How many operating systems, applications and software are running on servers and clients in your organization? It might hard to calculate and, considering the number of patches being released by vendors over time, it might be even harder to keep up-to-date with all of them.

Patch management is a critical capability within IT environments today, as software code vulnerabilities could turn into IT and business downtime, and are also more and more exploited by hackers and cybercriminals. Industry analyst Gartner stated that more than 90% of incidents caused by software could be prevented, as vulnerabilities are known to security and IT professionals before the adverse events happen.

Patch management software helps IT departments successfully deploy patches by acquiring, checking and installing code changes for all running systems. It can also support software vulnerabilities assessment, patches prioritizing, reporting and advanced analytics. Patch management solutions are sometimes included in IT infrastructure management suites but, as so many alternatives are currently available on the market, selecting the best one might not be an easy task.

Real-life experience tells that a large company will probably need more than one patch management tool, as performance might not be the same on different systems and platforms. Setting and configuration are quite sensitive processes too. When evaluating the tools which best fits your organization’s peculiar requirements, you may want to start by analyzing the type of systems you need to manage (servers, desktops, laptops and mobile devices) and how much automation you would like to have. Multiplatform tools should always be preferred, but be aware some investment on available IT skills might be requested to handle with more advanced agent-based or agentless tools.

Patch management tools should be compared to performance (considering for instance how quickly they can download and push out patches), and overall costs as well. At the end of the day, as any other technology, patch management software need people, competence and process to be effective.