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Top 5 Best Practices for Cloud Patching

Over the past several years, modern businesses have been migrating to cloud service providers to take advantage of lower costs, ease of use, and scalability. And according to recent analyst predictions, those trends aren’t changing. To help your team adapt your patching strategy accordingly, we’ve compiled a list of the top five best practices you need to deploy to keep your cloud infrastructure fully patched:

  1. Regularly scan for vulnerabilities and missing patches

  2. Use a single solution to patch across hybrid environments

  3. Gain complete endpoint visibility and reporting

  4. Patch third-party apps across platforms

  5. Deploy automation when available

We’ll dive into each in detail below, but before we get started let’s look at how much has changed as organizations everywhere transition their infrastructure.

A little background

In a recent CRN article, Forrester predicted the public cloud market will balloon to $1 trillion by 2026, doubling the current $446 billion market in 2022 with an annual growth rate of more than 20 percent over the next four years.

Moreover, VP Analyst at Gartner Sid Nag recently assessed that “current inflationary pressures and macroeconomic conditions are having a push and pull effect on cloud spending.” He said, “Cloud computing will continue to be a bastion of safety and innovation, supporting growth during uncertain times due to its agile, elastic, and scalable nature.”

So, given the growing rate of cloud adoption, it’s increasingly important to effectively update and properly manage your cloud infrastructure. The conversation around effective and efficient methods for patching within the cloud has become more prevalent since it remains one of the most effective methods of stopping bad actors’ exploits in their tracks.

What is patch management, exactly?

Patch management is the process of distributing and applying updates to endpoints, such as laptops or servers. These patches are often necessary to correct errors (also referred to as “vulnerabilities” or “bugs”) in the software of these endpoints.

Patch management is essential for minimizing vulnerabilities and keeping your cloud infrastructures on point. It should come as no surprise that many organizations struggle to keep up with patch management best practices.

Whether it's on-premise complexity, unmanaged endpoints, or plain old patch procrastination that's hindering your patching process, there’s no shortage of solutions to help your org improve its patch management strategy and best practices.

While endpoints in the cloud require similar levels of patching as on-premises servers, users may be unaware of cloud patching best practices. Plus, not all cloud services are diligent about issuing patches on a regular schedule. So, how do you circumvent such challenges? Easy – check out the following five best practices for cloud patch management.

Top 5 best practices for cloud patch management

To effectively patch your cloud-based infrastructure and maintain compliance and security across your organization, get started with these top best practices.

1. Regularly scan for vulnerabilities and missing patches

Regularly search for patches pertaining to cloud services your org uses. These can include cloud servers and other applications like cloud-based email providers and file storage systems. While some companies like Microsoft release patches with a set cadence (like Patch Tuesday), patches from cloud providers are usually not released on a regular schedule. Therefore, be sure to schedule an ongoing cadence of checks and application of patches to minimize the risk of vulnerability exploitation.

2. Use a single solution to patch across hybrid environments

It bears repeating that companies may use multiple cloud providers. And some even retain their on-prem servers. Don’t forget these servers can run different operating systems and applications that still need to be patched to maintain their compliance and overall security posture.

The problem is that manually handling patching across several providers is an extremely time-consuming task. Look into automated patch management resources to stay up-to-date on patching. You can use a single solution to work with any combination of cloud providers. Look for a lightweight cloud-native agent that can be easily installed on every endpoint and can support the leading operating systems (Windows, macOS, and Linux). Even better if the solution you choose automatically checks for and applies patches as they are released.

3. Gain complete endpoint visibility and reporting

In an ideal environment, the goal is to seamlessly integrate with the tools and services already found in your cloud environment(s). Having a centralized tech stack provides a holistic view, enables consolidated reporting, and improves cross-team sharing capabilities.

The thing is, endpoint security necessitates endpoint visibility; if you can't see the endpoint, you can't protect it. Using a cross-platform, cloud-native solution to manage both reporting and patching is better when it happens through a single pane of glass. Look for patch management solutions that allow you to view all your servers and endpoints in one dashboard, regardless of their location. It’ll help reduce time spent assessing patch status, improve your company’s security posture, and enable accurate reporting to executives and stakeholders.

4. Patch third-party apps across platforms

Most patching efforts focus on operating systems, but third-party applications, such as Chrome or Adobe, actually make up a much larger percentage of vulnerabilities. Third-party apps have become the primary attack vector for various cyberattacks, such as malware and ransomware, in recent years. This makes them extremely attractive to malicious actors. Think about it… if a third-party app is widely used and rarely patched, there's a better chance of successful exploitation, right?

Net-net? Stay on top of your third-party patches. Seek solutions that address not only your leading operating systems but include a long catalog of supported third-party titles.

5. Deploy automation when available

In the end, an automated patch management system can help make the entire process of patching run smoothly from start to finish. As the tech world grows even more complex, automated solutions become more necessary.

Manual patching is just far too time-consuming (and soul-crushing) for teams managing their organizations’ complex networks. And legacy patching solutions are simply not up to par. Today’s best options are cloud-based solutions that include automation capabilities out-of-the-box and/or support scripts to develop your own automations. This will go a long way in not only taking full advantage of the benefits of the cloud but closing the door quickly on potential cyberattacks.

Best cloud patching practices takeaways

Despite growth, profitability, and competition pressures, cloud spending will continue through perpetual cloud usage,” Gartner’s Nag reminds us. “Once applications and workloads move to the cloud they generally stay there, and subscription models ensure that spending will continue through the term of the contract and most likely well beyond.”

With cloud adoption continuing full steam ahead, maintaining patch management best practices is crucial to keeping your organization secure, but it doesn't have to keep you up at night.

By selecting a tool that can check all-of these recommended best practices boxes, you will be well on your way to an easy-to-manage and secure cloud environment.

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