What is Patch Management & Why Do We Need a Patch?
On paper, patch management is a simple thing. Plainly speaking, it is the process that helps with managing, testing and installing updates in a computer. This is pertinent to every sort of computer system from servers to laptops, as well as to operating systems and third-party applications. Among other uses, patch management helps cyber security professionals to identify the vulnerabilities in a network or system, improving the chances of resisting an attack.
Patches are indispensable because they correct errors in the software’s code (these are often referred to as “bugs”). From operating systems to applications, all types of software will require a patch at some point. For example, a recent Microsoft update fixed 50 security vulnerabilities — six of which were marked as critical. If these are left outdated, hackers will undoubtedly exploit them, putting your business at risk — not to mention your personal information.
Neglecting the installation of patches can have dire consequences for a business. And yet, many companies still work with outdated systems that leave them vulnerable to an attack. At this point, you might be asking yourself a simple question — why do some companies delay installing their patches? As with most simple questions, you’ll find that there is no single answer.
Without the right process in place, installing patches can be inconvenient and intrusive. The last thing that a worker wants to see when they’re on a tight deadline is a notification advising of an impending system update. On top of that, a faulty patch can stop an application from working properly, bringing a company’s productivity to a halt.
It can also be hard to keep track of patches, particularly with companies using a wide range of software. That’s exactly why patch management comes in handy, as it systematises and automates the patching process to ensure its success.
With that made clear, let’s have a closer look at why patches are essential to the success of any business.
Why are patches important?
There are several reasons why patches and patch management are key in modern IT environments.
All across the Internet, hackers are working night and day to expose flaws and security holes in software code. Without patch management, we would be at their mercy. If a cyber-criminal finds a hole and sneaks into your system, you’ll pay a hefty price. By finding and fixing vulnerabilities in your software, a good patch management service will greatly reduce the risk of a cyber-attack in your organisation.
Let’s illustrate this with a recent real life example. In 2017, the WannaCry ransomware attack infected more than 300,000 computers. It is widely believed that the victims are also in the hundred thousands, with total damages of billions of dollars. The worst thing about it? That it could all have been prevented. The hackers exploited a security hole in old Windows systems, exposing companies that had not applied a widely released patch.
The WannaCry example goes to show how vital patch management can be. In this case, the lack of proper patch management disrupted the activities of banks and even hospitals, potentially risking lives.
Governments and regulatory bodies are taking patches more seriously every day. In 2018, the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) gave a stern warning ahead of the new General Data Protection Regulations. If a company’s systems show vulnerabilities that could compromise the new GDPR, it could face strict disciplinary measures.
The ICO’s statement was effectively a way of pushing companies to get up to speed with their updates. Because recent software and OS patches will be in line with the new regulations, you’ll be likely to avoid trouble with the authorities. To put it bluntly, patch management is not only important — it’s a legal requirement.
Contrary to popular belief, installing patches is actually beneficial to system uptime. While all of us have had to deal with annoying system updates at some point, the truth is that these improvements keep our systems safer while enhancing their performance. By relying on a strong patch management system, your software and applications will always run as smoothly as possible. Patches will reduce the risk of software crashing at the worst possible moment, improving productivity.
On top of that, having a consistent patch management system will increase the chance of updates being carried out outside of work hours. That way, employees can enjoy all the benefits of a fully updated system without any disruption.
Up to date features
Patch management isn’t just about fixing bugs and protecting you from hackers. Software updates can also include important functionality updates, giving your company that extra oomph needed to hit its targets. As you probably know, good software is anything but cheap. If you want to make the most of it, keep it regularly updated to enjoy all the latest features — after all, you’ve paid for them.
An actualised system will show both employees and clients that you care enough to invest time and money in software updates. Additionally, it will ensure that important files are handled correctly, as outdated software might struggle to read newer file extensions.
Find out more about patch management
Are you after reliable patch management for your organisation? In that case, you’ll be glad to know that OGL IT Solutions offers a fully managed service that will keep your organisation’s system safe and updated at all times. Our team of experienced engineers will approve every patch before installing it, as well as monitoring them closely to ensure their success.
By this point, it should be clear enough that patch management is essential to keep your IT systems safe. But if you’re still not convinced, download our free guide to modernising your patching strategy to learn more.