Server Patching Best Practices

Patching your laptop is a tiresome but innocuous task. You get notifications that updates are available and can apply them with a device restart. For company owned devices, IT can enforce these updates by limiting the number of times an end user can delay them.

On the other end of the spectrum is server patching. From the operating system to applications, the process for patching servers is far less defined and certainly not as straightforward. It’s never as simple as installing updates and performing a reset.

Patching servers is also critical for security. Servers provide the backbone of any network infrastructure, and as such have more dependencies than we experience with laptops.

Server patches should first be tested against other applications and systems in the network, maintenance windows must be set, and installation requirements for each patch must be understood.

And if that isn’t enough, most of us utilize more than one server operating system, employing both Windows and Linux in our environments. From there we may have multiple versions running and different Linux distros.

Now let’s add the cloud to the mix. In addition to on-premise servers, we may have private cloud and public cloud servers.

This multivariate combination of factors results in a complex patching process that many IT departments simply cannot keep up with. A recent study found that 67% of system administrators struggle to determine which patches need to be applied to which servers.

In order to manage the patch needs of multiple servers and operating systems, companies should adhere to these best practices:

Establish a set patching schedule: Each server OS releases patches on a separate schedule. Microsoft is famous for releasing updates on the 2nd Tuesday of each month, but Linux and applications that run on top of your servers will release updates at different times.

We recommend checking for new server patches at least once a week, and subscribing to alerts for critical patches that are released in between your scheduled patching times. A system such as Automox will automatically check for new patches without manual intervention, and apply them according to your specified schedule.

Prioritize patches by severity: Some patches need to be applied immediately to prevent malicious actors from gaining access to your network, and other patches are less likely to be exploited or may only affect certain system configurations.

To keep a handle on what patches are needed for each system and which are the most severe, you need full visibility into the patch status of all your servers. A patch management system like Automox is able to provide full infrastructure visibility and a quick view of unapplied patches by severity.

Test patches prior to deployment: Server patches are notorious for interfering or conflicting with other systems, and in the worst cases can even take down critical parts of your infrastructure.

Patches often include system requirements that need to be met before installation, and if not properly tested, dependent systems or applications may go down following a server update.

Testing is an integral part of any server patching workflow, and using a flexible patch automation system such as Automox allows you to integrate your existing testing and deployment workflow into the patch automation process.

Use one central patching solution: Keeping track of all updates for multiple operating systems and associated 3rd party applications is a daunting task, and critical patches can be missed if companies use different tools for each system. What you need is a single source of truth.

By centralizing patch management into single solution that works across multiple OS’ and handles both on-premise and cloud servers, companies can be assured that no new patches are missed. Automox’s cloud-based patching solution operates across Windows, Linux, and major 3rd party applications, and for both cloud and on-premise servers.

Automate the patching process: Keeping servers secure by applying patches quickly and effectively is one of the most important things you can do to reduce your attack surface.

By employing an automated patch management solution, you reduce the time it takes to apply patches and remove the risk that critical patches will be overlooked. Modern cloud based patching automation solutions, including Automox, are simple to set up, cost effective, and require no ongoing maintenance.

Automox is the system of record for patching. To see for yourself, sign up for a 15 day free trial. You’ll get full platform access, no endpoint limit, and no credit card is required.

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