Software runs our lives. It certainly runs your business. What if I told you that this essential cog in your business’ operations can also be the thing that is most susceptible to being exposed by outside attackers? It’s true, software can be the very door that hackers and scammers need to get into your network and run amok. Let’s take a look at the unsung service that is patch management and why it is so important.
For the first years of managed IT services, patch management was more of a value proposition than it was a crucial part of the offering. Today, the script has officially flipped and it is no longer perfunctory, but crucial. This is because threats have changed. In fact, they’ve changed for both the business and its IT service provider.
MSPs and IT departments use software known as Remote Monitoring and Management (RMM) tools to cover all the ends of a business’ IT infrastructure and network. As the core software that allows IT experts to keep a watchful eye over their domain, IT providers were horrified to learn that hackers with a keen eye for opportunity, hacked into unpatched RMM software and were able to not only able to access that company’s information, but other companies that were being managed by the platform. These hackers exploited these vulnerabilities and injected malware into all managed systems. We don’t have to tell you, that’s not a good look for any service provider.
That’s just an anecdote, sure, but it goes to show what can happen if your software isn’t patched and updated properly.
Challenges of Patch Management in 2021
Managing software updates isn’t a very easy process anyway, but with all that has happened recently, patch management has become extremely difficult. With growing complexities of remote workers, cloud platforms, the immense amount of software that an organization uses, and the rapid-fire updates being developed, it isn’t as simple as signing in and updating eight files once a month. You really have to stay on top of it to ensure that your network and infrastructure are properly protected.
A big challenge for IT teams concerning patch management is actually downtime. When software is patched, systems typically need to reboot. This can be a real hindrance to productivity if it is done while someone is working. Most IT administrators won’t make people restart in the middle of the workday, but then they have to remember to reboot these machines when they are not in use. Forgetting is just like not patching the system in the first place, so coordinating patches and reboots at a time when people aren’t working is its own challenge.
It’s a fact that most vulnerabilities that are exploited are over six months old. This tells you that somewhere along the way that either patches and updates were overlooked, or they weren’t properly coordinated in the first place. Combine all that wrangling with the fact that sometimes patches simply don’t “play nice” with corresponding systems and cause more headaches and hand wringing and you have a complicated and often frustrating task list that is just a fraction of the IT admins’ responsibilities.
Some MSP Patch Management Tips
Of course, the best way to get comprehensive patches and updates is to outsource your patch management to a managed IT services provider like Point North Networks, Inc. Any business can save time and money by relying on our certified technicians to ensure that your systems are up-to-date and patched correctly. Furthermore, we won’t cause any downtime as we will schedule patches for times when traffic is low or non-existent.
If you insist on doing your own software maintenance, a couple of tips that you should adhere to include:
The first thing you should consider is to understand all the software your company is using officially and ensure that you are up to date with all the relevant patches. Missing software updates, while probably not the end of the world for an individual, is a horrible practice for any business.
You’ll also want to schedule maintenance on some machines as soon as possible after official software updates are released and if there are no problems, schedule maintenance on all other machines the following week. The test group will go a long way toward exposing any possible hiccups you may be facing.
Software is extremely important to your business, and your business is extremely important to your employees and customers. In order to keep it that way, you will need to ensure that your software systems are patched and updated regularly. To talk to one of our It professionals about patch management, co-managed IT services, or comprehensive managed IT services, give us a call today at 651-234-0895.