What is Server Patching & Why It’s Important

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Patch management is a critical process within IT environments, and servers are one of the many types of endpoints that need software patches. Server patching, in particular, is crucial to ensure that your servers are optimally functioning and don’t go down unexpectedly. Let’s dig into what server patching is, why it’s so necessary, how server patching works, and keys to proper execution of server patch management.

What is server patching?

Server patching is the process of applying patches to update or fix your server software. Patching is needed to support the successful operation of your servers and verify that they’ll be able to perform their specific functions.

What is the difference between a patch and an update?

Patches and updates are essentially the same thing and are used interchangeably. A software patch is an update to the software that addresses weaknesses or vulnerabilities in the software system.

Why is server patch management important?

Patch management is a critical process for systems within your organization’s IT environment. Patching a server system, in particular, is important to ensure it successfully stores, sends, and receives data over the network to your connected endpoints. Without an optimally operating server, it will be unable to provide its designated services or functions.

Risks that are associated with an unpatched server are the same risks that other types of unpatched software face. Loss of data, lost productivity, and security vulnerabilities that result from unpatched servers can all damage your business and result in negative outcomes. When your server is unpatched, it operates suboptimally and you leave weaknesses open to cyber threats who can take advantage of the vulnerabilities. Check out these IT horror stories and learn how unpatched software can hurt your business.

Server patching, unlike patching a single device, can affect whole groups of users and entire functions within an IT environment. Servers are more heavily configured and more sensitive, which means that the impact of them going down is much worse. If a patch breaks a user’s machine, the user might lose a day of work, but it’s not the end of the world. If you break a server with a patch, all members of your organization might be unable to work for an entire day. The effects are much larger, so server patching has much higher stakes.

How server patching works

There aren’t really different types of server patching since server patching typically follows the standard patch management process, but there are a few characteristics of it that are unique to the patch management of servers. When learning how to do server patching, keep in mind that the process includes things like manual tasks, more testing, and creating a backup server. Because they serve a different function than other endpoints, server patching also requires a slightly different procedure.

Server patching vs. end-user device patching

The general approach to server patching is very different from the approach to patching end-user devices. With end-user devices, the goal is to get them protected as quickly and efficiently as possible. This means you’ll usually implement automation as much as possible, ere on the side of shoving patches out to your users’ devices, and get them secure as fast as you can.

Server patching, in comparison, takes a much more conservative approach. It is more difficult, time-consuming, and generally a manual process. Here are a few basic, but critical, keys to ensuring that server patching is smooth and executed correctly:

3 keys to a successful server patching process

1. Combine automatic and manual processes

Server patching requires a bit more care with patch testing and deployment of patches. Automation can be used for tasks such as keeping track of available patches and patch scanning, but manual testing and implementation of the patches ensure that the patches you apply to your server enhance its performance rather than damage it.

2. Use a sandbox to test server patches

Before you deploy a patch to your server, you want to make sure it actually improves the system rather than breaking it. Sandbox testing allows you to perform the evaluation of any available patches. A sandbox environment is a non-production environment that allows you to safely test potential patches before they’re applied to the actual environment, which in this case is a server.

3. Implement server failovers

As a general rule of thumb, you should have backups in your IT environment wherever possible. The backup for a server is a server failover. The server failover is programmed to automatically take control and replace the original server if it goes down, offline, or another disaster breaks the system.

You should also keep in mind some general patch management best practices. These include the use of patch management policies, keeping track of available patches, documenting all efforts made towards patch management, and using patch management software.

Patch management software for servers

Patch management software is designated software used for the successful implementation of patches to your endpoints, including servers. Tools and features like remote access, patch automation, reboot management, patch vulnerability data, and more enable you to patch the endpoints and systems in your IT environment more effectively.

Open-source patch management software is essentially software that is free for anyone to use. You can inspect it, use it as is, modify it, or distribute it for any purpose. The benefit of open-source software is that you can customize it to fit your organization’s needs. However, open-source patch management software comes with its limitations, such as the inability to scale with your business, poorly maintained open-source projects, and lack of tech support.

Patch your servers with confidence using NinjaOne

NinjaOne provides patch management software that gives you the tools you need for effective server patching. It enables automated remote patch management, displays the patch status of your servers on the dashboard, and provides patch reporting so you can get the full view of patching within your IT environment. Sign up for a free trial today and minimize your server vulnerabilities.

Next Steps

Empower your IT infrastructure with NinjaOne Patch Management to ensure a fortified defense against vulnerabilities and keep your systems running at their best.

Learn more about NinjaOne Patch Management, check out a live tour, or start your free trial of the NinjaOne platform.

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