch management. You need to look no further than the recent Apache Log4j vulnerability headlines to see how unpatched software can wreak potential havoc. Failure to keep your software patched and up to date can result in costly security breaches, create legal liabilities, and damage your organization and reputation.

You must be vigilant to stay on top of all the software updates that come your way. But with IT teams often overwhelmed, just keeping everything running smoothly isn’t easy. The numbers bear this out, with a recent study noting that one of the most frequently cited reasons respondents—59 % —said their organization’s cyber resilience hadn’t improved in the previous year was due to a delay in patching vulnerabilities.

Why Patches are Problematic

Patching should be a priority, but it simply falls through the cracks for many organizations. For others, staying vigilant and aware of the many products being used throughout the infrastructure can be too much to keep up with. That’s especially true when IT resources are already stretched thin. And legacy applications can often hold you hostage, as you wait for vendors to provide patches to known vulnerabilities.

Vulnerabilities can also go unpatched in systems that are used infrequently, if at all. And overconfidence in your security measures—firewalls, malware prevention, and other tools—can be misplaced if you don’t treat patching with the same urgency as cyber security measures.

Here are a few other reasons many organizations don’t keep their software patches up to date:

  • Lack of distribution and audit of existing patching tools
  • Lack of a time-sensitive reboot policy to install patches
  • End user devices that are not connected and configured to integrate with the current IT patching system
  • Lack of visibility into where patches are needed
  • Lack of adequate reporting and awareness on the status of patching
  • End user resistance and/or lack of understanding about patches

While these challenges may be typical, they aren’t unavoidable with an effective patch management process. But getting there demands a detailed understanding of your existing infrastructure and the flexibility to adapt as your IT infrastructure continuously evolves. Every change you make to your IT environments—from virtual machines (VMs) to applications to personal devices used by employees—adds more patches to identify, evaluate, and deploy as soon as they are available.

Read on to better understand what you can do to ensure your patches are always up to date and your organization is protected.

Keys to Effective Patch Management

There are critical steps required for putting a successful patching and upgrade program in place. Here are the key components:

  • Inventory and categorize all your IT assets
    Your network, servers, workstations, PCs, mobile devices, IoT devices, operating systems, and applications must be accounted for and categorized.
  • Make sure all of your operating systems are supported
    That includes Windows, Linux, Mac, Unix, and any other OS.
  • Embrace a multilayered security model to enforce web application firewalls (WAFs).
  • Maintain a patch/upgrade/update information database
    That helps track all your vendors’ latest patches, upgrades, and fixes.
  • Establish a patch/upgrade rollback plan
    You may need to reverse patches and upgrades, so you need procedures to do so.
  • Formalize a regular patch/upgrade schedule.
  • Test patches and upgrades on a staging system.
  • Deploy patches as soon as they are available.
  • Assess every patch/upgrade deployment and mitigate for exceptions as needed.

This exhaustive list helps explain why IT teams are continually rushing to keep their patches and upgrades up to date. And it can be overwhelming for any IT team. But there are options for making it simple.

Patch Management Doesn’t Have to Be a Hassle

It is possible to eliminate the complexities and effort required to keep software patched and up to date when you choose Patch Management as a Service (PMaaS). With PMaaS, you add a team of experienced security experts to help you reduce vulnerabilities one patch at a time.

An effective PMaaS provides complete coverage for your patching program, including:

  • Patch compliance with internal policies and regulatory requirements
  • Centralized control that ensures visibility into your IT environment
  • Virtualization support
  • Distributed and remote patching
  • Third-party application patching
  • Heterogeneous platform support
  • Patch automation

With PMaaS, you can remove the pressure on your IT team caused by the constant need to track and install patches and upgrades. And you can be confident that your software is always updated against the latest vulnerabilities. Thank you for trusting us to help with your infrastructure needs.

Contact us any time—we’re always happy to help.

Mike

Meet the Author
Mike Dillon is Quest's Chief Technology Officer.
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