Patch management is the process of deploying patches, or pieces of software code, that address security and functionality issues within various IT systems. Patch management can help companies protect themselves from costly cyber attacks, compliance breaches, and system-related setbacks.
While patch management is important, it can sometimes be challenging to implement properly. Below, we’ll break down seven patch management best practices so you can get the most out of your patching protocol.
Why is Patch Management Important?
What is patch management and why is patch management important? Patch management is crucial to a company’s security, compliance, and productivity.
- Security – Patching ensures that your company’s software systems are upgraded to address any potential vulnerabilities. Unfortunately, the average time it takes for companies to apply new patches is over 100 days. Many cyberattacks can be carried out in this time frame. Cybercriminals jump on the opportunity to attack slow-moving companies as soon as security upgrades are made available by software vendors.
- Compliance – Security isn’t only a concern for your company. Regulatory bodies also have strict security standards that companies must adhere to. If your company doesn’t employ proper patch management, it could fall out of compliance and face costly fines.
- Productivity – Some patches address functionality issues within software. These functionality issues may harm your company’s productivity if left unchecked. By patching quickly, your company can enjoy optimal functionality and productivity at all times.
As cyberattacks continue to increase in severity and frequency, MSP patch management is only becoming more important for large corporations and small businesses alike.
Seven Best Practices for Patch Management
Employing patching best practices can optimize your company’s security and reduce your chances of falling victim to cyberattacks and data breaches.
Here are seven patching best practices to keep your company running at peak performance:
#1 Maintain a Thorough Inventory of Your IT Systems
Before you apply patches, it’s important to understand exactly what systems make up your company’s IT infrastructure. If you fail to take into account one or more of your systems, they may go unpatched and put your company at security risk.
#2 Prioritize Your Patches by Their Risk Rating
Some of your systems may have more serious vulnerabilities than others. By assigning a risk rating to each system, you can deploy your patches in a strategic order.
Here are a few components of risk to take into account:
- How easily the system’s vulnerability can be exploited
- How long the system has been unpatched
- Whether or not the system is accessible via the internet
Many patch management software offer vulnerability scans to make this process easier.
#3 Upgrade Unpatchable Software
Technology is always evolving. Oftentimes, software companies will stop creating patches for outdated software altogether. Continuing to use these unpatchable systems could end up putting your company at risk.
If you discover that any of your systems no longer receive software patch updates, you may want to replace them with newer systems that do.
#4 Patch Quickly and Consistently
The key to effective patching is deploying new patches in a timely manner. The longer you wait to apply your patches, the more time cyber criminals could have to attack.
Many operating systems release their patches on a predictable schedule. For instance, Windows releases all of its security updates on Tuesdays. By scheduling your security patches accordingly, you can implement them before cybercriminals have a chance to carry out an attack.
#5 Establish a Clear Patch Management Policy
It’s easier to act fast when you have a clear patch management policy in place.
Your patch management policy should outline:
- Which systems need patching
- The frequency with which each system should be patched
- When and how each system should be patched to reduce workplace disruptions
#6 Test Patches Before Deploying Them Throughout Your Company
While patching should be conducted quickly, it still needs to be done carefully. All patches should be tested before they’re applied across your company.
Preliminary testing could help to uncover any problems that may arise after patching. By testing patches on a small sample of your systems, you can limit the rollback burden of problematic patches.
#7 Use Automated Patch Management Software
Automation can enhance the accuracy and efficiency of your patching efforts. It can also help you apply patches as soon as possible.
As you look for patch management software, make sure it’s compatible with your company’s operating systems, whether you use Windows, Linux, or Mac. Your patch management software should also include support for third-party applications.
Lastly, it’s a smart idea to look for patch management software that offers detailed reporting.
The Patch Management Process
Now that you’re more familiar with some of the best practices associated with patch management, let’s distill it all down into a simple patch management process.
Patch management typically involves the following steps:
- Identify your current software and hardware systems
- Scan each system for available patches
- Rank patches according to their importance
- Test patches on a small portion of your systems
- Apply patches after the testing phase is successful
- Audit the rollout of new patches to ensure proper implementation
- Document your patching protocols
- Repeat the process on an ongoing basis
Keep in mind that the patch management process can be time-consuming when done manually. In fact, 75% of companies say they lack the staff they need to patch promptly, leaving them vulnerable to cyberattacks. Fortunately, automated patch management software can solve this problem.
Enhance Your Patch Management With Syncro’s RMM Software
By following our patch management checklist and the best practices listed above, you can tighten up your company’s IT security and optimize its productivity.
If you’re looking for patch management software to safeguard your company, Syncro has you covered. Our patch management software can help you patch your Windows operating system and third-party applications with ease. Plus, you can keep track of your patching progress with our detailed patch reporting.
Patch management is just one of the services provided in our remote monitoring and management (RMM) software. We also offer:
- Unlimited PC and Mac endpoints
- Real-time issue monitoring and notifications
- Powerful scripting engines
- Community script libraries
- Automated remediation
- SNMP management
- Managed antivirus services
- RMM reports
- Built-in remote access
- Managed services provider dashboard
- Full-featured, integrated PSA
Discover how partnering with Syncro can take your business’ security, productivity, and profitability to the next level today.