The process of server patch management is critical to the security and stability of any organisation's network infrastructure. Server patch management is identifying, acquiring, installing, and verifying patches for software that runs on a network server. Patches are pieces of code that are used to fix software vulnerabilities. The software vendor usually releases them after the vulnerabilities have been discovered.
What is a server patch?
A server patch is a small piece of code installed on a server to fix a security vulnerability or bug. Patches are typically released by vendors when new vulnerabilities are discovered.
It is essential to keep your servers patched to protect against known security threats. In some cases, patches may also include performance improvements or new features.
Types of patches
The goal of patch management is to ensure that all software on a system is up-to-date and that all known security vulnerabilities are patched. There are four main types of patches: security patches, bug fixes, feature updates, and driver updates.
- Security patches are designed to fix vulnerabilities in software that hackers could exploit. These patches should be applied as soon as possible after they are released.
- Bug fixes are minor changes to software that fix specific problems. These patches can be applied at any time and are not usually critical.
- Feature updates are new features or functionality that are added to the software. These patches can be applied at any time and are not usually critical.
- Driver updates are changes to the software that controls hardware devices. These updates can improve performance or fix bugs with the device. Driver updates should be installed when they are available.
- Importance of server patch management?
- Server patch management is the process of identifying, downloading, and installing patches for software applications and components that run on a server. It is a critical part of server maintenance and security.
- One of the essential benefits of server patch management is that it helps to keep servers secure from cyber-attacks. In today’s world, where cyber-attacks are becoming more and more common, it is essential to have a reliable server patch management system in place.
- Another essential benefit of server patch management is that it can help to improve server performance. Installing the latest patches ensures that your server is running the most efficient and up-to-date version of the software. Again, this can help to improve server speed and stability.
- Finally, server patch management can also help to reduce downtime. By keeping your server up to date, you can avoid dealing with software issues that could cause your server to go offline.
How often should patches be installed?
The frequency with which patches should be installed will depend on the specific patch and its need. However, most patches should be installed as soon as possible after they are released. This is because many patches address security vulnerabilities that attackers could exploit if they are not remediated promptly.
Some patches may need to be installed more frequently than others. For example, patches for operating system components may need to be installed more often than for application software. This is because functional system components are typically more exposed to attack than application software and require more frequent updates.
Phases of the Patch management process
1. Assessing the risks of not patching
One of the first steps in any patch management process is to assess the risks of not patching. This step is essential for promptly understanding the potential impact of not applying updates and security patches. There are several risks associated with not patching, including:
• Malware and ransomware assaults are more likely to succeed
• Software that is outdated and no longer supported by vendor
• Security vulnerabilities that hackers can exploit
• Performance issues due to software bugs
2. Creating a patch management policy
Once the risks of not patching have been assessed, the next step is to create a patch management policy. This policy should cover all aspects of the patch management process, from patch identification to testing and deployment. The policy should be designed to meet the organization's specific needs and should be reviewed regularly.
3. Prioritizing server patches
The next step in the process is to prioritize server patches. This step is essential for ensuring that critical security patches are applied promptly. Patch priority should be based on several factors, including the severity of the security issue, the impact of the issue, and the likelihood of exploitation.
4. Approving and testing server patches
Once patches have been prioritized, they must be approved and tested before deployment. Patch testing should be conducted in a controlled environment to ensure that patched systems continue functioning as expected. In some cases, it may be necessary to perform multiple rounds of testing before a patch can be approved for production deployment.
5. Deploying server patches
After patches have been approved, they can be deployed to production servers. Patch deployment should be conducted in a controlled manner to minimize the risk of disruptions. Sometimes, it may be necessary to schedule patch deployments during off-peak hours or on weekends.
6. Reviewing the effectiveness of the patch management process
The final step in the server patch management process is to review the point of the overall process. This step is essential for identifying areas where improvements can be made. Patch management effectiveness can be measured in several ways, including the number of critical patches that are successfully deployed, the time required to deploy patches, and the frequency of disruptions caused by patch deployments.
The server patch management process
The server patch management process typically involves the following steps:
1. Inventory: The first step is to inventory your servers and identify which ones need to be patched. This can be done manually or using a tool like Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager (SCCM).
2. Download patches: Once you have identified the appropriate patches, the next step is to download them from the vendor’s website or through a patch management tool like SCCM.
3. Test patches: Before installing them on production servers, it is essential to test patches. This will help to ensure that the patches do not cause any unexpected problems.
4. Install patches: Once you have tested them, the next step is installing them on your production servers. This can be done manually or through a patch management tool like SCCM.
5. Verify installation: After you have installed the patches, it is essential to verify that they have been applied correctly. This can be done through the patch management tool or by checking the server logs.
6. Monitor for problems: Even after you have verified that the patches have been applied correctly, it is essential to monitor your servers for any issues that may occur after patching. This can be done through server monitoring tools like Nagios or SolarWinds Server & Application Monitor.