Why is Software Patch Management in Maintenance Important?

Discover the critical importance of effective software patch management and explore best practices to ensure timely, secure software maintenance updates.

Boitumelo Mosia
February 23, 2024
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Importance of Software Patch Management

Software patch management is the process of updating and maintaining IT services software applications to fix vulnerabilities, improve performance, and add new features. It is a critical aspect of IT infrastructure management as it ensures that your systems are up to date with the latest security patches, reducing the risk of cyberattacks and data breaches.

Security is a prime reason for the importance of software patch management. Notably, the recent State of Software Security (SOSS) report from Veracode reveals that 76% of all applications have at least one vulnerability, highlighting the critical need for regular updates and patches. By addressing these vulnerabilities through timely patches, businesses can significantly reduce the risks posed by outdated software, protecting both their operations and customer data.

Common Challenges in Software Patch Management

While software patch management is essential, it can also present several challenges that need to be addressed to ensure a smooth and efficient process. Let's explore some of the common challenges and how to overcome them.

  • Complexity and Scale: The complexity increases with the growth of an organisation. The many difficulties IT and security teams face while patching contribute to the finding that 49% of these professionals believe their company’s current practices are ineffective in reducing risk.
  • Patch Testing and Compatibility: Testing patches for compatibility is crucial but can be time-consuming, adding to the challenge that 74% of businesses face in not being able to patch quickly enough, as the average patching time is 102 days.
  • Deployment Timing and Downtime: With 57% of cyberattack victims stating that a patch could have prevented the attack, timely deployment is crucial. However, finding a suitable time for deployment without affecting operations is challenging.

By addressing these common challenges and implementing quick and effective strategies, you can streamline your software patch management process and ensure the smooth and efficient operation of your software applications.

Step 1: Assess Your Software Infrastructure

The first step in streamlining your software patch management process is to assess your current software infrastructure. This involves gaining a comprehensive understanding of the applications and systems in use across your organisation. Here's how you can go about it:

1. Create a Software Inventory: Begin by creating a software inventory that lists all the applications and systems in use. Include details such as the vendor, version, and patch level of each application. This inventory will serve as a reference point for managing patches effectively.

2. Identify Critical Applications: Identify the critical applications that are essential for your business operations. These may include core business software, security tools, or applications that handle sensitive data. Prioritise the patching process for these applications to ensure maximum security and stability.

3. Analyse Patch History: When you take into account that 92% of online apps have security vulnerabilities, patch analysis is crucial. Review the patch history of your software applications to identify any patterns or recurring issues. Look for common vulnerabilities or areas where patches have frequently been required. This analysis will help you prioritise patches and allocate resources effectively.

4. Determine Patch Sources: Identify the sources from which you can obtain software patches. This may include the official websites of software vendors, patch management tools, or third-party patch repositories. Understanding the available patch sources will help you streamline the patch acquisition process.

By assessing your software infrastructure, you can gain valuable insights into your current patch management requirements and lay the foundation for an efficient and organised patching process.

Step 2: Identify and Prioritise Software Patches

Once you have assessed your software infrastructure, the next step is to identify and prioritise software patches. This involves keeping track of available patches, understanding their importance, and determining the order in which they should be applied. Here's how you can approach this step:

1. Stay Informed: Keep yourself updated on the latest software patches and vulnerabilities. Subscribe to security bulletins and mailing lists provided by software vendors and security organisations. Regularly check the official websites of your software vendors for patch releases.

2. Evaluate Patch Severity: Evaluate the severity of each patch by considering factors such as the impact of the vulnerability, the likelihood of exploitation, and the potential consequences of an attack. Categorise patches into critical, high, medium, and low priority to guide your patching strategy. With 59% of businesses lacking a reaction plan after their first software supply chain assault, prioritising patches becomes even more crucial.

3. Consider Patch Dependencies: Some patches may have dependencies on other patches or software components. Take note of any dependencies and ensure that the required prerequisites are met before applying the patches. This will help avoid potential compatibility issues and ensure a smooth patching process.

4. Plan Patch Rollouts: Plan the rollout of patches based on their priority and criticality. Consider scheduling regular patch cycles, such as monthly or quarterly, to streamline the deployment process. This will ensure that patches are consistently applied and minimise the risk of missing critical updates.

By identifying and prioritising software patches, you can focus your patch management efforts on the most critical vulnerabilities and ensure that patches are applied logically and efficiently.

