What is Patch Management Software: Benefits, Best Practices, Importance, & Tools

A patch management software is a tool that automates the patch management process of an enteprise starting from scanning and detection of missing patches to testing, deploying and installing them on the required endpoints. An ideal patch management software provides a multitude of functionalities to streamline the software patch management process while allowing centralized visibility and control.

What is patch management & how to choose the best project management solution

What is patching or patch management?

Patch management is the process of identifying, testing, deploying, and installing software patches (or updates) to computers. A software patch is a piece of code, tailored to fix existing bugs/vulnerabilities in the software, add new features, or enhance its security.

In general, the software patch management process (also referred to as the patch management system) includes scanning computers in the network for missing patches, testing them in a test group of machines, and deploying them manually or automatically via patch management tools. Once the software patches have been deployed and installed, it is crucial to audit and generate reports to ensure high patch compliance in the network.

How do I choose the best patch management software for my organization? If you are someone looking to scale up the security of your organization's network, this question must be running through your mind. While patch management is a quintessential in improving the network's security posture, it is even more crucial to choose the correct patch management software, based on your organization's needs.

For a better understanding, let's take a dive into the depths of the patch management process to help you choose the best among the multitude of patch management tools available today, to streamline your software patch management experience.

Importance of patch management system

Speaking about the importance of patch management system, we have seen that a software patch not only adds newer functionalities but also fixes existing bugs/vulnerabilities in the software. Hence, a proper patch management strategy prevents threat actors from exploiting the systems by keeping them updated with the latest patches.

This section talks about:

Types of Software Patching

Now that we have a basic idea about what is patch management, let's dig in deeper. There are various kinds of patches, each tailored to suit specific needs and address specific issues. While some are designed for bug fixes to enhance security, others add features to the software. Patches can be broadly classified into the following three categories:

  • Security patches: Security patch management, i.e. the process of deploying security patches to address security vulnerabilities in the software, drivers, and other related components helps secure it from being exploited by vulnerabilities and other threat actors.
  • Bug fix patches: Bugs in software can range in severity from minor to critical. Bug fix patches ensure that the software is up to date with the latest, bug-free version.
  • Feature update patches: Feature update patches introduce newer features and functions to software. In addition, they also enhance performance, making software faster and more efficient.

Why is patch management important?

The number of software vulnerabilities and ransomware attacks is increasing exponentially with each passing day. For enterprises with multiple servers and computers, spread across LAN, remote offices and for WFH employees, ensuring software patching to secure them can be both time-consuming and challenging. On the contrary, trying to manually manage these patches instead of using one of the patch management tools is not only hectic but also a major risk for businesses.

That being said, here are some of the key reasons that state why patch management is important:

  • Preventing security breaches: Software patch management or software patching is one of the most important IT tasks in any organization, as patches fix vulnerabilities in the software and applications, keeping cyberattacks at bay. When left unpatched, software and operating systems can put your organization on the path of severe security breaches.
  • Ensuring compliance: With cyberattacks on the rise, regulatory agencies have taken drastic measures to keep enterprises in line with compliance mandates. An integral part of a proper patch management strategy is to ensure that all the endpoints in an organization adhere to compliance standards.
  • Feature updates: Besides providing security and bug fixes, patches also introduce new features and functions. This improves usability and enhances the end-user experience.
  • Downtime prevention: Ransomware attacks and other cyber threats not only result in data breaches but can also cause system downtime, which in turn affects the productivity and revenue of any organization. Systematized patch management ensures the endpoints are updated and secure, thereby preventing downtime due to security breaches.

How to implement patch management in your enterprise?

Now that we know the importance of patch management for an enterprise, let's have a look at how to implement patch management across the systems in your network.

  • Centralized visibility over all the systems
  • The first step to achieving a seamless patch management workflow is to have centralized visibility over all the systems in the network. This will enable the admins to understand the patching status of the systems and thus prioritize the missing patches or patches with higher severity (critical or important) to the systems.

