March 28, 2024

Patch Management Software: Your Guide to Picking a Patch Manager (with Examples)

Security & Compliance
How to & Use Cases

Patch management software automatically applies updates to software, firmware, and other system components. Patching makes sure resources are up to date with the latest security and performance improvements to keep software protected and performing as expected.

No matter what industry you’re in or how long you’ve been doing it, patching is one of the uniting forces across IT: All actively maintained software receives patches and updates, and if you want to stay up to date (which you should), you need to be able to wrangle all those updates quickly and comprehensively – especially in enterprise IT. Read on to find out why patch management software is important, what kinds of tools can help, and what separates the great patch managers from the good.

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What is Patch Management Software?

Patch management software, sometimes called a patch manager, applies updates to software, firmware, and drivers to protect them against security threats and vulnerabilities. Features of patch management software can also include custom grouping, scheduling, and reporting.

The actual phrase “patch management software” can be used to describe a single tool that automates, scales, and integrates patch deployment and testing. But it can also be used to describe toolchains and workflows made up of many pieces of software, each of which plays a distinct role in managing patching.

Patch management software can refer to a piece of software designed to perform different tasks in the patch management process, including:

  • Vulnerability assessment
  • Patch deployment
  • Configuration management
  • IT service management (ITSM)
  • Compliance and reporting
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Patch Management Software Examples

Patch Management Software 

What It Does 

Examples 

Patch Management Systems 

Patch management systems can automate patch scanning, testing, and deployment. 

  • Microsoft Endpoint Configuration Manager/SCCM (Windows) 
  • NinjaOne (Linux) 

Endpoint Management 

Endpoint management platforms manage configurations for desktops, laptops, mobile devices, servers, and other devices connected to a network. Endpoint management tools often include patch management functions like applying updates. 

  • Symantec Endpoint Management 
  • Ivanti for Endpoint Management (Windows) 

Vulnerability Management Tools 

Vulnerability management tools are used to scan for security vulnerabilities in a system or network and can recommend patching to mitigate those vulnerabilities. 

  • Qualys 
  • Tenable Nessus 

Configuration Management Software 

Configuration management tools automate changes to infrastructure components like servers, virtual machines, and apps. A configuration management system (CMS) can deploy patches across large IT environments automatically to make sure all components get the same update at the same time. 

IT Service Management (ITSM) Tools 

ITSM tools help IT teams deliver services, document incidents, and meet service-level agreements (SLAs). IT teams use ITSM to manage the patching lifecycle to ensure patching is conducted in a structured, organized, and repeatable way. 

Automation and Orchestration Tools 

Automation and orchestration tools do what it sounds like: They automate repetitive tasks, coordinate activities, integrate systems, and more to streamline processes and scale IT operations. They can be used to handle many essential patching processes, like scanning for missing patches and deploying them across many systems. 

  • Puppet 
  • SaltStack 
  • Ansible 

Network Security and Firewall Solutions 

Network devices like routers, switches, and firewalls also need to stay up to date on patches to keep them secure from threats and vulnerabilities and maintain the integrity of the network. 

  • Cisco 
  • Fortinet 
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Why Patch Management Software Isn’t Enough to Ensure Enterprise IT Security + Compliance

For most organizations, patch management is an ad hoc process. So are the tools: A patch needs to be applied, so you choose the tool that can install it where and when it needs to be applied. But patch management needs to be paired with configuration management to be effective and useful.  

In IT security, patch management and configuration management are complementary: Patch management upgrades the packages, while configuration management manages files and directories that belong to the package or that the package might depend on (like MySQL). When package upgrades require changes to those files and directories, using a single tool that offers configuration management and patch management capabilities becomes key.

Between external threats and a deluge of software vulnerabilities, reliable patching is impossible without configuration management:

  • Patch management relies on an inventory of systems to be patched.
    • Configuration management provides a comprehensive inventory of IT assets, which defines the systems that need to be patched. Configuration management systems also provide documentation on changes made to configurations, including patching policies, across separate systems.
  • Many patching tools are built for one operating system.
    • Managing patching across environments contributes to tool sprawl, which requires training and support, presents integration challenges, and adds to licensing complexity.
    • Configuration management can also consistently apply patches across OSes in an IT system, regardless of operating system or where it’s hosted.
    • Puppet Enterprise is the only tool that enables patch management across Linux and Windows, giving IT teams a single place for patch management. Configuration management also allows you to scale, add new tools if needed, and control patching policies from a central dashboard.
  • It’s hard to maintain compliance if you’re using disparate patching tools.
    • Using a single tool for both patching and configuration management makes it easier for IT teams to respond to CVEs quickly and stay in compliance. Configuration management standardizes patch delivery and documentation, which helps achieve and maintain compliance with frameworks like CIS Benchmarks for system-wide security.
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Watch: Using Puppet for Better Patch Management

Puppet automated configuration management gives you confidence and control that your systems are patched and secure. Using infrastructure as code (IaC) for patch management lets you standardize, customize, scale, and audit your patch management process – even if you’re already using multiple patch management tools.

In this demo video, we’ll show you how to use Puppet to standardize patch management and how to report on patch compliance in Puppet Enterprise.

With Puppet, you can…

  • Patch, update, and reboot systems with automated workflows
  • Manage patching across operating systems to ensure Windows and Linux environments receive uniform patching
  • Apply patches on your terms with built-in scheduling and blackout windows
  • Use role-based access control (RBAC) to enable self-service patch deployments
  • Get one simplified view into patch state and automated workflows from multiple patch management tools
  • Preview the impact of patches on your workloads
  • Generate detailed reports on patching state, levels, and frequency

Remember before, when we mentioned how your patch management tools need to be able to keep up when your patch management strategy changes? Puppet IaC also lets you modify patch management workflows and configurations and have those changes reflected across your entire IT environment.

Simply describe your new desired state in Puppet code on your primary server, like patching schedules, priorities, and reboot policies, and Puppet will automatically enforce those rules anywhere the Puppet agent is installed. It's designed to maintain the desired state of your infrastructure and keep your patching strategy consistent across all Puppet-managed resources – including physical hardware, data center, public cloud, private cloud, VMs, and hybrid environments.

Learn more about using Puppet for patch management at the link below or try it for free on 10 nodes with Puppet Enterprise.

AUTOMATED PATCHING   TRY PUPPET ENTERPRISE

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