What is a patch?

A patch is a set of code modifications to a computer program designed to update, fix or improve it. Patches are often written to enhance functionality, performance, and/or usability. Frequently, they include fixes for potential security vulnerabilities or bugs.

What is Patch Management?

Often, when working with software, we come across the term Patch Management, which is when a vendor releases a patch and a notification about updates being available for download.  With regards to an Operating System (OS) on a PC, the most common example is when Microsoft Windows or Apple MacOS publish updates for download/install.

Why is it crucial to download and install these as soon as possible?

While it may not sound like it is critical to do, it can be one of the most important aspects of both productivity and security for your entire system.  It ensures all of your software is functioning correctly and efficiently.  When software is out of date, it may not function properly, perform slowly, and could potentially crash. Updating regularly ensures these issues are less likely to occur, especially with older hardware. The longer you go without updating, the more problems may arise.

Patch Management – Operating Systems

Besides acquiring the latest feature set, the most vital reason you should manage your patches and updates is security. Software vulnerabilities are a major opening for hackers, who may exploit them to access individual systems, your broader network, and associated data. Patching your OS and making sure you are running a supported version is priority. If you are running Microsoft Windows 7 or Windows Server 2008R2, it is time to upgrade to a newer version of those operating systems because Microsoft stopped supporting these two systems in January, 2020. This means there are no patches being published, and over time, your PC is much more likely to become vulnerable to new security risks.

Applying a patch as quickly as possible reduces the chances attackers can exploit those security vulnerabilities. We all need to have good security practices in place when it comes to our computers (personal, business, or otherwise).

It is also recommended to apply the latest patches to your mobile phones and tablets as they become available. Major mobile vendors (Apple, Google, Samsung, etc.) consistently release security updates on a regular schedule. I know I am in the minority using a Google Pixel, but here’s an example of the June 2020 Android Security update and fixes.

While patching software tends to be somewhat of an annoyance for end users, far too often recommended patches are ignored.  Remember to apply the patches as they are available or on a proper schedule to prevent security, compliance, or performance issues. In addition to the OS itself, is also recommended to apply updates for any installed apps on your devices as they become available.