Benefits and Best Practices of Patch Management

Updated on :July 17, 2024
By :James Mordy

Security threats and compliance are always going to be bothersome factors for those who don’t have vulnerability and patch management policies in place. Although patch managment is a critical function of the IT, several businesses fail to have a consistant patch practice. IT administrators and operations managers should follow the best cyber practices to mitigate the situation, and to create a comprehensive endpoint security and visibility. Modern patch management software solutions can eliminate all weak or unidentified patches, and create a safe IT environment. Patching is no more a boring or basic task!

The best patch management software solutions offer a comprehensive suite of features and tools to quickly identify, monitor and secure the weak patches and prevent the attackers from exploiting any bugs or technical issues. IT departments widely use patch management tools to improve IT cost effectiveness, efficiency, performance, productivity, flexibility and accessibility. Not only this, but the capabilities can be further enhanced by leveraging best practices that help bring better results with optimal system security and stability. 

Patch management is and will be a crucial component of any successful cybersecurity strategy. The global patch management market is likely to reach $3245.6 million by 2030. This blog tries to shed some light on the patch management process and its different aspects, enabling you to restrategize the purpose of having a proven patch management strategy, and get clarity on the following questions;

  • Why Is patch management critical?
  • What are its benefits?
  • How to implement the best practices for patch management?
  • How to improve the patch management process with AI-powered defense mechanisms?
  • What patch management tasks can be automated?
  • And many more patch-related questions.

What is Patch Management?

Patch management is a subset of IT management in which IT administrators identify, prioritize, test and apply patches to the operating systems, software, devices and other digital endpoints. It is one of the most crucial components of vulnerability management in which weak security endpoints, bugs, regulatory compliance issues and loopholes are eliminated to elevate the performance, security and stability of the IT infrastructure  Patch management is a boon for businesses in ensuring smooth running of all systems and software. Risks of neglecting patch management are many that may impact the market sustainability of the businesses in the long term.

The Importance of Patch Management 

“Companies spend millions of dollars on firewalls, encryption, and secure access devices, and it’s money wasted; none of these measures address the weakest link in the security chain” - Kevin Mitnick, the computer security consultant who turned out to be the greatest hacker.

With the proliferation of software, and enterprise applications, more businesses are investing in vulnerability management to ensure their system security. However, despite heavy investments, nearly 69% IT executives reported increased concern for cybersecurity as per the 2023 Cybersecurity Research Report. Among these cybersecurity concerns, hackers exploiting the vulnerable patches is a crucial one as they can be easily targeted by hackers to gain unauthorized access to the systems. Such cyber threats and weaknesses can be effectively resolved through a security patch management software. Such a tool offers enhanced data access, better control over devices, advanced functionalities to remotely repair and patch the digital endpoints, bringing better flexibility to your business and IT department. 

Benefits of Patch Management 

benefits of patch management

The benefits of patch management are many as follows;

#1 Better remote data and device security

In an era, when remote and hybrid working are dominant working types, the need to secure remote security endpoints is very high. Recently, a cybersecurity research revealed that remote access is behind 58% ransomware attacks. With a patch management solution in place, businesses can remotely secure the endpoints, regardless of their location. It also ensures enhanced security of VPNs and remote desktop tools which is critical for safe remote operations.

#2 Prevention against ransomware

Ransomware prevention is among the best benefits of patch management. Detecting and applying patches at earliest prevents hackers from exploiting the vulnerabilities that can comprise business data and security. Timely updates can block the attack vectors used by ransomware to secure critical data and operations. Patching also strengthens the capabilities of antivirus tools, allowing them to detect the latest viruses and ransomware.

#3 Reduced business risks

With an automated patch management system, bugs and errors can be eliminated as soon as they are identified. Through such a proactive approach, the number of business risks involved can be significantly lowered. The most common risks that can be eliminated through patch management include data breaches, financial losses, legal penalties, business disruptions, etc.

#4 Compatibility

As software systems are developing and evolving rapidly, their compatibility with other systems is critical for interoperability. Patch management deals with timely updation of different systems that are usually done to eliminate any compatibility issues that arise due to dependencies change or program versions. Additionally, updated patches ensure that software and hardware remain compatible with each other and with other systems. 

#5 Automated AI-powered security fixes

According to a research report by Accenture, 89% of cyber experts heavily rely on automation for cybersecurity to unearth all the hidden security vulnerabilities in software. By leveraging AI-powered patching, enterprises can take advantage of the automated vulnerability fixes. By automating security fixes, businesses can automatically identify missing patches, reduce the risks involved, increase operational IT efficiency, reduce vulnerabilities and timely apply patches to the system, ensuring better data protection. Not only this, but automated security patch fixing also helps businesses deploy patch strategies and verify patch installations without human intervention.

