How Patch Management Works and Why It is Important

Posted By on January 5, 2015

Protection measures that were once considered to be the be-all and end-all of system security no longer provide adequate security for the complex systems in use in organizations today. This is made rather apparent by the spate of hacking incidents where rogue operators have gotten their hands on the private data of various organizations. When deploying technology solutions, organizations are now more than ever concerned about security. One of the most important aspects of the security structure is patch management.

So what is patching? Simply put, patching is the repair of vulnerabilities in a system. Patches touch on many aspects of a system including servers, operating systems, desktops, routers, email clients, mobile devices, firewalls, office suite and other components within a network infrastructure. This effectively means that the number of patches required at any one time is overwhelming. This is especially so for a large organization where the number of components that require patching and monitoring could be in the thousands.  For this reason, it is important to have a patch management system that ensures patches are applied on time and potential threats nipped in the bud.

How Patch Management Works

Patch management methods vary widely depending on the design of the organization’s system infrastructure design. Here is a typical patch deployment strategy for an organization.

Automated patch management is the way to go for most large corporations as it reduces the need for manpower. Manual implementation of patches is both tedious and intensive and would require a lot of resources. There are also those who outsource the patch management process such that all patching is done by a third party from a remote location. This way, they can focus on their core business.

Automatic patch management involves the deployment of a client agent that enables the administrators of an organization’s network to patch and reboot PCs remotely from a web based interface. This system makes it possible for system administrators to monitor and control patches.

 The Cost of Not Deploying Patch Management

The components that make up a system are usually not perfect when they are released. They often have undetected vulnerabilities that can be exploited by malicious persons and software leading to untold losses. This makes the deployment of patches all the more important. Patch management is a preventative measure as the vulnerabilities detected over time can lead to loss of data or system downtimes.

With a patch management system in place, the system administrator can rest assured that the system is being constantly. Once a vulnerability has been detected, action is taken immediately even when a patch has not been released yet. This, in turn, reduces the risk of a Zero Day Attack whereby the said vulnerability can be exploited while the patch is still being made.

While deploying a patch management solution might seem costly and complicated at first, the benefits in the long run far outweigh the initial cost.

Patch Management Key Concerns

It is imperative that senior management in an organization understand the concept of patch management. This is always not the case as most of the time patch management is deemed as the territory of the IT department. This is wrong as the overall success of a patch management system hinges on the support and understanding of senior management.

It is important to take a proactive approach towards patch management.  Once an issue has been identified, a plan of action should be established immediately. Any delays can prove costly. The concerns arising from this is the ratio of manpower to the number of patches to be deployed. In a large organization, there might not be enough manpower to address the issues arising from time to time.

Nonetheless, there are new technologies that allow easier patch management by automating or outsourcing the whole process. This is more cost effective and easier to manage.