At home, those pop-up reminders to update your hardware and software require little more than click “OK” to get the latest upgrades to your systems. A company with countless machines and software systems and servers needs to be much more process-oriented with its patch management, however. 

Here are a step-by-step patch management best practices for your organization: 

  • Create an inventory of your IT assets – You need to know what you have on all servers, storage, switches, routers, laptops, desktops, etc., on your organization’s network and distributed throughout the organization. Your inventory can be gathered manually or through automated discovery tools.  
  • Categorize by risk and priority – Once you have collected an inventory of IT assets, categorize each asset by the number of applicable patches, risk (high, medium or low) and what assets need immediate attention. 
  • Utilize a test lab environment – Upon completing your inventory and categorization, create a test lab environment that mirrors your production environment. This environment should replicate the applications you will use to test current patch updates. 
  • Security personnel evaluate patch stability – At this point, a member of the security team should test the stability of deploying patches to test or lab environment systems and applications.  
  • Monitor and evaluate lab patch updates – Once patches have been deployed in the test lab environment, the security staff should monitor them for any updates and determine if any breaks occur.  
  • Create breakups on production environments – Upon completing the testing in your lab environment, you should create a full backup of any data and configurations setups within your environment. Employees also should test the backups and restore processes periodically to make sure it functions properly. 
  • Implement configuration management – Once your backups have been created and all lab patches have been tested, any changes to your production environment should be proposed and documented in a Configuration Management tool. If any problems arise during the rollout, you can refer to the Configuration Management tool for reference. 
  • Roll out your patches to production environments – Once you’ve gone through configuration management, it’s time to roll out your patches. Patch any mission-critical hardware or applications after business hours. This way, you can closely monitor the patches and implement any disaster recovery plans as needed. 
  • Make sure patches are maintained regularly – Once patches have been rolled out, continue to closely monitor the status of hardware and applications on the network to make sure there are no breaks or problems.  
  • Document the patch management process – Ensure your entire patch management process and procedures are documented within your general information security policies and procedures. Your patch management policy should cover critical updates, noncritical updates, and any regularly scheduled maintenance periods.  

Your best bet for your patch management is to entrust an IT consultant like 2W Tech, especially since we specialize in security solutions. We can guide your patching needs to ensure everything is running smoothly with minimal downtime while keeping interoperability in place. 2W Tech is a full-service IT consulting firm that specializes in solutions for the manufacturing industry. We are also a Microsoft Gold Partner. Contact us today for more information.

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