#6 Feature enhancements

Patching not only fixes security bugs and issues rather it also covers features upgrades, additions and removals. Patch management ensures that all the latest features are installed in the systems to ensure greater productivity, speed and efficiency. Compliance, OS patching, patch intelligence, automated patching, patch scan, asset management, centralized patch management, comprehensive reporting, remote patching, endpoint analytics are the must-have features in any patch management solution. In addition, regular feature improvements keep users engaged and satisfied, which is crucial for staying ahead of competition.

#7 Optimal system performance and stability

Without patch management, software systems can show unexpected behavior or crashes that influence their proper functioning. However, with patch management, security flaws and vulnerabilities can be fixed to correct these problems and ensure that the software can work as intended, bringing better scalability to the IT infrastructure. 

#8 Improved endpoint security

A research report revealed that an average organization has around 3000 endpoints, making it difficult to track and protect these endpoints. With proper patch management in place, these vulnerable endpoints can be secured, ensuring 24*7 protection. Patch management can also improve threat detection capabilities of IT teams that is beneficial in identifying and mitigating threats more effectively.

#9 Reduced cost of device lifecycle management

When security and performance related issues are fixed promptly, chances of device failures become very low. Many patch management tools also offer notifications and alerts in case of overheating and when devices perform way beyond their capabilities. Through this, they can take necessary precautions to cool down the devices, eliminating any potential breakdown and lowering the costs of device lifecycle management. 

#10 Prevent reputational damage

“It takes 20 years to build a reputation and a few minutes of cyber-incident to ruin it” - Stéphane Nappo, Global CISO, Groupe SEB

Data security is a differentiating factor when it comes to building trust among customers. When organizations gain a reputation of being insecure, customers often tend to switch loyalty. By bringing security and stability to the system through patching and vulnerability management, businesses can prevent reputational damage, meaning better customer retention and loyalty.

#11 Downtime prevention

In addition, As per a cybersecurity report, 28% organizations stated ransomware attacks lead to a service downtime of 11 to 30 days. Unaddressed patches and security vulnerabilities can cause system crash or downtime that also impacts business continuity, performance and productivity. By practicing proactive patch management, organizations can reduce the chances of downtime as issues are addressed as soon as they are discovered, meaning better satisfaction and experience for end users.  

#12 Smoother computing experience

Patches help businesses fix those bugs and errors which often result in system crashes, hangs or freezes. This reduces service disruptions and user frustration, ensuring smoother computing, consistent performance, enhanced usability and user experience.

#13 Improved operational efficiency and resilience

A reliable patch management software comes with advanced automation abilities that allows IT teams to quickly respond to emerging threats while ensuring consistent and efficient operations. This helps them strengthen the overall efficiency and resilience of IT systems enabling them to adapt to changing business needs and technological advancements. 

#14 Eliminate Zero-day attacks

Zero-day attacks refers to the situations when hackers find and exploit a vulnerability even before the vendor knows about it. In 2023 only, zero day attacks jumped 50%, making effective patch management a crucial requirement. Taking proactive approaches like keeping the vulnerabilities fixed and having a zero-day patching process greatly reduces the chances of these types of hacker attacks.

Patch Management Best Practices

patch management best practices

Just having a patch management process in place cannot guarantee proper security and prevention against cyber threats. Businesses need to implement some best practices along with modern patch management software to ensure optimum results. Some of these best practices for patch deployment are as follows;

Prioritize security and vulnerabilities 

Vulnerability assessment and patching should be first on the list of best practices for patch deployment. Businesses can use a patch management solution to carefully analyze the business criticality of the IT assets to understand the potential point of breach. Based on the analysis, they should prioritize the security and vulnerabilities that should be patched first for eliminating any inconvenience and security threats. Least vulnerable systems can be patched later on. Businesses can also use CVSS (Common vulnerability scoring system) score to prioritize their security and vulnerabilities.

Prioritize system stability and compatibility

During patching, businesses mainly focus on the security impact of the breaches, which could influence the system stability and compatibility. They should first test patches in a controlled environment to ensure they do not cause more issues or conflicts with existing software. Businesses can create a customized software dependencies plan to understand how patching a system can influence other systems and tools. They can also leverage a patch rollback plan, in case something goes wrong.

Create reliable patch management policies

Patch management policies outline the required guidelines, protocols and set of rules to deploy software patches, determine criticality of devices, perform mitigation procedures, etc. A reliable patch management specifies when to deploy patches, which patches to deploy, conditions required for patching, patch approvals, alerts during irregular patching procedure, etc., for effective patching.

