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No Time to Patch

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Where Are Your Bottlenecks?

The patch window is now significantly reduced, so what are you going to do about it? What is your patch process? There's probably testing, then some form of change control, followed by the actual patch rollout.

Where are the bottlenecks?

Lab Testing

Lab testing can take a significant amount of time, ranging from days to weeks depending on your environment. Each patch is usually tested on each affected platform.

If you have a varied environment (Windows 2000/2003/2008 servers, Windows XP/Vista workstations, Exchange, SQL, Sharepoint, 32- and 64-bit operating systems), then testing each platform can be tedious and time consuming, and that's just looking at Microsoft systems!

Further, some organizations may have a test lab as well as a "production prototype" lab. Testing might be done in the test lab to look at basic stability and then moved to the production prototype lab to evaluate the potential impact on production performance and processes.

Change Control/Approval

Going through Change Control Board (CCB) processes may also delay the patch process. Typically, several key personnel will look at each change request, evaluate the impact on their area of responsibility, and potentially ask various questions before giving approval.

Of course, these people already have full-time jobs, so getting their attention away from busy schedules to evaluate change requests may take some time.

And meetings, vacations, and sick days all contribute to delays.

Patch Rollout Process

Finally you're ready to patch your systems! You've tested, everything looks fine, and you've finally received approval from the CCB. Now you have to roll these patches out into your production environment.

This process can be very delicate and might require a delay until regular maintenance windows are available. The patch process may have to fit into a busy schedule between system backups, deployment of new systems, configuration changes, and a variety of other tasks.

Once you finally get on schedule, the rollout process may be phased, just in case the testing missed some problem that could affect the production environment. So just to be safe, you roll out in phases—starting with the least-critical systems and moving onto the more critical systems last.

Just how many systems do you have? How long does patch distribution take? If you have hundreds of systems, the patch process alone could take days or even weeks depending on scheduling.

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