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While patch management doesn’t have to be complicated, it can be a major headache if your company does not have the right tools in place to handle it. More than that, a sub-par approach to patch management will end up costing you in the long run. 

In 2020, a Ponemon Institute study found that the majority of data breaches (57%) stem from attackers exploiting a known vulnerability that should have been patched… but wasn’t. And if that is not enough to convince you of the importance of patch management, the average total cost of a data breach in the United States is $8.64 million.

Bottom line, an effective patch management solution costs far less than $8 million. Moreover, the recent trend towards automation in patch management makes it even more effective and less prone to human error. If you are looking for a top patch management tool, you are in the right place. In this article, we will dive into the decision-making process about which patch management option is best for your specific needs. 

The importance of choosing the right patch management tool

Patch management is a cybersecurity process for systematic, consistent updating of software, operating systems, and applications. Patch management tools are specifically designed to facilitate that process, allowing you to classify, prioritize, and apply patches in a timely way to ensure your network assets are up-to-date and secure. 

The consequences of poor patch management are clear: increased security risk, lost resources, and diminished customer trust. Now, let’s talk about the positive impacts of patch management done right. 

Staying up to date on patch management helps increase productivity (after all, system failures and downtime certainly bring efficiency to a halt). Some patches include software updates and new features, enhancing usability and performance. 

When done correctly, patch management helps to keep your programs running smoothly and protect against external cyber threats (according to the Ponemon study mentioned earlier, 52% of cybersecurity breaches in 2020 came from outside actors with malicious intent). 

As any IT pro knows, patch management becomes much more complex when you are handling large, organization-wide networks and systems. And manual patch management can be a major slog. That’s why automated patch management solutions, like Atera, are changing the game for the better. 

Automated patch management

Automated patch management is the process of scanning, identifying, downloading, testing, deploying, and verifying system patches automatically. Humans cannot be monitoring 24/7 (even IT professionals need to sleep!), but an automated patch management system works around the clock to enhance your IT security. 

How to choose the right patch management tool in 6 simple steps

Selecting an effective patch management tool involves understanding your organization’s unique needs and priorities; follow these six straightforward steps to make an informed choice that ensures robust cybersecurity and system efficiency.

How to choose the right patch management tool

Step 1: define your use cases

To make the best decision about a patch management solution for your organization, think carefully about your use cases and define each one. Then, make sure that the patch management solution offers the full functionality that you need. For instance, if your network employs varied operating systems, you will want a patch management that can work with Linux, Windows and patching MacOS for starters

No matter what your specific use cases are, it’s crucial that the patch management tool be easy to use, and preferably supports automation capabilities.

Step 2: conduct market research

When you have a clear understanding of what you are looking for in a patch management solution, it’s time to examine the options available to you. Gain more information on the patch management software solutions on the market and then compare them side by side. Which leads to the next step… 

Step 3: source peer feedback

Chat with fellow IT pros, read reviews, and develop some perspective on other people’s experiences with each patch management product. Talking to your peers in the IT space is a great way to start learning about a product before making the leap to invest in it yourself. 

When you consult other IT managers about their patch management tools, you may discover important information or insights that are not described on the product website. Of course, keep in mind that every organization’s needs, goals, and use cases will be slightly different — a given patch management solution may not be the right fit for another organization, but it could be perfect for yours. 

Step 4: define your decision criteria

After you have a better understanding of what’s out there on the market, the task boils down to making an informed and objective decision based on stated criteria. We suggest making a list of all of the factors you will be considering. For instance, you might be looking at overall cost, number of end users supported, price per technician, learning curve, specific functionalities, 3rd party patch management etc. 

Carefully weighing these factors is the key to ensuring that you get a patch management product that meets most of your needs for a price that you can afford — the ideal combination.

Step 5: set up demos

If you made it this far, you have likely narrowed down your patch management solution list to a few key options. Now, it’s time to set up some demo calls to keep things moving. Contact the sales team of each solution provider to get a walkthrough of the tool’s primary capabilities. During the demo, you will talk to a real, live person about how the product can best serve you and how you will get onboarded. This is a great opportunity to ask questions and clarifications that may be on your mind. 

Step 6: test drive patch management solutions

Some effective RMM tools offer free trial periods, so you can get a feel for the product without committing to it. For example, Atera’s 30-day free trial does not even require a credit card, so you are really free to try before you buy. 

The trial period is crucial for learning the ins and outs of a patch management solution, test driving it in your IT environment to see how it fits. This final step in the process of choosing a patch management tool is really where the rubber hits the road. After several weeks of trying it out, you should be ready to make your decision, whether yes or no.

6 key considerations for selecting the best patch management tool

As you search for the best cloud-based patch management tool, consider these six factors to help drive your decision. 

Scanning and discovery

Look for a patch management solution that automatically scans your IT environment for any systems that need patching. Automated scanning and vulnerability management will identify available updates and perform them too — zero IT team attendance needed! This scanning and discovery process can be scheduled during downtime and outside of working hours, so disruption to business operations is minimal.

Compatibility with your IT environment

The best patch management tools are those that are compatible with a broad selection of systems and configurations. If you have to juggle different patch management solutions to handle different operating systems — or worse yet, perform some patches manually – it’s only a matter of time before something falls through the cracks. 

At Atera, we take compatibility seriously. That’s why our automated patch management solution works with all major operating systems, including Windows, MacOS, and Linux.

Ease of use

Your goal should be a patch management tool that is intuitive and easy to use. Consider what level of customization you need, and ensure the patch management solution has the flexibility to adapt to your organization’s goals and configuration.

One way to evaluate ease of use is to examine user reviews of a product. Check out software rating platforms like G2 and Capterra to find out what real users say about the product.

Here’s an example of a review about Atera featured on the Capterra website:

Screenshot from Capterra

Automation

Before you choose a patch management software solution, make sure that its automation provisions are on the level. Consider your use cases, your team’s flexibility and availability, and examine your organization’s unique needs to determine what level of automation is necessary (or preferred) for your scenario. Atera is an IT management software supported by AI, with automated patch management functionality for resolving tickets, generating scripts, real-time network discovery, and more, which can significantly improve the efficiency of your IT department. 

Customer support

As you consider the best patch management solution for your needs, make sure that you choose a provider with reliable, efficient customer support. Many patch management software companies have blog articles, help centers, and other support resources available. But not everyone provides live, 24/7 support. 

At Atera, we offer round-the-clock support in several languages — but what really sets us apart is our online IT community. It’s a place where Atera users interact and support one another with IT tips, hacks, and troubleshooting inspiration, as well as building online relationships in our exclusive virtual space. Check it out here. 

Price point

Pricing is a critical consideration for any software purchase. Define your budget before beginning your patch management solution search, and then ensure that the products you are considering meet your qualifications. Also, a patching tool that is flexible to grow and scale with your team is by far a preferred choice.

For example, Atera’s pay-per-technician model supports scaling at any stage of your company’s journey. We believe in pricing transparency, with all-inclusive plans starting at $99 per month per technician. Just straightforward and simple pricing, so you get an advanced, automated patch management solution without surprises.

Find the patch management solution that reflects your needs

There’s no reason to spend hours trying out different (and redundant) software offerings or pay for multiple memberships. Instead, choose Atera’s all-in-one IT management solution that includes the right patch management software to help you maintain security, compliance, functionality, and more. 

Start your free Atera trial or talk to our sales team for a demo. 

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