Leverage the best patch management software

Businesses should opt for the best patch management software that can effectively meet their requirements. It should be able to support different OS and third party applications besides having features like vulnerability management, automation, customization, compliance reporting, reporting dashboards, centralized update process, deployment policy creation, alerts, etc. Through these features and specifications, businesses can seamlessly perform patch management activities with ease.

Patch in batches

Patching one by one is time consuming whereas patching the whole system at once is even more risky due to the complexities involved. Therefore, IT professionals should determine the endpoints that can be patched in batches. For batch categorization, businesses can use factors criticality, business function and user impact. Through this, the patch management process will not affect other systems and cause unnecessary problems, minimizing the disruptions. If the system behaves abnormally during patching, then the whole batch can be quickly isolated and problems can be addressed without affecting the entire system. 

Testing before deployment

When deploying the patches, businesses should make sure that they are properly tested and debugged. Through this, stability of the updated patches can be ensured which is also beneficial in eliminating the negative impact of any vulnerability on other systems, if found any. The IT managers and administrators should consider factors like compatibility checks, functionality validation, performance assessments, etc., during the testing and deployment. Also, they can use patch management software with automated testing features for faster deployment.

Automate patch management

what can be automated in patch management

Automating the patch management is another best practice to improve the security as well as the ability to efficiently identify and deploy patches. Automated patch management tools can consistently look out for vulnerabilities and security breach points in IT assets, allowing businesses to streamline the patching process. Not only assets, but automated patch management solutions can also continuously monitor and assess the network servers in real time which helps reduce the downtime, errors and impact of the vulnerabilities. Additionally, businesses take an average of 212 days to detect a breach and automating the patch management can considerably reduce this number.

Regularly update the patches

Regularly updating the patches is a proactive approach to protect data and business systems from external cyberattacks. Apply and update patches as soon as they are released by the vendor. However, one key thing to remember is to avoid updating the software patches when using untrusted or public networks as they are more prone to hacking.

Zerotouch patching

Zerotouch patching eliminates the human intervention in downloading, identifying and deploying the patches. Automated patch management software systems offer robust zerotouch patching features such as policy configuration, automated monitoring and alerting, regular security assessments, etc., that helps businesses free up the IT resources and timely apply the patches.

Routinize patch management

Routinizing patch management greatly helps employees easily understand and predict organizational patch management cycles. Through this, they can have clear ideas regarding their roles, patching policies, configuration revalidation, maintaining and practicing incident response procedures, high-impact vulnerabilities, out-of-cycle patching, etc., enabling enhanced security. They can also develop a regular weekly or monthly schedule to audit and apply patches without causing service and business disruptions.

Conclusion

The efficiency and performance that patch management brings to a business cannot be ignored when continuous monitoring of cyber threats is a major trend. And while AI is already strengthening cybersecurity, other evolving technologies like Gen AI, IoT and Blockchain will bring new advancements in cyber security such as fully automated patch management systems, SBOM adoption and Zero Trust Security models. These new advancements will further streamline and simplify the complexities of vulnerability assessment and patching. As long as vendors continue to issue new patches, businesses can efficeintly apply them. However, the modern patch management tools are expected to take policy-based instances that will go beyond event and crisis driven patching, freeing the IT administrators of burdensome and labor intensive patching processes. The future of patch management is going to be effortless with the power of artificial intelligence (AI), and automation. Patch management will be a preventive management.

James Mordy
James Mordy

James Mordy is a content writer for GoodFirms. A voracious reader, an avid researcher, a logophile, and a tech geek, he loves reading about the latest technologies shaping the world. He often articulates the very nuances of the tech world in his blogs. In his free time, he loves to watch movies and analyze stock markets worldwide.

Read Similar Blogs

9 Best Free and Open Source Patch Management Software

9 Best Free and Open Source Patch Management Software

Most of you must have heard the story of David and Goliath-the 9 feet tall giant Philistine warrior –‘Goliath’ who was killed by a young Israe ... Read more

The Cost and Feature Comparison Guide to the Top Service Desk Software

The Cost and Feature Comparison Guide to the Top Service Desk Software

“If you are running a business, there are three things to focus on - quick service delivery, attentive service delivery and efficient service delivery&r ... Read more

Top 10 Benefits of IT Management Software Services: Who can Benefit and How can they Benefit?

Top 10 Benefits of IT Management Software Services: Who can Benefit and How can they Benefit?

Managing IT infrastructure can be a tedious and time-consuming task. Here's where the role of IT management services comes to rescue you. Earlier businesses ... Read more