Enterprise Patch Management: Basics, Benefits, Best Practices [+ Case Study]
“Some things age better with time, unfortunately, the software is not one of them”
Securing the enterprise environment and keeping software up to date is one of the most critical yet essential tasks for businesses today. Cybercriminals are on a constant hunt for vulnerabilities, looking for systems to exploit, which is why patch management is imperative.
Patch management fixes vulnerabilities in your software and ensures that all your software/applications are kept up to date. In this blog, we’ll take a closer look into –
- What is patch management and why is it so important?
- How organizations can benefit from patch management?
- Best practices for patch management
What is Enterprise Patch Management?
Enterprise patch management refers to the process of identifying vulnerabilities, testing and verifying them, and installing software patches for products, networks, or systems. It helps in correcting security vulnerabilities, functionality problems, and other bugs in software to improve the network and systems within it.
Patch management enhances the software in terms of features, usability, and performance. It mitigates flaws and significantly reduces the chances of exploitation of the software. Patching is considered to be the most effective solution to deal with vulnerabilities.
Why is Patch Management important?
In 2021, the average total costs of a data breach increased from $3.86 million to $4.24 million. The same report indicates a 10% year-over-year increase in average total cost, which is the highest ever recorded.
Moreover, 18% of all network-level vulnerabilities are caused by unpatched applications and 20% of all vulnerabilities caused by unpatched software are classified as “High risks or Critical.”
Establishing a clear vulnerability and enterprise patch management process is a proactive approach to managing cyber security for your organization. It saves your business from any disruption and alleviates all potential pitfalls so that you can only focus on the road ahead.
Benefits of Patch Management
- Secure environment:
Security is the most apparent benefit of patch management. Patching vulnerabilities regularly helps you to fix security weaknesses, manage and reduce risks in your environment, and prevent and protect your organization from potential data breaches.
- Avoid penalties and fines:
Successful patch management forbids unauthorized people to access your data and exploit it. It ensures you meet the compliance standards and regulations and do not hit with monetary fines from the regulatory bodies.
- Smooth user experience:
Patch management fixes software bugs to keep the system up and running without any interruptions. It improves the performance of the device and productivity as the user doesn’t have to struggle with any issues, which in turn means reduced downtime.
- Apply the latest innovation:
In today’s world, technology is evolving every day – a reason why it’s important to keep up with the latest innovations. Patch management helps you to keep your products updated with improved features and functionality. It allows organizations to apply the latest innovations at a scale that benefits your business.
Best Pratices for Patch mangement
1. Create an inventory for your systems
A key best practice is to start by inventorying your systems to get an understanding of what software and hardware you’ll be working on. This also helps you to identify your assets and monitor which devices, operating systems, and third-party applications are currently being used.
You can also access their geographic locations and get information about organizational owners. As a general rule, the more informed you are, the more you can pay attention to vulnerabilities and available patches that matter. It is advisable to do it monthly or quarterly.
2. Determine risk and vulnerability
Before you start managing patches, it is important to determine the level of risks posed to your systems. It helps you to assign priorities to each of the risks so that you don’t end up applying patches to the wrong systems. Though all systems should be patched, assigning risk levels helps you identify which item is more exposed to attack.
A few things to consider when determining the risk levels are – how easily a vulnerability can be exploited, how long a system has been left unpatched, and whether the system accesses the internet or not.
3. Consolidate systems to the same version
Using different versions of the same software across variant platforms can increase the risk of exposure. Hence it is best to consolidate software products that perform similar functions and keep the versions up to date with patches. This helps to patch faster and more efficiently, accelerating the remediation process and saving your technical team’s time.
4. Have a clear patch management policy
When working with teams from different departments it is important to have everyone on the same page. Creating a patch management policy ensures this. It clarifies what should be patched, how often, and in what instances. If some systems need an extensive patch rollout process then it should be included in the patch management policy. Establishing a management policy creates a common ground to work collaboratively and minimizes disruptions during the patching process.
5. Test patches before applying
To manage patches effectively, it’s important to test patches before applying them to every system you have. You can start by testing a small sample of your system and see if the applied patch causes any issues in your production environment. This helps you to be more confident in patching the rest of the system in your organization. It is preferable to do the process one step at a time and patch a subset of the system instead of patching the whole group at a single time.
6. Apply patches as quickly as possible and keep them in check
No matter how trivial it sounds but is important. Once you decide what needs to be remediated first, start applying patches as quickly as possible. Applying patches on time ensures that your systems are not left vulnerable to attack. Another best practice is to keep track of these patches so that they don’t miss any security updates and are free from vulnerabilities.
Case Study: Enterprise Patch Management for a Leading Healthcare company in California
A leading healthcare company focused on well being of animals, serving more than 35,000 individuals (about twice the seating capacity of Madison Square Garden) across the U.S. The client wanted to patch their systems with security patches & upgrade their entire IT landscape, including Servers, Workstations, Thin client PCs, and Network devices (Firewalls, Routers, Switches, Wireless controllers & Access Points).
The Client’s existing patching tool for servers and workstations was outdated and unreliable. Their reporting tools were not capable to pull desired reports and some machines were not communicating with the patching tool. Their thin clients and network devices were not patched for a long time and were facing issues while patching them.
After reviewing their existing patching tools, iLink suggested an enterprise patching solution that can patch servers, and workstations and also includes their ESXi hosts during the process. We provided a patching solution for their thin clients and network devices that can patch multi-vendor devices such as Aruba, Cisco, HP, etc.
Security fixes, Bug fixes, and application patches were applied to all servers and workstations. We also patched mobile devices like laptops and roaming users with the help of the newly implemented patching tool.
After successful implementation of an enterprise-level patching tool for servers and workstations, the customer could achieve 99.9% security compliance against the existing & newly found vulnerabilities. iLink patched 5200 Servers, 6028 Workstations, 2000 Network Switches, and 18000 thin clients.
Proper patch deployment schedule & staging options minimized the downtime for production machines & devices. Emergency patching against any critical vulnerabilities could be performed smoothly with minimum downtime & user impact. It became easy and less time-consuming to patch the cloud resources and audit the devices against any vulnerabilities.
Well, this is just the start! iLink has more to offer.
iLink has experience handling 60,000 devices including servers, workstations, thin clients, routers, switches, wireless controllers, access points, firewalls, load balancers, and other network devices. Our experts help you develop an efficient and effective patch management strategy to keep systems secure, compliant, updated, and running smoothly.
We understand that with many devices and numerous applications, the patching process can at times become complex. Even updating at inconvenient times can negatively impact the end-user experience. At iLink, we help you ensure that everything is kept up to date promptly and as secure as possible.
Our fast response and implementation solutions allow us to keep these devices updated at a much higher rate than the industry standards. In short, we manage all the details, so you don’t have to!