  • Scheduling deployments without affecting employee productivity
  • Scheduling and deploying patches without affecting employee productivity is one of the most crucial factors to be considered while implementing patch management. One of the most convenient ways to achieve this is by deploying patches based on the user's availability and system uptime stats.

    Additionally, admins can leverage patch management tools to create deployment policies and deploy patches to the systems automatically while configuring the pre or post-installation criteria such as rebooting the systems and so on.

  • Developing strategies to patch all the systems across the network
  • For enterprises with employees spread around the world, it is imperative that the admins develop deployment strategies to patch all of the systems in LAN, remote offices (WAN), and employees working from home.

  • Testing and rolling back patches
  • Testing of patches should always precede the deployment. Once the patches have been tested for functional correctness, they can be deployed to the systems safely.

    On the contrary, if the patches show signs of anomalies or disrupt system performance post-deployment, admins should also have the ability to roll back (uninstall) these patches across all the systems where they have been deployed.

    5 steps for an efficient patch management process

    As important as it is to understand "what is patching", it is far more crucial to deploy patches strategically. While installing patches is a must, installing them the second they are available can wreak havoc on endpoints. This is why it's highly recommended you create a strategic approach that strikes a fine balance between the time to patch and patch prioritization.
    Here are the five steps for an efficient patch management process:

    1. Choose a centralized patch management solution
    2. Manually updating patches and keeping tabs on reports is an impossible task. When an organization grows, applying patches manually becomes increasingly difficult and impractical, paving the way for critical errors. This is why it's best to opt for patch management solutions that offer a central console featuring patch deployment, reporting, and customizations.

    3. Test patches prior to deployment in a pilot environment
    4. There are several instances wherein certain software patch (or patches) have caused system instability and crashes. As a result, it is highly recommended to test the patches in a pilot group of endpoints before they are deployed to the production machines. As a best practice, the pilot group of endpoints must have all the same flavors and operating system versions being used in the network.

    5. Prioritization and systematic deployment
    6. Sorting the patches and the endpoints you need to patch by priority is yet another important step for an efficient patch management process. It is best to practice patch deployment in the endpoints in groups and not as a whole. Moreover, patches should be deployed based on their severity, with critical patches being the top priority.

    7. Automate patching
    8. Manual patching of all the endpoints in an organization is a repetitive task that demands time and labor, causing productivity drops. In addition, it increases the overall time to fully patch every endpoint in the organization, leaving more room for exploitation by threat actors. Automating the entire patch management process and using a patching tool for your organization ensures faster response times, enhanced security, and improved productivity.

    9. Track and generate reports
    10. Tracking the progress and failure of the patch deployments in the network and keeping a record is crucial. Generating and maintaining reports helps with assessing the patch compliance of the network.

    What are the best practices for patch management?

    Patching endpoints regularly can keep cyberattacks at bay to a large extent. Here are a few patch management best practices that we recommend you follow:

    • Automate patch management, especially for security updates
    • A study by the Ponemon Institute, the Costs and Consequences of Gaps in Vulnerability Response, states that it takes 16 days on average to patch a critical vulnerability once detected.
      Say goodbye to tedious downloads and manual installations with automated patch deployment. From scanning missing patches to installing them on the respective endpoints, automated deployments are not just easy, but accurate and fast.

    • Use a critical-updates-first approach
    • As many as 72% of respondents in the same Ponemon study reported difficulties in prioritizing patches.
      With a critical-updates-first approach, admins can sort and act on the patches that need to be installed immediately. This reduces the threat response time and ensures efficient patch management.

    • Schedule auto-deployments twice a week
    • With scheduled auto-deployment of patches, your endpoints will keep receiving regular patch updates as and when released. Our experts recommend scheduling deployments twice a week to allow proper testing and approval of patches.

    • Allow user intervention to prevent productivity drops
    • While it's essential to patch endpoints as soon as possible, admins also have to ensure continued user productivity. With flexible deployment policies in place, users can choose to postpone updates if the update conflicts with their business-critical tasks.

