Building A Patch Management Process: Best Practices

  • March 20, 2023

Some blocks stop organizations from moving forward on the road to digital transformation. One of those roadblocks is building a better patch process for the devices organizations own. Watched Avatar? The 2009 one? Then heard someone telling you how the 2022 version was a colorful, psychedelic vista beyond the earlier version! Well, patch management is something similar.

Patch Management Process
Patch Management Process: Best Practices

Why is Patch Management Process Essential?

You can’t stay on the moon for years and be aloof that an optimized patch-building process is integral to device patch management best practices. Organizations must stay updated on OS versions and software patches of every device employees use—company-owned or BYOD.

We’ll discuss the world of patch deployment here. Neytiri from Avatar will love this one, and so will you. Why so? Read ahead!

Determine Asset Inventory

“The way of water has no beginning and no end. Our hearts beat in the womb of the world.”

In very Avataric ways, the context above is simple. Devices are water. Inventory is the womb. Issues in the womb itself? That’s what organizations face—the inherent challenge of managing their devices. The varied nature of operating systems is prime, followed by the device location. Employees of your organization face the challenge from the other end—to use devices for work, connect and collaborate regularly. IT admins will be surprised to know that at least one attack has hit more than 75% of organizations due to unmanaged endpoints. This is the very reason for choosing an MDM solution and creating a patch process.

A device inventory is the most essential check for IT admins. There is no patch management process without an inventory. As an IT admin, your first on the list needs to be a comprehensive list of what devices your employees use for work. The bifurcation can revolve around the OS, as is the case mostly. Next, are devices under BYOD policy or corporate-owned? Everything that follows is purely centralized on organizational requirements. A device inventory is like a kingdom of devices—you can’t be a king without a kingdom.

Calculate Requirements and Vulnerabilities

“The most dangerous thing about Pandora is that you may grow to love her too much”

You think James Cameron conceptualized Avatar without contemplating the risks associated with something so extravagant, which, of course, now is extraordinary. The answer is a big NO.

A patch process needs comprehensive control and management, as any vulnerable third-party patch may even lead to data breaches. 

Always keep in mind what Alexa from Animatrix said, “Machines are tools, it’s their nature to be slaves”. Don’t fall in love with how your devices are, that’s a seduction, and it halts productivity. Instead, create a roadmap of what they require in the future and the security vulnerabilities that deter them from being their best. The magnanimity of the apps on devices can make patch management processes daunting.

First, check if patches are available for your devices. Yes, most devices have it automated. But how often, even IT admins themselves tend to ignore these automated updates? Reasons could be plenty; perhaps an important team collaboration app doesn’t support this new patch, but this is the threshold of vulnerabilities.

Undoubtedly, security is the most significant risk associated with devices running unpatched OS and apps.  In addition, a non-updated device is the gateway to UI issues, malfunctioning apps, and topping the list — device downtime and hangs. Once the device inventory is in store, IT admins must assess how a device reacts to patches. If security update challenges exist, determine the risk levels and address them beforehand, not when updates appear. It’s not the easiest thing in the world. But as an IT admin, you know it’s definitely not beyond your limits.

Stay Relevant to Endpoints

“This is not a squad, it’s a family”

While securing every endpoint is mandatory for IT admins, staying relevant to endpoints is equally important. You must treat organizational devices like a family you manage, not a squad you operate. Gathering potential or available patches is one thing; applying them to the right device at the right time is another. IT admins must focus on the latter.

Filtering your devices based on the patching process requirements is a good way to proceed here. While some endpoints can wait for a day or two, even weeks, for you to apply patches, some might need that update immediately as you read this. Prioritizing or queuing is indispensable to a patch process to keep device vulnerability away.

Maintain Total Control

“The thing about happiness is that it can vanish in a heartbeat”

Sometimes a degree of causality creeps in, and you may think merely automating patch management implies you have done enough. A mobile device management solution lets you stay on top of the patching game. You have to be in complete control of the patching process and its flow thereafter. There could be issues with certain devices where they are unresponsive to these updates.

Also, devices could be switched off or be low on battery. Then come aspects like data limitations and connectivity for patches to be 100% and seamless. As an IT admin, you can’t let these things slip away as they can lead to productivity loss and, yes, device security risks. Much like Pandora, your device fleet needs ultimate control and control reins protection.

Test, and Keep Testing

“What are you doing here boy? What the hell were you thinking?”

The best armies in the world, including the one in Pandora, can’t go to battle without preparation. For patch management procedures to succeed, testing them is an absolute no-brainer. Of course, you can’t test them on every device, but you have to test them on sample devices to see how they deploy themselves.

Every mobile device management software help doc specifies that IT admins must test every feature before bulk rollout. Creating a staging environment is important before you deploy. This is also the best way to identify patch bugs or server shortcomings.

Document Everything and Keep Reports

“I know you’re all asking the same question: Why so blue?”

The final step to ensure the perfect patch management plan is to document every nuance of it and keep reports handy. The best movies have a sequel, sometimes two. You must remember that device management doesn’t end with a single successful patch management. With the breezy advancements in OS versions and devices, patches are never-ending.

So, be prepared to answer every question your organization’s decision-makers might ask about how the patch process went, the unpatched devices, and your plans for upcoming ones. This is where you need an entire process report to ascertain how devices reacted to patches. Most MDM solutions offer extensive reports on patch management for IT admins to pinpoint the best and the worst experiences. Thus, when they ask, why so blue? Don’t get the blues!

To Be Concluded!

As they say in Pandora, “When life ends, another begins.”

We may not conclude that Mr. Cameron will bring us Version 3.0 of Avatar, but we can affirm that OS versions and updates will never stop. There is no stopping Microsoft, Apple, Google, or even Linux!

An MDM software helps IT admins build better patch management processes and execute them across device fleets. It’s time for your organization to hop on to the MDM bandwagon ASAP!

Thousands of businesses rely upon Scalefusion for managing their mobile device, desktops, laptops and other endpoints

Abhinandan is a Senior Content Editor at Scalefusion who is an enthusiast of all things tech and loves culinary and musical expeditions. With more than a decade of experience, he believes in delivering consummate, insightful content to readers.  
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