What Are Computer Patches?
When you think of a patch, your first thought may be of a patch for a ripped pair of jeans. Once applied, the patch extends the life of the garment and covers up a vulnerable, worn area. In the information technology world, a computer patch functions in much the same way as a piece of fabric on a torn pair of jeans. A computer patch is a modification to a software program that is intended to improve security or performance or fix a bug or issue. It helps to repair an exposed flaw.
Computer patches are an integral part of keeping your information technology infrastructure operating smoothly and protecting your data from cyberthreats. What are the different types of computer patches and how do you find and install them? Let’s take a look at the most popular patches, how to find them, and what the consequences are for not patching regularly.
Types of Computer Patches
Over the course of a software program’s lifespan, it will run into “bugs.” A bug is a coding error in a computer program that can create a vulnerability. A patch is a software update that provides an immediate fix to a bug and allows the software developer to work on the issue for the next release of the software.
There are different kinds of computer patches available including:
- Point Release: A point release patch from a software company is usually a minor update. Point releases correct bugs and feature minor enhancements to a program as opposed to adding to new features. The point release adds a decimal “point” to the software version number; for example, Version 4.2.06 and Version 4.2.07.
- Security Patch: A security patch corrects errors in computer software code and addresses cyber vulnerabilities. Vulnerabilities are often discovered in the aftermath of a cyberattack and new security patches respond to the latest threats.
- Service Pack: Service packs are bundles of patches released together and often contain new features in addition to bug fixes. Most operating systems and software programs provide service packs free of charge.
- Monthly Rollup: Similar to services packs, monthly rollups contain multiple patches combined into a single update. Each rollup is cumulative, so users need to only install the latest rollup.
- Hotfix: A hotfix, also known as a quick fix engineering update, addresses a specific issue found with the software. Hotfixes can typically be applied without restarting your computer. A hotfix is an update that cannot wait for a service pack or monthly rollup release.
- Unofficial Patches: When a software product reaches its end-of-life (EOL), it is often no longer supported by the company that released it. Other developers may create their own patches to address bugs, but because these patches are not developed by the original developer, they are “unofficial.”
Computer patches can help keep your software running smoothly and protect your business from cyberthreats. Software patches are only useful, though, if you have a patch management process implemented. A patch management program outlines how your computer support team will find, download and install patches on a routine basis.
How Do You Find and Install Patches?
When patches become available, vendors will put them on their websites for downloading and installation. As part of your routine IT processes, check for updates at least once a month for installation to protect your business. Some cyber attackers will continue to target vulnerabilities long after patches are available, so it’s important to apply fixes monthly.
Some software will automatically check for patch updates, too. If automatic updating is available, take advantage of this service from your vendor. Automatic patches can contain critical fixes for security and usability.
Here are several tips to keep in mind when installing patch updates:
- Only download and install patches from vendor websites. Never click on software update links in an email – this is a common phishing tactic used by cybercriminals.
- Only install patches on a secure network. If you are attempting to install patches on a public network, use a VPN.
- Microsoft, Oracle, and other software companies release patches on “Patch Tuesday.” Patch Tuesday occurs on the second Tuesday of the month, and sometimes the fourth Tuesday as well. Your IT team should be looking for these patches on a regular basis.
Consequences of Not Patching
If you are managing your business’ information technology needs on your own, you may be tempted to skip patch updates either because of time constraints or the process is outside your area of expertise. Skipping patch updates, though, can put your business at risk for:
- Damaged Software: Nearly all software programs will experience a bug or issue at some point during its lifespan. A patch will help fix the bug and allow you to continue to use the software as intended. When you skip patches with critical fixes, the software can become damaged or malfunction. Patches are a great tool to keep your software at peak performance.
- Security Risks: Cybercrime is at an all-time high, and one of the methods a criminal uses to access a company’s data is through a third-party application like software. Some malware can completely erase your data, or a cyber thief can install ransomware and lock your data behind a paywall. Patches can help you stay ahead of data loss and identity theft.
- Loss of Compatibility: When users on a network have different versions of software, incompatibility issues can arise. When one has a patched version, and the other does not, sharing files can be challenging and cause inefficiencies.
While implementing a patch management program may feel overwhelming, the consequences of not doing so can be damaging. Patches should be a part of your regular information technology functions, either performed by your IT department or a trusted managed IT services provider like Everound. If you are not sure where to start with computer patching, reach out to us today for help.
Computer Patching Support with Everound
Everound is a managed IT services company in Central Pennsylvania focused on helping businesses create operational efficiency through information technology. Our team can help your business develop a comprehensive patch management program to protect your business and its assets.
In addition to patch support, we provide other IT services including cloud services, cybersecurity, dark web monitoring, email security, hardware and software procurement, help desk services, IT consulting, business phone system design, and more. Let us focus on your IT so you can focus on your business.