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The case for automated patch management for SMBs

(Image credit: Image Credit: Geralt / Pixabay)

Data breaches and security risks remain at an all-time high. Almost 6 million data records are stolen every day in a data breach. In 2018, one-third of breach incidents were accidental; however, more than half are the result of the work of external attackers.

Many of these breaches occur due to vulnerable, unpatched devices, servers, and applications that allow bad actors to gain access. Security breaches are not only a serious issue for large organisations; the threat of compromise is a top concern for most small and midsized businesses (SMBs), too.

According to a recent industry survey, improving security posture is the top IT priority for 57 per cent of SMBs, up from 54 per cent in 2018 and 40 per cent in 2017.

Not surprisingly, nearly one-third of SMBs responding to the survey experienced a security breach in the past five years, down slightly from 35 per cent in 2018, with at least 10 per cent of respondents reporting that they were hit by a breach in the past year.

If security breaches can result because of the failure to patch vulnerabilities in a timely manner, what is a small business owner to do? With most SMBs relying on limited IT resources, including outsourced managed service providers (MSPs), automating the patch management process has emerged as a significant area of opportunity for such companies.

An automated patch management solution can detect, report, and install any missing security patch. Rather than installing patches manually, businesses and IT professionals can delegate the task to sophisticated software that can seamlessly handle the distribution process.

Let’s have a look at some reasons why automated patch management makes sense for SMBs.

Reduce business disruption

Informing employees that critical patches are to be installed usually means an interruption in the business or a distraction to everyday work. End-users are generally not focused on security; they are more interested in whether software enables them to complete their work and whether customers can easily contact them. As such, patches do not get prioritised and do not get installed, leading to an increase in the risk of a breach.

With automation, SMBs and the IT professionals who support them can automatically decide which patches need to be deployed on which systems and initiate a complete patch management process. Patching multiple vulnerabilities at once speeds up the process and reduces frustration.

Patching is an integral part of ensuring the performance and stability of operating systems and applications. Software updates tackle performance issues and remove outdated features.

Deliver a great user experience

With better performance and reduced disruption, patch management ensures that a company’s devices are running smoothly, and the employees’ experience is vastly improved.

User experience matters and leads to higher productivity, according to Knowledge@Wharton. When employees do not have to concern themselves with updating their systems, they can better focus on their work.

Remove complexity

Patch management is often a challenging, complex process, as hundreds of patches are released each month. IT professionals must keep track of these patches, in addition to different versions of software, dependencies, and post-patching activities, such as testing and verification, to ensure that the patch didn’t break anything.

Automated patch management removes complexity for both the business and any outsourced IT resources.  By using an automated patch management solution, a business can stay on top of all patch releases and the entire patching process end-to-end, including full reporting.

An IT professional can certainly use various device, network and application monitoring tools for continuous patch management inventory and scanning. But given the volume of patches and the often repetitive, tedious process patching involves, an automated solution is necessary to speed up the time patching takes from a patch's time of release to implementation.

Stay compliant

Automating the delivery of operating systems and application updates offers companies the ability to comply with any regulatory or internal requirements for the securing of IT systems against possible malware or unauthorised intrusions. Automated patch management can help companies of all sizes stay compliant with data privacy laws like HIPAA and GDPR.

Patch management software can also provide automated compliance reports that document which computers are—and are not—up to date, as well as sending notifications to admins based on successful or unsuccessful patch activities.

For SMBs, this can often be a make-or-break deal with certain customers. Healthcare providers and local governments, when choosing which vendors to work with, often request proof of compliance with certain laws. Automated patch management can be a substantial benefit for smaller companies to ensure that they meet compliance requirements for healthcare and government customers without having to invest significant resources.

For SMBs just getting started with automation, prevention efforts like automated patch management can make an immediate impact and deliver sizeable results. Automation serves patch management well, delivering significant time savings, improvements in performance, and a stronger security posture. SMBs can reduce risk and focus on their business without interruption.

Simo Salmensuu, CEO, Miradore