Best Choices for Patch Management

Patch management in a business requires right balances between the preparation and the speed. Without right process and tool, patching can fail. And failure to regularly update patches can lead to uselessly get exposuresfor security breaches or downtime of systems and services.

So here are the tips for ensuring that patch management process run smoothly with as little risk of the unexpected as possible.

Know your responsibilities

The first step is to determine your targets and where they are: the workstations, servers, applications and services for which the IT department is fully responsible for constantly evolving patches. These can be deployed internally, as well as in a cloud environment. Knowledge of the park concerned is essential.

While it is possible to track IT resources, it can be very fruitful to use tools. Inventory management and configuration analysis tools can also track and detect hosts to which critical updates need to be applied, ensuring that nothing is forgotten.

Procedures differentiated according to urgency

An enterprise Patch Management strategy should have two procedures: the standard procedure and the emergency procedure. The first details the regular application processes for scheduled updates. In particular, it includes specific maintenance windows during which various infrastructural components would receive “updates”. This schedule helps create a following rhythm to work with on a regular basis and prevent delays in the application of updates. It also provides a basis from which to notify users in advance at the time a maintenance window is likely to affect their activities.

The second procedure concerns cases where fixes must be applied urgently, outside of the standard maintenance windows. Obviously, you should try to use it as infrequently as possible. And for this, it is necessary to determine with great care the thresholds that must be reached to open an emergency maintenance window. Furthermore, the emergency procedure must incorporate the steps and communication channels necessary to notify the users and clients who will be affected.

Track patch distribution timelines

The number of the operating systems, application or even firmware present in the environment varies considerably from one company to another, as does the distribution schedules of updates from the vendors and manufacturers concerned. Such as, Microsoft releases theirs on a monthly basis, with their Patch Tuesday . Other vendors had their own rhythm of release of updates and fixes. These timelines need to be taken into account as part of normal patch application procedures and in emergency procedures.

Maintain and Design a realistic test environment

Just because a fix is ​​available doesn’t mean it can be deployed directly, assuming it won’t have unwanted side effects. These are almost inevitable, especially with highly customized systems and applications. A patch and update test environment aims to establish the impact of a patch in the production environment.

However, designing and maintaining this test environment is easier said than done. Because it is necessary to ensure that this environment follows the evolutions of that of production. Fortunately, server virtualization has made creating a test environment that is closely tied to the production environment much easier and less expensive.

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