Best practices for enterprise-grade server patch management

Posted by The Team at CXtec on Jun 19, 2024 2:30:41 AM

Massive new breaches occur too often in our modern fast-paced digital network. Cyberattacks may target any business at any time....

Massive new breaches occur too often in our modern fast-paced digital network. Cyberattacks may target any business at any time. One of the best ways to mitigate this risk is through server patch management and firmware updates.

What is patch management?

Patching involves updating installed software, such as firmware, operating systems, or applications, to fix security or functionality issues and sometimes add new capabilities. Patch management is a process that ensures your IT assets are secure, protected, and fully operational. Following best practices of patch management helps businesses reduce the risk of malicious attacks and eliminate potential vulnerabilities.

Why is enterprise patch management important?

Enterprise patch management is essential because it improves the overall health of servers, networks, storage systems, and application performance. Some updates provide new functionalities or expand existing capabilities, enhancing the efficiency and productivity of IT resources.

A key reason for patch management is its significant impact on security. Research shows 60% of companies experiencing a data breach were aware of security-related patches that were not implemented. This emphasizes the critical need for timely patching to prevent vulnerabilities that can be exploited by cybercriminals. Regularly applying patches allows businesses to fix security flaws and ensure their IT infrastructure operates smoothly and remains up-to-date with the latest advancements.

Patch management vs. change management

Businesses get confused between patch management and change management. A distinct difference exists. Patch management involves controlling and implementing software updates for servers. Change management, however, refers to the business process used to plan, approve, communicate, test, and organize the implementation of the patches.

Best practices for server patching

Ensuring your servers are up-to-date with the latest patches is crucial, but proper implementation of the patches is even more important. Best practices for server patching provide a structured approach to applying updates, minimizing vulnerabilities, and enhancing overall system performance. Follow these guidelines to safeguard data, prevent cyberattacks, and ensure continuous, reliable operations:

1. Maintain inventory tracking:
An accurate inventory helps identify devices and applications within your organization that need updates. Effective patch management requires a thorough analysis of each asset. Understanding dependencies between assets allows you to know the consequences of what will happen if a particular device or application becomes unavailable due to an ineffective IT patching process.

2. Establish a patch management policy:
Servers are critical IT assets that need to be protected and maintained for optimal performance. Establishing a patch management policy is key in this process. This policy details your organization's strategies and procedures for successful patch management. By following a structured approach, you can ensure that server patching is efficient, risks are minimized, and server downtime is reduced.

3. Evaluate server risk:
An effective method for efficient server patch management is to adopt a risk-based approach. Conduct risk assessments to identify vulnerabilities in the server, allowing you to evaluate the potential impact. It's practically impossible to patch every single vulnerability, prioritizing based on risk and impact helps streamline the patch management process. Focus on the most critical vulnerabilities to ensure a more effective and efficient patching strategy.

4. Develop a server patching schedule:
A server patching schedule outlines the frequency a server will be patched, chosen patch management method, and implementation process. It is recommended to check for server patches at least once a week.

5. Test server patches:
Testing your server patches is crucial. Sandbox testing is a unique patch testing method that allows you to assess server patches in an isolated environment, separate from your IT infrastructure. This helps you determine the patch's effects on the server system, preventing any potential damage to your actual servers.

6. Establish a backup server environment:
Implementing backups ensures the protection of servers, systems, and software. If a failed patch implementation occurs, server failovers provide a backup environment.

7. Implement automation in server patch management process:
Server patching often includes repetitive and time-consuming tasks. Automation can accelerate the patch management process by eliminating the need for manual actions and oversight when they are unnecessary. This releases your technicians from mundane patching tasks, allowing them to focus on more critical aspects of server maintenance.

Selecting the right patch management partner

Successful patch management is essential for identifying and handling security vulnerabilities while enhancing software performance. Despite the known effectiveness of patching and consistent exploitation of unpatched software by cyberattackers, many organizations lack the resources to maintain regular patching.

CXtec enhances IT operations by simplifying the management of compute environments and providing effective incident management. This approach enables team members to concentrate on innovation-driven projects, ensuring that their IT infrastructure stays secure and optimized.