Step 3: Test Software Patches in a Controlled Environment

Before deploying software patches to your entire network, it is crucial to test them in a controlled environment. This step helps identify any compatibility issues or unintended consequences that may arise from the patch deployment. Here's how you can approach patch testing:

1. Set Up a Testing Environment: Create a dedicated testing environment that closely mirrors your production environment. This environment should have similar hardware, software, and network configurations. Use virtualisation technologies to replicate your production systems if necessary.

2. Test Patch Compatibility: Install the patches in the testing environment and thoroughly test their compatibility with your systems and applications. Pay close attention to any errors, performance issues, or conflicts that may arise. Use automated testing tools to speed up the process and ensure accurate results.

3. Assess Impact on Business Processes: Test the patched systems against critical business processes to assess their impact. Identify any changes in functionality, performance, or user experience. Ensure that the patched systems continue to meet the requirements of your organisation without introducing any disruptions.

4. Document Test Results: Keep detailed records of the testing process and document any issues, resolutions, or recommendations. This documentation will serve as a reference for future patch deployments and help you maintain a standardised and efficient testing process.

By testing software patches in a controlled environment, you can minimise the risk of system disruptions and ensure that the patches are compatible with your specific systems and applications.

Step 4: Deploy Software Patches Using Automated Tools

Once you have tested the software patches and ensured their compatibility, it's time to deploy them to your production systems. Manual patch deployment can be time-consuming and error-prone, especially in large-scale environments. To streamline the deployment process, consider using automated patch management tools. Here's how you can approach patch deployment:

1. Choose an Automated Patch Management Tool: Research and select an automated patch management tool that suits your organisation's needs. Look for features such as patch scheduling, remote deployment, reporting capabilities, and integration with your existing IT infrastructure. Evaluate different options and choose the one that best meets your requirements.

2. Create Deployment Policies: Define deployment policies that specify how and when patches should be deployed. These policies should consider factors such as deployment windows, user notification preferences, and system reboot requirements. Ensure that the policies align with your organisation's security and operational requirements.

3. Schedule Patch Deployments: Set up a patch deployment schedule based on your defined policies. Consider deploying patches during non-peak hours or software maintenance windows to minimise disruptions. Schedule regular patch cycles to ensure consistent patching and keep your systems up to date.

4. Monitor and Report: Considering that 14% of firms suffered financial losses due to inadequate patch management, monitoring is key. Regularly monitor the patch deployment process and track the status of each patch. Use the reporting capabilities of your patch management tool to generate status reports, identify failed deployments, and track compliance with your patching policies. Address any issues or failures promptly to maintain a secure and reliable software environment.

By leveraging automated patch management tools, you can streamline the patch deployment process, reduce manual effort, and ensure consistent and efficient patching across your organisation.

Tools and Resources for Efficient Software Patch Management

Efficient software patch management requires the right tools and resources. Here are some recommendations to enhance your patch management process:

1. Patch Management Tools: Invest in a robust patch management tool that automates the patching process, provides centralised control, and offers reporting capabilities. Popular patch management tools include Microsoft SCCM, SolarWinds Patch Manager, and Ivanti Patch Management.

2. Vulnerability Scanning Tools: Consider using vulnerability scanning tools to regularly scan your systems for potential vulnerabilities. These tools help identify missing patches and provide insights into vulnerability trends and risk levels. Examples of vulnerability scanning tools include Nessus, OpenVAS, and Qualys Vulnerability Management.

3. Patch Repositories: Explore third-party patch repositories that provide patches for software applications not covered by official vendors. These repositories often offer a wide range of patches for popular applications, ensuring comprehensive coverage for your patch management process. Examples include Patch My PC, Ninite, and Chocolatey.

4. Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) Tools: SIEM tools can help you monitor and analyse security events across your IT infrastructure, including patch-related activities.  They provide real-time insights into patch deployment, compliance, and potential security incidents. Popular SIEM tools include Splunk, IBM QRadar, and Elastic Security.

By leveraging these tools and resources, you can enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of your software patch management process, ensuring timely and secure patch deployments.


Efficient software patch management is crucial for securing and maintaining software applications. By understanding your patch management needs, prioritising patches, testing them thoroughly, and deploying them efficiently, you can safeguard your IT infrastructure and enhance productivity, thereby addressing the significant risks outlined by various statistics and reports.

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