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Patch management is a process within the larger function of overall systems management. The idea behind patch management is built around the proper methods of identifying and testing various types of code changes, with an eye to making the programming code function with a greater degree of efficiency. Patch management also extends to the actual implementation of the code changes and monitoring the function of the code to identify any unforeseen circumstances that did not emerge during the testing phase.
Under the broad banner of patch management, there are several important functions that are considered part of this ongoing process. First, an administrator who engages in patch management is expected to maintain a working knowledge of all code changes or patches that are applied to a particular system. This is considered essential as each new modification of the existing code could create an issue with a patch that was applied to the system six months or a year before.
The administrator who engages in patch management must also ensure that the installation of the patch is performed properly. The insertion of new code into a string at the wrong location can lead to a number of problems. For this reason, the administrator will go to great lengths to ensure the code changes are made at exactly the same point in the sequence as was used in the earlier testing simulations.
As a third common responsibility, the administrator will run a number of tests even after the code changes are complete and the system is considered operational and accessible by end users. This safeguard is to ensure that nothing emerges during live usage that did not also appear during the simulations conducted before the actual installation of the code changes. Thus, patch management is seen to include responsibilities ranging from the evaluation of possible code changes all the way through to constant monitoring of how well those changes are functioning in a real time environment.
Patch management is not an unusual responsibility for system administrators. Many businesses require some degree of customization of the software they use for various functions. In some cases, patches are built that make it possible for stand alone systems to interact with one another to some degree. The patch may be a temporary solution that addresses a temporary situation, and will not be required after a specified period of time. In other instances, patch management may be an important process of change management. The temporary patches may allow a business to function with existing software and hardware until it is possible to purchase and install a system that is more integrated and allows a wider diversity of the applications needed.
Sounds like a function that could be very, very involved. For example, one might imagine the complexity of monitoring just how time consuming monitoring patches from major operating systems manufacturers such as Microsoft interact with existing hardware and software can be as a lot of patches seem to show up during a given month. Throw in custom code and you've got a job that is full time and beyond.
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