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When to use automated patch packaging

What's the best (most efficient) way to deliver updates to Win XP/2000 workstations using patch packages? Should they be applied locally? Also, would you recommend automating patch packaging?
In an environment with even a modest number of workstations, I recommend automating patch management. For Windows systems, there are any number of tools available from vendors such as Shavlik, BigFix, PatchLink, Altiris, Symantec, and of course Microsoft itself.

Applying locally is undesirable for a number of reasons:

  • Increased error rate because of manual application (e.g. the human factor)
  • Increased labor costs
  • User interruption during patch application

The only real positive that manual, local patching brings is a faster response time when something goes wrong.

So, if you are an organization of at least 30 or so workstations wrestling with the issue of patch management, I would strongly suggest beginning to look into automation. If your budget cannot currently handle adding third-party solutions, you can examine using some homegrown solutions such as batch files, logon scripts, and WMI scripting.

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