Perfect Patch Management Requires a Patchwork of Vendors

Klipsch Audio Technologies, an Indianapolis-based audio systems manufacturer, keeps a handle on its IT security and patch management with a handful of antivirus, intrusion-detection and patch update products. But those products can't do it all. For example, the patch update software provides updates of all the new patches available for the company's software and systems but leaves prioritizing them to the IT staff.

The fact is, when it comes to a complete product for patch management, no single vendor meets all the needs of most IT buyers, according to Aberdeen Group Inc. in Boston. "The small number of suppliers that solve even part of the problem points to an unmet need today," says Aberdeen analyst Eric Hemmendinger.

IT departments now juggle several products that help them understand the risks associated with each new virus or worm, find applicable patches for each of its products, prioritize patch installation and track patch status, Hemmendinger says. Although a large number of suppliers offer antivirus products, managed security services and vulnerability assessment products, no single supplier offers a combination of the most critical patch-management needs.

The biggest headaches are the result of having to identify and prioritize patches. Vendors like iDefense Inc., SecurityFocus and VigiLinx Inc. help companies identify security threats and available patches, while others, including Opsware Inc. (formerly Loudcloud Inc.), PatchLink Corp., Ponte Communications Inc. and St. Bernard Software Inc., help deliver patches to customers on an automated basis.

Companies spend more than $2 billion annually on patch management. Except for at the largest corporations, IT managers spend more time on research than on the actual installation of the patches, Hemmendinger says. "The key for suppliers is to provide relief for both the research and deployment costs," he adds.

Collett is a freelance writer in Sterling, Va.

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