Patch management is an area of systems management that involves acquiring, testing, and installing multiple patches (code changes) to an administered computer system. Patch management tasks include: maintaining current knowledge of available patches, deciding what patches are appropriate for particular systems, ensuring that patches are installed properly, testing systems after installation, and documenting all associated procedures, such as specific configurations required. A number of products are available to automate patch management tasks, including RingMaster's Automated Patch Management, PatchLink Update, and Gibraltar's Everguard.
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Like its real world counterpart, a patch is a "make-do" fix rather than an elegant solution. Patches are sometimes ineffective, and can sometimes cause more problems than they fix. Patch management experts, such as Mark Allen, CTO of Gibraltar Software, suggest that system administrators take simple steps to avoid problems, such as performing backups and testing patches on non-critical systems prior to installations.
Patch management can be viewed as part of change management.
In this Buying Decisions series on automated patch management, learn how automated patch management works in the enterprise, how patch management tools improve enterprise security by automating the updating of OSes and applications, and recieve seven tips for buying the right automated patch management software for your enterprise.