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  • Jodi Gawf

Manage Windows Updates Without WSUS

What are the Limitations of WSUS?

While it may be the “classic” patch manager of choice, WSUS is burdened by a variety of limitations, especially in the modern tech landscape. Back in the day, it was common for organizations to use a single OS for all the devices on their network – and remote endpoints were scarce. Today, many companies use an array of OS and third party applications, and remote endpoints are far more plentiful – which means there are many benefits to exploring alternate solutions for patch management. Designed with the modern workplace in mind, new cloud-native patching platforms can simplify the patching process and give organizations everything they need to patch their entire network effectively. Overly complex patch management strategies can really hinder your cybersecurity efforts. Even if you have a plan for patching, making sure your IT staff is able to act fast and remediate vulnerabilities quickly is critical to effective patch management.


Currently, it can take organizations up to 102 days to patch for a critical cyber vulnerability. Conversely, it takes malicious actors just 7 days to weaponize a vulnerability. Employing a modern, streamlined patching platform can help reduce the time it takes organizations to patch for critical vulnerabilities and  make themselves a “smaller target” for would-be attackers. 


The Problem with WSUS and Other Legacy Security Solutions

WSUS is typically the first choice for companies looking to automate their Windows patch management. When it was first released back in 2003, WSUS was life-changing for IT administrators everywhere. And while it still may be better than patching things manually,  the problem with WSUS is that it may not be the best bet for addressing the security needs of the modern digital landscape.


A lot has changed over the last 16 years and traditional WSUS deployment is simply not enough to meet the needs of more current, cloud-integrated infrastructure. And while it is technically doable, WSUS makes the process of patching for most third party applications an absolute nightmare. WSUS will patch for some Microsoft products, and pathways for patching some third party applications are provided – but they are difficult to configure and maintain. Many businesses already struggle with updating their third party software regularly, even though applications like Java and Adobe account for a significant share of an organization's vulnerabilities. 


WSUS also lacks the ability to patch for alternate operating systems like macOS and Linux. And you can forget about endpoint visibility. SCCM is often considered as the next step “up” from WSUS; it relies on WSUS to check for and apply security updates, but offers a few extra features that give consumers a bit more control over patch deployment. However, SCCM is still not a singular solution that can patch across all devices, operating systems and third party applications. Ultimately, SCCM is still not an effective solution for patching anything other than Windows. 


Considering the cost of these platforms, such inefficiencies are rather disappointing. If you're looking for a time-efficient, streamlined patching platform, legacy solutions like WSUS or SCCM are just not going to make the cut. These technologies had their hey-day back when, but they have not kept pace with the modern workplace. 


Legacy patch management platforms like WSUS were designed for a different time, and while they are good at what they do, they do not do enough to address all the needs so many organizations have today. Cybersecurity is more important now than ever before, and malicious actors have grown far more savvy in the last 20 years or so since WSUS made its debut. Patching should be considered a primary line of defense against attackers. And if you want your organization to follow patch management best practices, it might be time to consider a more modern patching solution. 


What are Patch Management Best Practices?

As we've already determined, legacy patching solutions like WSUS are typically good at one thing: Patching for Windows. But many organizations are going to need a lot more from their patching platform if they want to adhere to patch management best practices. Patching regularly and in a timely manner are both critical to good patch management practices. Having an inventory of your systems and good endpoint visibility are also essential. 


One of the first rules of thumb for good patch management is having an inventory of all your systems. IT staff need to know what devices, operating systems and third party applications are being used so they can keep tabs on their security status. Visibility is crucial to system security: If you can't see what needs to be patched, or what patches have failed, you are basically leaving your organization's security to the wolves. 


Endpoint visibility is of particular concern these days, with estimates suggesting up to 70 percent of data breaches originate on an endpoint. For many organizations, endpoint visibility is a major problem. Survey data from the Ponemon Institute further suggests that a majority of organizations struggle with dark (invisible) endpoints – and that over half of unsecured endpoints contain sensitive data. 


If you can't see your endpoints, you can't guarantee they are secure. To achieve patching best practices, organizations need an inventory of their systems – as well as full visibility over them. This visibility helps promote effectiveness and efficiency when it comes to patch deployment. 


Why Faster Patching Is Necessary

A stunning 75 percent of survey respondents told Ponemon Institute they were not keeping up with software patches. Automated patch management tools, like Automox, can help organizations deploy patches faster – while also providing the visibility organizations need to maintain an inventory of their systems and ensure all endpoints are secure. Automox allows users to see and remediate critical vulnerabilities in real-time, which is essential when time is of the essence. Faster patching is crucial to making your organization a smaller target.


