Microsoft promotes patch management products

Microsoft Corp. is touting automated patch products as the best way to deal with the problem of keeping systems up-to-date.

'It's a complicated problem,' company technology specialist Fred Duca said today at FOSE 2004 in Washington. 'It's a time-consuming process if you don't have it automated.'

The complete process includes creating an accurate and up-to-date inventory of hardware and software configurations; being aware of patches and updates available; determining their applicability to a system; and scheduling the updates, he said.

To automate this process, Microsoft offers a trio of services and products:

  • Windows Update determines what updates are available for given client systems and can install them on command.

  • Software Update Services is a free download to help managers test and manage updates and patches across a system.

  • The Microsoft Systems Management Server 2003 is a full-blown management product that includes patch management.

  • Systems Management Server 'is arguably the most complex product Microsoft sells,' Duca said. It performs a full range of asset management and reporting tasks.

    But automation does not eliminate the need for systems administrators to maintain accurate asset inventories and to fully test patches and updates for compatibility with the environment in which they are being installed, he said.

    'If you don't know what's there, you can't fix it,' Duca said, and fixing a problem created by a patch consumes more time than testing the patch to start with.

    About the Author

    William Jackson is a Maryland-based freelance writer.

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