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Saturday, 05 November 2022 10:21

Patch Management: Definition, Tools & Why You Need it in 2023

Although many IT security softwares promote patch management as a feature, few people actually understand what it means or how it works.

That’s why in the present article we are going to analyse

- What patch management is,

- Why patch management is important,

- The patch management process and

- 5 patch management tools to use for your business.

So, let’s start with a short description.

What is Patch Management?

To begin with, a patch is a line of code that refers to the behaviour of an operating system, e.g. a platform or an application. Their special characteristic is that they emerge as errors in code that call for correction or update.

Therefore, patch management is any action related to the identification and the handling of these patches, along with the tracking and report delivery of patch updates.

It is executed via specialised automation-based patch management tools that are controlled by either an in-house IT team or an outsource IT affiliate.

However, to better understand the usefulness of patch management softwares, let’s proceed to why it is important for the IT infrastructure of a company.

Why is Patch Management Important?

The main reason why patch management is important is the enhancement of cybersecurity.

Errored or outdated patches create code gaps that potential hackers can easily take advantage of in order to crack into your computer network. In that way, your network becomes more vulnerable to malware attacks that may lead to system breakdown or data breach.

In this case, patch management fills in the above gaps creating a fully impenetrable code chain.

At the same time, patch management contributes to the maintenance of your softwares.

The automated identification of patches allows their immediate fix in order to keep every function of the software up to date. As a result, programmes or applications run faster facilitating their use by the members of your company.

This also leads to lowest rates of system crashes, a fact that increases the productivity of the system devices themselves but also of your employees, since they are able to use them smoothly at all times.

Thus, there is no doubt that a patch management system inside your company comes along with great benefits for your daily operations. Nonetheless, in order to build such a system, the following steps of the patch management procedure must be followed.

The Patch Management Process You Should Follow Step-by-Step

All patch management procedure steps should be carried out in collaboration with the expertised managed service provider (MSP) of your choice.

Step #1: List your IT assets

Firstly, it is important to document all IT assets of your company that will be put under scrutiny for possible patches. To wit, any devices, softwares, applications, clouds or other need to be listed in the aggregate.

Step #2: Identify & evaluate patch vulnerabilities

Each and every asset should be examined in order to identify the possible patches.

Patches may showcase minor code errors, but also severe system gaps that create a vulnerability point at your network. Thus, patch vulnerabilities must be evaluated and classified by urgency.

Step #3: Test patch management solutions

Before fixing patch flaws, though, patch management solutions must be tested in a trial environment.

This step appears particularly crucial, since each possible solution may correct a patch error but impede other functions of the software.

Step #4: Patch management implementation

If the trial phase has concluded, the patch management solutions that proved suitable for the issues at hand can be implemented.

In that way, you can further build on the protection of your network.

Step #5: Record system performance before & after

Finally, it is important to track the performance and security status of your system from the moment before patch management implementation and after it.

Therefore, you will be able to measure the efficiency of the methods deployed and make further improvements, if necessary.

Although the above steps seem difficult and time-consuming to execute, most of them can be automated with the help of the right management tools.

5 Patch Management Tools to Use

Since there are plenty of patch management tools available, we chose to focus on the most popular ones - which are the following.

Tool #1: GFI LanGuard

GFI Languard stands as a highly versatile option of a patch management tool. It is compatible with both mobile operating systems, namely as Android, macOS and Windows Phone, and a variety of computer operating systems, such as Microsoft Windows, macOS & major Linux distributions (e.g. Red Hat Enterprise Linux, Ubuntu, Suse, CentOS and Debian).

It collects and groups all elements of your network which can be later on monitored via a console dashboard. Missing patches are being identified and fixed automatically either centrally or through “agents” on individual machines.

Plus, GFI Languard simultaneously scans for non-patch-related vulnerabilities providing more complete cybersecurity solutions.

Tool #2: NinjaOne

NinjaOne constitutes a 100% cloud-based patch management tool that can take charge of the patching process of both your operating systems and installed applications.

It identifies, approves and deployed patch management solutions, while also delivering process reports concerning each endpoint device.

The most popular characteristic of NinjaOne is the high speed in which it can fix any errored or missing patches.

Tool #3: SolarWinds Patch Manager

SolarWinds stands as an equally useful patch management tool for Windows operating systems and Windows Server Update Services. It can integrate to Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager - the Windows product through which you can manage the security of the devices and applications of your company network.

As well as the others, SolarWinds also bears a console dashboard where all stages of the patch management process can be monitored and handled.

Tool #4: N-able N-sight

As a complete remote monitoring & management (RMM) tool, N-able N-sight comes along with a variety of features, including automated patch management.

It discovers all new assets linked to your network and allows patch tracking via charts and drag & drop action within its console.

The patch management options provided by N-able N-sight cover every aspect of the Microsoft environment alongside remote access and ticketing & billing solutions that can all be easily controlled by an MSP.

Tool #5: Ivanti Neurons

Lastly, Ivanti Neurons allows you to choose or transit between on premises and cloud patch management options.

It tracks down all known patch exploits that can later on be classified by risk through the integrated Vulnerability Risk Rating (VRR) tool.

Amongst its special characteristics, Ivanti Neurons helps you avoid failed patch deployments by taking advantage of insights from crowdsourced social sentiment data and anonymized deployment data.

Although every tool bears its own extra features, all five have one thing in common; they will advance your patch management policy.

Do You Need a Patch Management Policy?

Having mentioned all the above, it goes without saying that implementing a patch management policy will do nothing but benefit the cybersecurity and performance of your business.

Εspecially if you manage an extensive network of devices and software, such a policy might be the only way to “construct” the first layer of network protection.

That’s why Orthology provides a variety of value added services including the design and implementation patch management policies that meet the requirements of each business on a case-by-case basis.

Therefore, if you wish to learn more on how to build a patch management strategy or to deploy patch management tools - such as GFI LanGuard, N-able N-sight or Ivanti - don’t hesitate to contact us, so as to get all the information you may need!

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