4 Reasons IT Admins Should Maintain Good Patch Management Practices
atching devices is critical, yet patch management is one of the most tedious tasks that IT admins do. In fact, Verizon’s 2015 Data Breach report says that 80% of the exploits used to compromise machines had patches available for them. If patches are that critical, then why don’t IT admins just patch their systems?
There are a number of reasons. They range from the fear that a patch will break something to organizations just not having the right tools. Let’s systematically look at why IT teams struggle with patching:
1. Fear of breaking functioning systems – perhaps the single greatest reason we hear that patching doesn’t get done is fear of breaking a functioning system. Many organizations don’t have the systems and processes to test a patch versus just running it on a production system. The challenge becomes that systems become out of date and it is hard for IT teams to “catch up”. As new patches pile on top of each other, the risk that applications will stop functioning properly increases. The best way to mitigate this risk is to have a continuous, intelligent patching strategy. Leverage tools such as Docker and virtual machines to snapshot your environment and run patches on those cloned systems. While it may not give you 100% certainty that a patch won’t break a functioning system, you will have a higher confidence that the patch will work. Further, if your environment is large and the testing can be done on a few production systems at a time, leverage a tool that can help you roll out patches in a smart way. The trick here is to never get behind. If you let patches pile up, the risk just keeps increasing.
2. Don’t know what to patch – unfortunately with Shadow IT and with departments adding all kinds of technical resources outside of IT’s awareness, it becomes difficult to know all of the devices that are present on the network. Additionally, it is difficult to get an accounting for everything that is on a particular device and whether it is up-to-date or not. Both issues are significant for IT admins. Having full visibility of every system in the organization is critical. With AWS and other Infrastructure-as-a-Service providers, ensure that all of your servers are provisioned from one master account. Most IaaS providers have strong role-based controls to allow various people within the organization to use what they need, while IT still has a master view of everything. For the corporate offices, build in processes to know what devices have been issued or are being brought into the network. Your WiFi systems should be able to help you gain an understanding here.
3. Count on end users – some IT teams simply punt the task to their end users. Whether those end users are required to patch their devices or whether they are in control of servers on behalf of the company, some IT organizations simply don’t have the bandwidth or access to patch the systems. So, they ask their end users to do the patching and hope that it is done regularly. This might include sending out regular emails or checking in with them at the water cooler. Because IT may not have access to the systems or visibility into it, they really can’t tell whether the patching has been completed or not. Some end users turn on automatic updates, while others don’t. IT just doesn’t know. For organizations that are subject to compliance, this path ends up being difficult to make work.
4. Patching solutions don’t match needs – historically, the patching solutions available to IT admins have been heavy weight, enterprise class systems. These systems require hardware, software, and people to run. They are expensive and difficult to deploy. Alternatively, there are scripting solutions such as Chef and Puppet that can be used for servers. These systems are a little bit of the blunt tool method where they will just patch everything at once with every run of the recipe or manifest. There isn’t any visibility into what was done or when. And, then there is the tried and true solution of doing it manually. IT knows that the system has been patched because they have done it, but that doesn’t scale and becomes a bit haphazard after a while. In an era of ‘as-a-Service’ solutions, cloud forward organizations are searching for a better way to ensure that all of their systems are patched.
For all of the reasons that IT admins are struggling with patch management, there is a better way. It’s why Automox introduced a simple, easy, and effective SaaS-based patch management solution. As a cloud-based service,Automox has visibility into on-premises and cloud-based infrastructure.Automox is cross-platform and deploys a lightweight agent on each machine to provide the latest information on patch status by machine, types of machines, group of machines, and by software packages.Automox moves the heavy lifting of patching systems to the cloud and to a Software-as-a-Service solution rather than putting it squarely on the IT organization.
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