    Importance of patch management solutions for an Enterprise

    With a plethora of patch management tools available in the market today, it is important that you identify the patch management software that best suits your organization's needs. Before taking a look at how you can identify one, let's understand the importance of patch management software:

    • Simplifies the patch management process: Any of the ideal patch management solutions simplify the entire patch management process: from identifying the missing patches, testing them, deploying to the required endpoints, and generating reports. This further negates any manual intervention.
    • Keeps vulnerabilities at bay and systems in compliance: With tens of thousands of vulnerabilities being detected every year, they must be tracked and mitigated before being exploited. With patch management software in place, the vulnerable applications can swiftly be detected and remediated thereby bolstering the endpoint security as well as keeping them compliant.
    • Ensures productivity and network security: Achieving network security and compliance in an enterprise of thousands is a tough job. Since the employees are spread over various geographical locations and have different job requirements, devising a common patching policy becomes a hassle.
      With modern patch management tools such as Patch Manager Plus, admins can create patching schedules that ensure network security is achieved without affecting the end user's productivity.
    • Generates insightful reporting for audits and compliances: As important as it is to deploy patches, admins should also have track of the deployments as well as the unpatched systems. A patch management solution generates real-time reports that make it easier to track all the stages of the patch deployment task as well as other important details of the network, which are crucial for compliance and audit purposes.

    How do you find the best patch management software for your organization? The answer depends on the features that you're looking for. Every business has its own set of demands, but there are a few common traits most organizations want to see in patch management software.
    The patch management tool should:

    • Apply patches across every major operating system, including Windows, macOS, and Linux.
    • Support software patching for heterogeneous endpoints such as laptops, desktops, servers, remote devices, etc.
    • Provide patching support for third-party applications.
    • Have a completely automated patch management feature to save time and money for users.
    • Offer dynamic reporting with details on the status of patches.
    • Have an interactive, affordable, easy-to-use, web-based interface with support documentation to help users at every step.
    • Remote Patch Management: To manage remote patching for work-from-home options.

    Patch Manager Plus provides:

    If you're looking for one of the most affordable patch management solutions that offers everything listed above, look no further; Patch Manager Plus offers all these features to help keep your network patched and secured, all from one, central location. This patch management tool is compatible with Windows, macOS, and Linux and offers a Free edition for up to 25 devices. In addition, it also provides server patch management to help keep data secure and up to date.

    Server patch management involves testing and patching physical and virtual servers with little to no downtime. This free patch management software gives you access to all the essential features required to patch your systems. This patch management solution can secure your entire infrastructure.

    ManageEngine's flagship patching software - Patch Manager Plus is available both as an on-premises as well as a cloud patching solution. With remote jobs changing the way IT operates, you can perform patching on the go with Patch Manager Plus Cloud.

    Security patch management

    Security patch management is the process of detecting, testing and deploying security patches or updates to the systems to address the security vulnerabilities and issues. Security patches ensure that the known security vulnerabilities in the systems and the network are promptly mitigated.


    While patch management refers to the deployment of patches across all the endpoints, it usually encompasses both the security and non-security patches. The deployment of security updates across the endpoints should always be of primary focus and should be performed promptly after testing, as soon as the updates are released. Other non-security updates or feature enhancements can be deployed in the subsequent deployment schedules, once the security patches have been installed.

    Server patch management

    Server patch management is the process of detecting, testing, and deploying the missing patches to prevent the servers from being exploited by vulnerabilities and external threat actors. In addition, these patches improve the performance and stability of the servers by removing existing bugs and glitches while adding newer functionalities. For organizations and enterprises, server patch management is a critical task since the allotted server maintenance time is usually very less, as to prevent productivity drops.

    With an automated patching software, not only can you automate the entire workflow but also ensure that the patches are tested and approved before deployment so as to prevent any anomalies. Refer here to know more about server patching.

