Software Patching for SMBs: It’s All About Security

Sit down with small business owners and explain why the business needs anti-malware software, and you can probably convince them to commit to a budget in pretty short order. Start by talking about software patches and security updates though, and you are sure to lose their attention in a fraction of the time.

Small and mid-sized businesses typically resist suggestions that incur additional cost without something tangible to show for it. And it doesn’t help that some of the best solutions for automated software patching are integrated into system management solutions targeted primarily at the enterprise – and priced beyond the reach of most SMBs.

Ironically, it’s small businesses — with their minimally-staffed or non-existent IT departments – that need an automated patch management solution the most. After all, they have scant manpower to regularly check on the disparate software and PCs for unpatched applications.

In addition, they typically don’t have the requisite tools to properly lock-down their computers. That means they’re more likely to miss a larger number of unidentified or unauthorized applications during manual updates by the security administrator.

Yet patching software is crucial because hackers and cybercriminals pounce on the latest security updates to reverse-engineer the flaws that they resolve. Once hackers identify a flaw, they could craft and quickly deploy an exploit to break into machines that have not yet been updated. This can take place within the span of days after the release of a patch, and thus leave SMBs that rely on weekly or monthly security checks hopelessly outclassed.

Tools for Automated Software Updates

Fortunately, there are tools that facilitate installing the latest software update. Personal Software Inspector (PSI), from Secunia, is a free security solution that automatically identifies vulnerabilities in non-Microsoft programs. Indeed, the tool update security patches for applications from more than 3,000 software vendors. Its automatic update capability can be disabled for SMBs that prefer a more hands-on approach, and you have the option to selectively ignore mission critical applications.

Another similar product, Software Updater by F-Secure, is sold as a service through reseller partners around the world. Software Updater complements the company’s existing Protection Service for Business solution – targeted at the SMB – it scans for missing security updates and automatically updates the operating system and third-party applications.

If you know of other free or affordable patching solutions for small businesses, I’d love to hear about them in the comments section below.

Paul Mah covers technology for SMBs for Small Business Computing and for IT Business Edge. He also shares his passion for and knowledge of everything from networking to operating systems as an instructor at Republic Polytechnic in Singapore, and is a contributor to a number of tech sites, including Ars Technica and TechRepublic.

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