When it comes to optimizing and securing enterprise computer systems, patch management is a crucial step in the process. Ensuring workstations’ operating systems are up to date can not only help improve performance and reduce downtime, it can also eliminate many of the security vulnerabilities that hackers are looking to exploit. That said, managing a large fleet of computers can be time-consuming and costly, which is why many IT administrators rely on automated tools and centralized platforms for their maintenance activities.
Since every operating environment has its own unique challenges, it’s important for organizations to integrate patch management strategies that align their specific needs and budgetary limitations. But which options provide the most convenience and the greatest visibility?
Assessing Windows OS Environments
According to data provided by Netmarketshare, Windows 10 is currently the most used OS in the world, having captured 40.61% of the desktop/laptop market share in the second quarter of 2019. Computers running Windows 10 can be found in almost every industry and professional setting, from corporate offices to production lines, though many organizations are still running legacy OS versions.
Research from the software development company Kollective found that close to 43% of enterprises still own and operate machines using Windows 7. While this nine-year-old OS is still viable for the time being, Microsoft is set to end its service and support for Windows 7 on January 14, 2020. After the deadline, users will need to enroll in Microsoft’s Extended Security Updates program to ensure their systems are adequately protected, which could cost organizations with 10,000 or more workstations upward of $1.4 million per year, Help Net Security reported.
Major OS upgrades can cause significant disruption during the migration window, but managing small patches is also a pain point for many IT professionals. Without a centralized patch management solution in place, end users are often inundated with update alerts that disrupt their workflow and may lead them to accidentally restart their workstation mid-task. Most companies integrate Windows Server Update Services (WSUS) or cloud-based platforms to help eliminate these issues, but keeping up with near-constant updates is still a barrier to their overall cybersecurity posture.
WSUS vs Cloud-Based Tools
In most cases, patch management is viewed as a key practice in cybersecurity rather than a means of enabling reliable performance. Of course, forgoing OS patches for a long period of time can severely reduce a computer’s operating efficiency, though these types of problems are less concerning than large-scale cyberattacks. According to the security-as-a-service firm Cygilant, around 57% of data breaches result from unpatched vulnerabilities. What’s more, 34% of breached organizations were aware of their patching issues before the incident occurred and chose not to act. So how can enterprises improve their patch management processes and avoid harmful cyberattacks?
Microsoft released its Windows Server Update Services to help IT administrators effectively manage and deploy product updates. This free add-on application can be used to distribute OS patches to all computers within an enterprise network through a centralized management console. When new patches are released, the WSUS server will automatically connect with all workstations and initiate an update, eliminating the need for manual patching. While IT administrators can control this process, it’s common for internal network security and configuration protocols to cause issues during update rollouts.
WSUS may be the most cost-effective patch management solution, but it’s far from perfect. For example, the platform can be extremely difficult to deploy and configure, as there are numerous systems requirements that must be met before it can be installed. Since WSUS is a Windows-only service, it cannot be used to manage mixed-OS environments. Additionally, the limited vulnerability reporting capabilities offered by WSUS can prevent IT administrators from obtaining the visibility they need to shore up their system and network defenses.
The modern enterprise marketplace is filled with patch management solutions that provide real-time monitoring and precise control over network-wide updates. Faronics’ Deep Freeze Cloud combines over 20 years of innovation in endpoint management to deliver reliable and personalized IT administration capabilities direct from our servers. This comprehensive suite of software-as-a-service products can help companies protect, manage, update and monitor all their IT assets from a single interface. Using Deep Freeze Cloud, IT administrators can automatically download Windows updates and schedule different maintenance periods using a batch file. The platform’s group settings can provide additional oversight by allowing patches to be deployed to specific workstations without impacting the entire network.
Deep Freeze’s reboot to restore processes can also ensure all users are able to resolve their own computer problems with a simple restart. This can not only significantly reduce low-priority support tickets, it can also mitigate a variety of cybersecurity risks, including malware, ransomware, brute-force attacks and more. Additionally, the platform’s threat intelligence and prevention capabilities can keep IT admins up to date about zero-day exploits using advanced behavioral analytics and system-assisted learning. Deep Freeze Cloud can be easily deployed across various locations and computer groups with a single click, thanks to its simple, policy-based interface.