    ManageEngine's patch management solution to deploy software patches

    ManageEngine Patch Manager Plus follows these six steps in its patch management process: synchronizing, scanning, downloading, testing, deploying approved patches to their respective computers, and generating reports.
    For details on each of these steps, simply keep reading:

    patch deployment

    • Synchronization: All information about patches is collected from vendor sites and is fed into the patch database. This patch database is then synchronized with the Patch Manager Plus server.
    • Detect: The next step is to identify the computers that require these patches. Patch Manager Plus automatically scans the computers in the network to detect the missing patches.
    • Download: All missing patches are downloaded from vendor sites. This includes security updates, non-security updates, service packs, rollups, optional updates, and feature packs.
    • Test and approve: The downloaded patches are first tested in non-production machines (test groups). Deploying untested patches in a production environment can be risky - some patches and updates may lead to post-deployment problems like compatibility issues, which only make the admin's job tougher if incompatible patches and updates require uninstallation. The patches are approved only if they cause no issues post-deployment.
    • Deployment: With flexible deployment policies, not only can you select the deployment window, but you can create patching policies as well. This patch management policy provides access to multiple deployment settings to help you decide when to deploy a patch and how.
    • Report: After successful deployment, reports are automatically generated and the information is sent to the server. It supports customized reports, which help you to filter data easily and share results in a variety of formats (PDF, CSV, XLSX).


    1) What does patch management do?

    Patch management is the process of identifying, testing, deploying, and installing software patches (or updates) to computers thereby preventing them from being exploited by threat actors.

    2) What are three types of patch management?

    Software patches are generally of three types, i.e. Security patches, Bug fix patches, and Feature update patches.

    3) Why is patch management important?

    A proper patch management process mitigates bugs/vulnerabilities in the software by updating them with the latest patches/versions available. This prevents the systems from being exploited via software vulnerabilities by threat actors.

    4) What is a patch software?

    A software patch is a piece of code, tailored to fix existing bugs/vulnerabilities in the software, add new features, or enhance its security.

    5) What are the different types of patches in software?

    Software patches are generally of three different types, i.e. Security patches, Bug fix patches, and Feature update patches.

    6) Is a software patch the same as an update?

    The difference between a software patch and an update is that a software patch specifically fixes vulnerabilities in the software. However, an update can include newer features, enhancements as well as bug fixes.

    7) What is patch management used for?

    Patch management is used to identify, test, deploy, and install software patches (or updates) to computers thereby preventing them from being exploited by threat actors.

    8) What is the meaning of patch management process?

    The software patch management process includes scanning computers in the network for missing patches, testing them in a test group of machines, and deploying them manually or automatically via patch management software.

    9) What is patch management tool?

    A patch management tool is a software that identifies, tests, deploys, and installs software patches (or updates) to computers either manually or via automated methods. It also aids in generating reports to audit and monitors patch compliance in the network.

    10) What are the steps in patching?

    The steps in patching are:

    • Identifying the missing patches by scanning the computers in the network.
    • Testing the patches in a pilot group of computers.
    • Deploying the tested patches to the production machines once they have been successfully approved.
    • Installing the patches on the machines and rebooting the systems (if required).
    • Generating reports on the patch management process for audits and patch compliance.

    11) What is patch management example?

    Microsoft releases security patches for its operating systems (such as Windows 10) and other products (Office and so on) on the second Tuesday of every month, known as Patch Tuesday. This is an example of patch management.

    12) What is the patching process?

    The patch management process refers to scanning the endpoints in the network for missing patches, testing them in a test group of machines, and deploying them to the endpoints either manually or automatically, via patch management software.

    13) What is patching in software?

    Patching in software refers to the process of deploying patches (software codes) to resolve functionality issues, add newer features, or prevent vulnerabilities in the software from being exploited by threat actors.

    14) What does patching an OS mean?

    Patching an Operating System (OS) refers to the process of installing the latest patches to add newer features, improve functionalities or mitigate vulnerabilities in it.

    15) What is patching and what types of patching?

    Patching refers to the process of identifying, testing, deploying, and installing software patches (or updates) to computers. There are different types of patching, that include: Security patches, Bug fix patches, and Feature update patches.

    16) What is patching in server?

    Server patching or server patch management refers to the process of installing the latest patches or software updates in the servers to mitigate the vulnerabilities or bugs in them and to add newer functionalities.