The Importance of Routine Software Patching

by | Dec 16, 2022

Routine software patching is an important step to keeping computers working and secure. Developers are constantly fixing problems, finding vulnerabilities, and adding new features that improve the user experience. Receiving those updates requires systems to be patched. Finding time to make those updates isn’t always easy, and many businesses don’t prioritize it.

Once a problem arrives, patching it after the fact can be slow and doesn’t revert the damage done. Around 46% of businesses take 10 days or longer to patch vulnerabilities. Even worse, companies will continue to be vulnerable until the patching process is complete, leaving them at risk for further complications. Routine software patching not only gives the latest fixes but also reduces the amount of downtime during emergencies. That makes it one of many IT strategies to keep things running smoothly.

What Is Software Patching?

Software patching involves updating software to address vulnerabilities, bug fixes, and other improvements. It is vital for productivity and reduces the risk of falling victim to malicious attacks, data breaches, and other security incidents. With the implementation of new laws and industry regulations, patching is also part of IT compliance.

How Effective Is Software Patching for Vulnerabilities?

Software patches are often reactive to any uncovered vulnerabilities. They’re not always easy to find, either. One threat went unchecked for 20 years and was considered a high-severity risk when found. Patching is an effective strategy for countering known issues, with software developers thoroughly testing each fix.

However, since the vulnerability already exists, it’s been an active security threat leading up to that point. While software patches can’t prevent problems that haven’t been discovered, they’re critical for cybersecurity. To handle risks that haven’t yet been uncovered, having a reliable IT team can help with system security and threat monitoring.

What Makes Patching Difficult for Businesses and MSPs?

Several factors make patching computers difficult for any business or managed service provider (MSP). Some are easier to handle than others. 

Offline computers and devices

IT technicians can’t remotely apply patches if a computer or device is turned off. That can make it challenging to ensure all machines are entirely up to date with vulnerability fixes and software patches. While a patching schedule can help, it still requires employees to keep their computers on during the planned periods.

Scheduling challenges

Some businesses have more scheduling challenges than others. For those providing 24/7 services for customers, clients, or employees, there’s no easy period to do patching. It may require planned downtime across the entire system during the lowest traffic period of a given week. The goal is to minimize maintenance times and keep employees informed to ensure all computers are on during the patching period.

Remote workers

With 26% of U.S. employees working remotely in 2022, they represent a sizable portion of the workforce. While there are many advantages to remote work, one of the downsides is less control over how and when employees use their computers. It also adds responsibility for employees to keep their devices on during scheduled patches.

Legacy hardware

Some businesses have older machines that can’t easily be patched without the risk of hardware failure. In those situations, IT technicians may bypass them. However, they may still be vulnerable to cyber threats if they’re remotely accessible or connected to other computers. In those situations, it’s worth looking into hardware upgrades and creating a more secure environment.

Software dependencies

Software that’s intertwined with multiple software or hardware systems might only operate within specific versions or a set environment. That means patching one thing may unexpectedly break something else, leading to issues for everyone. Understanding your IT infrastructure can help the IT team test those factors and know when and how to apply updates. Having a long-term MSP can be beneficial for that.

Why Is Patching Software Still an Issue for Companies?

For small businesses especially, it can be easy to assume that everything is working fine and it’s worth leaving well enough alone. Patching takes time and can feel like an inconvenience when other aspects of the business are also a priority. Yet, according to Microsoft’s volume 20 security intelligence report, most data breaches happen through vulnerabilities that were patched years ago. That means some businesses and employees aren’t taking the time to implement those patches, letting threats go unchecked for years.

Part of the issue is a lack of employee and management education. It’s a topic that’s not discussed often, and owners can’t assume that people would understand its importance without being told. A lot goes into keeping a secure network environment, and company-wide cybersecurity awareness is a key part of reducing those risks. With proper scheduling, a reliable IT team, and employee education, software patching doesn’t have to be complicated.

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