As tech security needs continue to change, the need for swift, effective upgrades and improvements is great. These fixes, known as patches, are necessary solutions to the inherent problems in imperfect system design. No framework is bullet proof, and the frequent deployment of these patches cover gaps in security and function.
Here are eight best practices for addressing system patches and upgrades, which ensure protected and efficient tools and products for your company’s use:
First and foremost, it is imperative for the IT department, as well as any project managers and any other key leaders in the patch implementation process, to take stock of the hardware, software, and systems that are already in place. What device models are being used? What are the current operating systems? What security is in place already, if any? A thorough inventory of what is current and operating is the best first step in implementing future upgrades.
Make a Plan
In order for patches to be placed in a sustainable, regular manner, companies must provide and adhere to plans, procedures, and policies for the operation. Haphazard development and instillation of these upgrades will be counterproductive and confusing; all expectations and roles for individuals, from top executives to IT teams to front facing practitioners, must be clearly stated, understood, and followed in order to patch systems effectively.
Search the Options
Once you are familiar with your current IT system and have a plan in place, it is time to explore system patch solutions. There are a number of vendors offering a variety of patch systems for your company. Using a discovery service will help you find weak points in your security. Once the glitches and holes are localized, search for a patch/upgrade that meets this need. Often patches are available that are tailored to a given operating system, but outside vendors can offer reliable solutions as well. With any software patch, there is inherent risk that solving problems in one area might create more in another, so be sure to ask vendors what customer experience has been like thus far. All of these options, of course, must be considered in light of a budget. Thorough examination of available solutions will yield an affordable, helpful solution.
There have been varying schools of thought regarding how often patches should be implemented. Recently, however, there has been a consensus that frequent, scheduled implementation of patches and upgrades, though not always convenient, is the safest and most effective practice for protection. Patches and upgrades provided by vendors to address specific problems should be deployed immediately. While looked down upon in some circles, pushing these upgrades combats our tendency to delay them when we are facing a day full of deadlines, projects, and demands. Prevention is the best medicine: regular, scheduled deployment of upgrades and patches keeps systems healthy and safe.
Test the Waters
While there is certainly an eagerness to installing system improvements, it is very important to test patches small scale before placing them across all systems. Even if the upgrade offers relief for an immediate threat, proper testing in a local, controlled environment will prevent potential headaches later on. Observing how patches affect other systems currently in place will save you the hassle of decreased productivity system wide. Quality assurance environments allow safe venues for new upgrades to be tested before installing them on a larger, more global scale.
Held in tension with the close attention to process and testing is the ease of automated upgrades. Perhaps more useful for smaller, more routine patches, automated implementations save time for IT teams and other system specialists, allowing these solutions to be pushed and installed on a regular basis, without the time consumption of manual effort. Consider vendor options as well as your unique systems to determine where you might be able to save time and effort with automatic installation of certain solutions.
In pitching their products, vendors will be putting their best foot forward. However, will this enthusiastic help still be available when their patches are causing major problems company-wide? In the test phase of your patch system consideration, be sure that you and your team also test the customer service options. When systems are crashing and patches are falling short on their promises, you need an attentive, empathetic help center to quickly address the issues and get your company back on its feet.
But Does it Work?
As is true with all proposed solutions, the proof is in the pudding. Thorough user acceptance testing is crucial in truly determining if a patch or upgrade is effective. If there was a problem for users before, is it now fixed? If there were no apparent problems, but a gaping hole in security, was the gap closed in a manner that didn’t affect user ability and satisfaction? Clear and consistent communication regarding user satisfaction, whether front facing or internal, is vital in determining the value of a patch solution.
In all, effective patch and upgrade implementation requires an overhaul of IT perspective. Although these frequent fixes can be cumbersome and inconvenient, they are necessary in an environment that is becoming increasingly hostile. Systems that are regularly updated for safety and effectiveness provide your company with the power and efficiency to operate at the highest level, assured that the vessel is leak-free and moving forward.
Interested in establishing a bullet proof system patch and upgrade routine? Contact us for a free process review and recommendation.