11 Best Practices For Patch Management And Its Importance

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 5 July 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Patch management helps information technology (IT) and software companies prioritise cyber security. Applications, software and embedded systems are some of the areas that commonly need software patches. As a software developer or IT professional, it can be helpful to have an in-depth understanding of what patch management is and how you can implement it in an organisation. In this article, we discuss what patch management is, why it is important and 11 best practices for patch management.

Related: What Is Software Development? A Complete Guide

11 Best Practices For Patch Management

These 11 best practices for patch management can provide you with a strategic process for building an organisation's security:

1. Take an inventory of the systems

To start, create an inventory of all the software and hardware used for the IT systems. This helps you see what you have, identify potential security threats and check that you are patching the necessary devices and applications. You can categorise the IT assets according to devices, third-party applications, operating systems and hardware. Once you know what the organisation works with, you can search for known risks or vulnerabilities to help decide what patches to apply.

Related: What Is Application Software? (With Definition And Types)

2. Determine the system's risks and vulnerabilities

Next, determine the system's risk level and choose your priorities. It helps to categorise potential risks for each item before determining what to patch first to avoid spending time patching the wrong software or system. For instance, a salesman's laptop that is vulnerable to hacking is a greater priority for patch management than a server in the network that is inaccessible through the internet. Determining risks can help you understand what IT assets are critical for the company's operations. You can then prioritise accordingly to patch at-risk assets faster.

Related: What Is Risk Management? (Crucial Steps And Strategies)

3. Consolidate software when possible

Perform a thorough review of the company's software usage. Using different software applications increases the organisation's risk and expenses. Sometimes, you can find multiple software applications performing the same or similar functions. Review the organisation's software and consolidate it by removing duplicate or repetitive applications. Using one software program for each specific purpose allows you to minimise expenses and reduce the organisation's risk of cyber attacks.

4. Create a patch management policy

Create a comprehensive management policy that explains what to patch and when to do so. For example, if there are some systems you want to patch frequently, add a note in the policy. You can also provide guidelines for choosing non-critical applications for installation. Develop a patching schedule with the day and time to apply patches. Choosing a time when user activity is low, like late evening or overnight, can help maintain productivity levels.

5. Manage security updates

Consider creating a patch management policy to manage security updates. If the company uses third-party software, like anti-virus programs, consider creating a system for managing vendors' security updates. These third-party vendors often email customers about recommended patches. You can subscribe to their channels to receive regular mail updates. Then, create a folder in your inbox for any patch announcements from vendors.

6. Track patch availability

It is also important to keep track of newly released patches. Regular updates about the patches the organisation requires can help you stay current. Every software vendor has a specific method for sharing information regarding new operating systems and third-party software. Find their method of communicating updates and essential information and create a process for monitoring it. This helps you get patches in place quickly.

7. Test the patches

Once you get the newly released patches, consider testing them on a small number of assets. Sometimes, new patches cause issues with the software's or applications' specific configurations and increase disruptions to the systems. Therefore, it is necessary to be cautious while deploying new patches. Applying patches to a few items before deploying to a larger group can help you eliminate potential problems and boost the system's functionality. After successfully testing new patches on a small set of assets, you can install them on a larger scale.

Related: How To Become A Software Tester: A Step-by-Step Guide

8. Apply patches and mitigate patch exceptions

It is important to implement new patches quickly after learning about them from your third-party vendor. Note and communicate any security vulnerabilities to your team. Team members can then help you fix the errors quickly while coding those patches and updating any potentially affected software. Failing to apply the patch correctly can damage the existing business applications. If this happens, you may lose time making changes to and reworking the patch management process. To mitigate these risks and prevent further damage, you can lock down user permission on the server and keep the unpatched server away from the internet.

9. Have a restoration plan

Sometimes, the patches you deploy can cause software issues, interrupting the system's functionality. Create a restoration plan for these circumstances defining how to restore any assets to their original conditions. A restoration plan can help you remove the software's patch efficiently and effectively to maintain the system's functionality. Develop a plan that other administrators can learn quickly and implement whenever necessary.

10. Track progress

After implementing new patches for the system, it is necessary to track the progress of the assets. This helps you understand whether a patch has increased or maintained the performance level of the assets. If you find any issues in the process, you can adjust your patch management process. For instance, you can change the day or time your team applies new patches. Consider training the IT team on the specifics of your patch management process. Tracking the system's progress helps you protect the network and keep IT systems operating smoothly.

11. Automate open resource patching

Automating patches makes the system as secure as possible and ensures the effectiveness of your patch management process. It also helps you apply newly released patches in a timely manner. Automating the process keeps the system up to date, reduces the time it spends vulnerable to hacking, speeds up the process of patching the software, and boosts productivity.

Related: What Is Open Source Software? (Benefits And Examples)

Why Does A Company Require Patch Management For Its Systems?

Patch management in company systems is essential for the following key reasons:

Patches help fix vulnerabilities

Software vulnerabilities make the company susceptible to cyberattacks or hacking. Software patches help eliminate these vulnerabilities and prevent potential data breaches by updating its applications. With the regular deployment of patches on company devices, you can reduce the risk of data breaches, improve site protection and minimise disruptions in business operations.

Patches improve system uptime

Patch management keeps the software and applications up to date, allows them to run smoothly and supports system uptime. From a security perspective, patch management keeps the system stable and safe from malware and other threats. An effective patch management process can reduce system downtime and prevent major losses in revenue.

Patches provide features

Using patches improves the functionality of the system or software. Patches make it easier for you to monitor the status of the organisation from a single location. In addition, they apply various features to the software programs to make them more efficient and productive.

Patches help the company comply with regulations

With the number of cyber attacks on the rise, regulatory bodies require organisations to maintain a certain level of compliance. Patch management helps you adhere to the compliance standards set by these regulatory agencies while protecting the organisation's assets. Patch compliance indicates the number of compliant devices in the system.

Patches eliminate downtime

A sudden breakdown in the system's software can reduce your team's and the organisation's productivity. Using software patches reduces the risks of technical errors and maintains the site's uptime by eliminating system downtime. Ensure that you implement regular system patches to mitigate the impact of unexpected patching problems.

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