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A guide to patch management policies for MSPs

With cybercriminals becoming more sophisticated in their attempts to access company systems and data—and with companies taking on more IT assets than ever—patch management is crucial. Managed services providers (MSPs) often have the responsibility of managing patches for multiple customers at a time, complicating things even further.

To top it all off, customers today typically rely on multiple different device types and platforms. As MSPs contend with a growing number of IT assets, they also have to deploy across different customer networks and varying device types. Doing so can make patch management and patch deployment even more challenging. To help overcome these complexities, MSPs should focus on implementing robust and comprehensive patch management policies that clearly outline best practices.

Patch management best practices to consider

Increasing concerns surrounding cybersecurity mean that an effective patch management policy implementing best practices is crucial for helping keep your customers’ computing environments secure. Here are some of the most important patch management practices that your company should ensure are implemented for a successful strategy:

1. MAKE SURE THE SYSTEMS INVENTORY IS ACCURATE

If your MSP’s inventory of hardware and software components connected to the network isn’t accurate, ensuring that the relevant devices and applications are patched becomes very difficult. By running frequent scans of a network’s system and asset inventory, you can facilitate ongoing visibility that helps accurately inform when patches must be applied.

2. ASSIGN CATEGORIES TO ASSETS

Once you’ve created a reliable and accurate inventory, try to group assets by how vulnerable they are to attack, as well as how much of an impact it would have on company operations if downtime occurred. Doing this helps you identify which assets need rapid patch deployment (i.e., either hours or days after the patch’s release) and which can manage with a less immediate time frame (i.e., several weeks after the patch’s release). Prioritize assets that store confidential information, have public-facing components, or facilitate crucial operations.

3. CONSOLIDATE SOFTWARE

Patching becomes more complicated when customers use multiple versions of software. Because of this, streamlining and consolidating software is an important patch management practice that facilitates internal cohesion and minimizes administrative overhead by ensuring that numerous distinct programs or apps aren’t being used concurrently for one purpose. By reducing software options and opting for all-in-one software for MSPs, you reduce the number of necessary patches—which in turn helps reduce vulnerability and risk.

4. STAY INFORMED OF PATCH ANNOUNCEMENTS FROM VENDORS

In networking environments, it’s very common to use third-party tools—which means that staying on top of the latest patch announcements from vendors plays a crucial role in effective patch management and security. With an accurate and regularly updated asset inventory, you can easily sign up to receive security updates from the appropriate third-party vendors. You can usually opt to have these sent to a certain email inbox or a preferred communication channel to help ensure that these updates aren’t overlooked.

5. ACCOUNT FOR PATCH EXCEPTIONS

It’s reasonably likely that you will be faced, at some point or another, with the need to deploy a patch that requires alterations to function as it should, or that can’t be applied immediately. Because this can be a time-consuming process, try to limit the amount of risk that the relevant asset is being exposed to until you can deploy the patch. It’s important that you never expose any high-stakes assets (such as servers) to additional vulnerabilities when they’re not patched.

6. AUTOMATE WHEREVER POSSIBLE

This is perhaps the most important patch management best practice. Using a patch management tool, patch deployment software, or all-in-one software for MSPs can enable you to automate your patch management processes. Not only can this save time and resources, but it can also reduce the need for employees to perform repetitive tasks, allowing them to refocus their efforts elsewhere.

Automated patch management tools are also more reliable and accurate than manual patch management activities, and can generate live updates and alerts to keep you informed in real-time. These benefits translate into better customer services and loyalty in the long run.

Automating with the right patch management tool

For automated patch deployment software that is reliable, scalable, and user-friendly, look no further than N-able N-central®. This remote monitoring and management software includes patch management software, backup management software, and a remote access tool—all consolidated in one powerful tool.

The patch management software included in N-central allows you to easily keep software updated across numerous client sites, with features like automated rollout, detailed scheduling utilities, and robust reporting features. This tool is optimized for resource usage and can help your team maximize efficiency to serve more customers. In addition to patch management features, N-central also includes endpoint detection and response capabilities, such as fast agent deployment, file analysis in near real-time, policy-driven automation, forensic analysis, offline endpoint protection, and autonomous threat response. These advanced security features, combined with comprehensive patch management utilities, help you keep customer systems safe and secure.

For a flexible, all-in-one patch deployment software solution that can meet all your needs—even as you grow—N-able N-central is the ideal choice. To start exploring today at no charge to you, a 30-day free trial is available.

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