Tech Talk: Patches

Patch. It’s a word you hear a lot when talking with I.T. professionals. When your computer is slowing down, is infected with a virus, or certain software stops working altogether, there is a good chance your I.T. folks will want to know if you have applied the latest patches.

So what exactly are patches, and why should you care?

Patches are small improvements to software code that are typically developed to fix bugs, security flaws, performance problems, or usability issues. Patches are issued for the software you use every day, from your Microsoft or Apple operating systems to local versions of software on your computer to apps on your phone. The software used to run hardware, called firmware, is also patched on a regular basis as well. These days even your car gets software patches!

Most major software and hardware vendors release patches on a set schedule and give you the option to automatically apply these patches without having to interact with the device. In the event of a critical performance or security issue, the vendor will release an emergency patch out of the regular patch cycle. These patches are called hotfixes.

Far from just being pesky bumps in our day, patches are a critical piece of keeping our technology systems secure and running smoothly. You should always apply patches released by your hardware and software vendors. Unpatched servers have been linked to global ransomware attacks, like WannaCry and SamSam, that took advantage of known vulnerabilities and cost companies millions of dollars. These attacks could have been prevented with a patch management process.

At Greystone, we use tools and procedures for managing the patching process for our client’s operating systems and common software applications. We test each patch before rolling it out to our client’s systems to ensure the patch works well with other software or hardware. If you do not know if your systems are properly patched or need help creating a patching system, contact us. We can help!