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.
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.
Read the seven tips to evaluating patch management tools, and then see which patch management vendor best fits your company's needs. For more information about each product, check out this patch management vendor roundup.