What is Cloud Patch Management?

In the past decade companies have shifted the way their networks are composed. In an effort to maintain control, data was fully managed and stored on-premise. In the interest of speed, efficiency, and cost savings, companies are shifting to cloud-native environments. As providers like Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure proved that data was secure in the cloud, the move to outsource applications and storage increased.

At the same time, device mobility expanded. Employees started connecting multiple devices to company networks so they could check email or get some work done remotely on weekends and evenings. The cloud has enabled an always-on lifestyle that has become the new normal. It is estimated that by 2020, 92%1 of data center traffic will be in the cloud.

The Challenge of Patching Cloud Environments

This shift presents unique challenges to infrastructure security. With geographically dispersed servers and thousands of endpoints to keep track of, IT managers must employ new methods to protect their networks from attack. One major concern is maintaining the security on devices that are used outside of the office more often than they are used in the office. Workforces have become more distributed as companies hire top talent regardless of their location. Even employees who are based at an office are working at home more often or connecting remotely to catch up on work after hours. Keeping these devices up to date with security patches requires a cloud native solution. Just one unpatched device can expose an entire network to attack or other data vulnerabilities.

When networks were based largely on premise, patch management was also handled on premise, either manually or through an enterprise-level automated patch management system that sits behind the company firewall. Companies looking to improve the patching process installed automated systems, but as endpoints were added each needed to be remediated manually. Additionally, these systems required adding more servers to manage, extensive setup and training, and were specific to a single operating system. Mixed environments and third party software were left vulnerable, required separate solutions, or had to to be handled manually, adding the complexity of patch management.

Cloud-native Patch Automation

Cloud-native patch automation is the modern solution for cloud-native networks. Unlike on premise solutions, a cloud-native system is able to handle the complexities of hybrid networks without need for additional configuration. Because the patch automation software is based in the cloud, it can be easily deployed to new devices as they are added, regardless of the device’s location. With cloud-native patch automation, IT teams don’t need to worry about maintaining the patching system itself.

Cloud-native systems streamline the patching process by automatically patching endpoints on a regular schedule and keeping reports on patch status by device. Some of the more sophisticated cloud patch management solutions handle multiple operating systems as well as third party software, simplifying the patching process to a single solution with full infrastructure visibility in one dashboard.

Using a cloud patch management solution can improve the way companies with a patch testing workflow manage their process. They now have the ability to automate specific steps of the process and implement changes without geographic or system restrictions. Thereby improving the speed and effectiveness of patch testing while maintaining confidence that the patch won’t negatively impact the production environment.

Importantly, cloud-native systems can constantly update systems and applications as new patches are released, regardless of the endpoint’s location. As long as it’s connected to the internet, it can be patched. The ability to secure hundreds or thousands of workstations and servers, keeping them compliant in real time, is a benefit that was never available before. The result is a future-proof patching automation system that requires minimal maintenance from busy IT teams.

1  https://www.cisco.com/c/dam/en/us/solutions/collateral/service-provider/global-cloud-index-gci/white-paper-c11-738085.pdf

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