Patch management is one of the most important - and arguably one of the most taxing - workloads in cybersecurity. It tends to be tedious, with a never-ending list of systems that need to be patched. Although historically a painful activity, quick and thorough patching is critical because lapses in patching account for an astonishingly high number of successful cyberattacks. In many cases, the attacker is exploiting a vulnerability that is well known – for which a patch exists, but was never installed.
Christopher Dean, president and CEO of B/Net Systems, has found that implementing Automox’s modern, cloud-native endpoint management solution has fundamentally changed IT operations (ITOps), including software patching, for his team.
About Automox Customer B/Net Systems, an IT Provider
B/Net Systems is a managed services/outsourced IT provider for clients in the greater Washington, D.C. area. The company performs a high volume of monthly maintenance routines, which involve making sure that their clients’ computers are healthy each month. According to Christopher, their work “...involves a lot of software patching, making sure there is free disk space, ensuring there isn't anything in the error logs, etc.”
For many years , B/Net Systems did everything manually. They had to set up Microsoft Windows to automatically download updates and install them. This was useful, but it did nothing for Adobe, Firefox plugins, or Chrome, which each have their own update features. Dean believes that “if you work in tech for a while, it becomes pretty obvious that you have to follow the trust-but-verify model.” For his company, “It was a real pain in the neck. Automox saves the day, literally because it’s great that an automated tool says that it will update its own software on a regular basis.”
Automox helps B/Net Systems manage the software update part of its workload. As an automated service, Automox “has been a huge time saver and efficiency improvement tool. It goes down on a very deep level. It is checking stuff that we weren't even checking [before],” said Dean. He explained further by saying, “While we were just checking the top line application software, we weren't really getting into the subsystem level. The tool does all that. It is all logged, and it’s a big help.”
Decreasing End User Disruptions and Increasing Productivity
Dean notes that end user behavior is largely influential when it comes to his client’s potential cybersecurity issues down the road. “For any type of software, you can sometimes update it in place and sometimes it requires a restart. That is because the application needs to shut down so you can install the patch,” he said. It becomes an issue for companies, however, because many end users - when prompted with a software update notification - say, “No, I’m busy. I’m working on something right now.” The end user then consistently defers patching, so it never happens. Weeks can go by without the patch being installed.
The delaying of patches put his clients’ systems at risk, Dean says. “The biggest reason for doing software updates these days is the security aspect,” he said. “Some developers found some sort of hole and put out a patch, so it's a security thing and you just want to make sure that you are as secure as possible. If you are in my position, where we are taking the responsibility for our clients' technology, we absolutely have a responsibility to make sure that it is as secure as possible.”
To cope with this challenge, Dean tells his clients, “You need a human policy where we all agree; for example, Friday at six o'clock that your machine will be restarted. You will get one opportunity to defer it.”
Automox's solution for IT operations gives Dean and his clients the flexibility to overcome the human behavior factor and get their patching done. The Automox platform, he notes, allows for customization and automation that together make sure all of a client’s endpoints are up-to-date and only deferring within a safe window. “We can customize all that. Some clients will give us two times and others give us three times to defer it, or make it on a Saturday. It is little things like that which make the tool great.”
Cloud-Native as a Key Product Feature
When evaluating IT operations tools, Dean was adamant that the solution be cloud-native, seeing as the cloud is a central construct of his own business. He shared, “We have always tried to be cloud-centric. We don't have a physical office because no one comes to visit us, so we try to push as much as we can to the cloud for all the usual reasons. It is more scalable and robust as well, as the security will generally be better. Features can get added on the back-end, and we will wake up one day, and say, ‘Oh cool. You can now do this in Automox and we couldn't do this last week.’ So, it’s great.”
Added Value from the Automox Dashboard and Interface
Some of Dean’s favorite features of the Automox IT operations platform? The dashboard and user interface. “We can now just go to the Automox dashboard and look at literally every single piece of software on that computer - even subsystem stuff that isn't an application that you would recognize, e.g., driver updates,” Dean said. He added, “It’s great because we can see on the dashboard when something is up-to-date and when it’s not.”
“The interface is great. It’s easy to use. It is really easy to see and drill down into systems that are compliant and also see where they are not compliant. You can push out updates. So, if for some reason the Chrome update didn't take, then you can push out the updates from Automox and say, ‘Hey, try it again.’ If it doesn't work after a couple of tries, then we can always remote into the user's computer and do it manually. This has been a huge time saver and convenience for our clients and us, because we do almost everything remotely.”
Overall Gains in IT Operations
B/Net Systems and its clients have seen the benefit in process improvement with Automox. The solution helps them streamline their IT operations and gain peace of mind. For example, Dean says, “Being able to pull up a console and see how many systems are not compliant,” has been a big help. He added, “Previously, we would run a report, scan it, and compare it. We were spending 15 to 30 minutes a month on each machine on this stuff because you would find stuff that wasn't up to date, then you had to fix it. This solution takes that time down to minutes. Automox saves us easily many hours a month.”
Automox can reduce overhead by 80% and offers endpoint security, cloud-native speed, flexibility, and scalability. Clients benefit from real-time visibility and insights on a unified platform.
To learn more about what IT Central Station members think about Automox’s automated IT operations platform, visit: https://www.itcentralstation.com/product_reviews/automox-review-128195-by-christopher-dean
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