How to Avoid the Pitfalls of Poor Patch Management

On your way to work, you noticed that you’ve blown past the 3,000-mile mark and your reliable old car is overdue for an oil change. But you have more important things to do. You’ve been working late, the kids have soccer practice and you haven’t mowed the lawn in three weeks.

Before you know it, you’ve hit the 5,000-mile mark and the car is starting to make funny noises. A $25 oil change has turned into a $1,500 repair, and all of those things you have to get done just became a lot more complicated.

Overlooking patch management can have the same effect on your organization’s computer systems and network. If you ignore or gloss over it, you may get by for a little while, but it will eventually come back to bite you – and the impact will be much more devastating.

Patch management is the process of repairing vulnerabilities in an organization’s IT infrastructure in order to maintain network security. These fixes, or patches, are strategically deployed to applications, plugins, software, servers and other components of the IT infrastructure.

It is important to apply patches regularly to thwart sophisticated threats that can pounce quickly – zero-day exploits attack on the same day vulnerabilities are revealed. Emerging threats aren’t the only issue, however.

Older security holes in dated software continue to be exploited years after they’ve been detected. Because patch management requires time, personnel and resources that most small to midsize businesses lack, holes go unplugged and risks remain.

Today’s increasingly complex networks have brought an increasing number of patches, which can be applied in different ways and should be prioritized based upon the potential impact on the organization. Patches also require comprehensive testing to ensure that they’ll actually work in your IT environment without hampering network performance.

For example, Microsoft is known for “Patch Tuesday,” its monthly release of security patches. In July 2013, Microsoft had to withdraw three patches that were found ineffective due to insufficient testing and installation problems. In August, they were forced to pull another fix that was equally buggy. Needless to say, testing can be complicated.

You can attempt to patch vulnerabilities on the fly, which is a recipe for disaster because it’s virtually impossible to keep up with the volume of patches. You can also use patch management tools, which enable you to automate the process after taking inventory of your software and configuring policies for patch deployment.

An increasingly popular approach, especially among SMBs with limited in-house IT resources, is to outsource patch management to a managed services provider. A managed services provider will ensure that patches are prioritized, tested, scheduled and kept up to date. Your organization will be protected against threats that can result in costly downtime and data loss.

Don’t put patch management on the back burner. Let, your outsourced IT department, help you develop a patch management strategy that keeps your organization protected.