Critical vulnerabilities are likely to be exploited, and malicious actors can weaponize those weaknesses in one week. The average time to patch is between 60 and 105 days. This is why timely patching is also essential to patching best practices. Many companies believe they are taking a “calculated” risk by putting off patching, believing that deploying security updates isn't worth the hassle. The truth is that a security breach will end up costing your organization far more than the time it takes your IT staff to run patches ever did. Automated patching solutions help make the process of patching less time-consuming and are more cost-efficient than legacy options – this also makes regular patching far more accessible. 


To follow patch management best practices, you need an inventory of all systems as well as full visibility for every device, and your organization needs to patch regularly in a time-efficient manner. 


If you're relying on WSUS, faster patching  across your entire network will be difficult to achieve. Between multiple operating systems, third party applications and a vast array of endpoints, legacy solutions are just not equipped for today's digital landscape. Fortunately, you can manage Windows updates without WSUS, and your patching practices will be better off for it. With a singular interface like Automox, users can see and manage every device, OS and third party application on their organization's network – and deploy patches 30 times faster than the industry standard. And the faster you can patch, the sooner your organization will be secured against the latest threats. New vulnerabilities are getting resolved every month, and if your patching game is falling behind, you may end up on the wrong side of a data breach. 


Regardless of your organization's size, keeping up with security updates is essential to overall cybersecurity. 


Patch Management Without WSUS 

Because WSUS has a primary focus on patching for Windows, there may be a misconception that WSUS is the best way to patch for Windows operating systems. But a good patching platform can perform updates Windows OS easily, and do so much more. Automated, cloud-native patching solutions like Automox can easily out-perform legacy options when it comes to diversity of use, as well as time efficiency and endpoint visibility. 


Windows was once king of the digital landscape, but these days organizations are using a variety of devices, OS and third party applications. Managing all the parts of your network through WSUS is an arduous job, if it's even possible at all. In many cases, IT staff need an array of different tools to patch for all their organization's devices, systems and applications – as well as to maintain an inventory of all systems and keep track of endpoints. 


Using different solutions for every OS overly complicates the process of patching, can lead to difficulties with reporting and impedes system visibility. Patch management without WSUS is completely possible, and choosing the right patching platform can make a huge difference in your organization's overall patch management. With a singular interface like Automox, users can apply patches to all devices, regardless of what OS they're running or where they're located. Remote endpoints are totally visible, and you can tailor patching policies to best fit your organization's needs. 


Legacy solutions like WSUS are out-dated, expensive and lack many of the desirable features that can be found in modern patching platforms. Cloud-native options like Automox are more sophisticated and are also more cost-efficient than the patch management solutions of yore. Cross-platform patch management, full endpoint visibility and full control over patch deployment are just a few of the benefits that come with choosing modern patching technologies. Combined with increased effectiveness and time efficiency, it's clear that modern solutions have a lot to offer in terms of patch management potency. 


Why Choose Automated Patch Management?

The research from Ponemon Institute also indicates that automating security efforts like patch management can help fill the gaps in an organization's security. According to their survey data, only 25 percent of organizations believe they are keeping up with security updates. The rest admit to dragging their feet on patch deployment.


Relying on legacy patching solutions like WSUS (or worse, manual patching) can definitely fill your IT staff with dread. Old-fashioned patching platforms make the process of patching time-consuming, arduous and frustrating. WSUS and its peers have a reputation for being difficult to configure and maintain, and their limited use value means these “solutions” still leave your employees with a lot of legwork to do. Creating inventories, unearthing dark endpoints and tracking patch status are not things you really want to have to do manually, especially if your organization has a sizable network with a lot of diversity. 


Automated patch management platforms streamline the entire patch management process. Tools like Automox give users the ability to resolve critical vulnerabilities in as little as 72 hours – and zero-days can be remediated in just 24 hours. As a cloud-native, automated tool, Automox allows organizations to automatically harden their endpoints no matter where they're located, and without the need for complex  infrastructure or VPNs. 


Being able to do it all from a single platform makes the process of patching more efficient and effective. And with automation, you can ensure that every device is getting patched regularly – regardless of what OS its running or where it's located. Automation has been heralded as the key to solving many cybersecurity issues for organizations of every size, and the same holds true for patching. With a more modern patching tool, you can customize patching policies to best fit your organization's needs while also ensuring that every device on your network is getting updated in a timely fashion.  


Not only is it possible to manage Windows updates without WSUS, doing so with the right patching platform can seriously step-up your organization's patching strategy. 


About Automox Automated Patch Management

Facing growing threats and a rapidly expanding attack surface, understaffed and alert-fatigued organizations need more efficient ways to eliminate their exposure to vulnerabilities. Automox is a modern cyber hygiene platform that closes the aperture of attack by more than 80% with just half the effort of traditional solutions.


Cloud-native and globally available, Automox enforces OS & third-party patch management, security configurations, and custom scripting across Windows, Mac, and Linux from a single intuitive console. IT and SecOps can quickly gain control and share visibility of on-prem, remote and virtual endpoints without the need to deploy costly infrastructure.

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