Switch to modern patch management and free time to improve security in other areas

It’s a fact that the world is constantly changing and with it we can choose if we want to tag along or continue doing what we’ve been doing forever. This blog post is about shifting the mindset and daily work from traditional patch management and creating time to make efforts in other security related areas that matters. Change management at its finest!

Fundamental idea: We all know that we need Windows patches, and if you have made the move to Office 365 ProPlus the principle is the same, you need to deploy and install the patches that are released. It really is as simple as that. Testing is a must of course but the fact remains, you need those patches.

Traditional vs modern patch management

A discussion I have with many customers is the patching story around Windows 10 devices. The benefits of using Windows Update for Business (WUfB) are many although leaves less control. What matters in the end is that the Windows 10 devices are patched, and that it is done in a user-friendly manner.

If you compare all the components and the flow that needs to be in place for patching to work all the way in ConfigMgr, you realize there are quite a few things that can go wrong. And in my experience, things do go wrong far too often.

High level overview of all the steps and components in the patch flow using ConfigMgr

Rough flow over the steps and components involved when patching via ConfigMgr.

High level flow overview of patching using Windows Update for Business

Simple flow for patching via Windows Update for Business (WUfB).

By looking at the above comparisons it’s clear that there are a lot more to manage and a lot more can and more often so do go wrong when patching via ConfigMgr.

Maintaining and fixing the infrastructure or doing more valuable things?

With ConfigMgr you must spend significant time managing and making sure that infrastructure is up to date and working (orange colored bar below). The green colored bar illustrates how much time you typically spend on patch follow-up and fixing patches that could not be installed correctly etc.

Rough estimation in my experience is that you spend significant time fixing broken ConfigMgr infrastructure and agents etc.

With Windows Update for Business, you can focus almost entirely on follow-up and hopefully by doing so also shifting your security work to other areas patching other stuff such as insecure firmware, applications and drivers, so that it makes your environment safer overall.

With Windows Update for Business, you really have no infrastructure that needs fixing, only some policies basically.

Pros and cons for using Windows Update for Business

Here is my list of pros and cons of using Windows Update for Business, if you are still not convinced Windows Update for Business is the natural way to go.

  • User friendly restart prompts. ConfigMgr isn’t exactly known for its user-unfriendly restart prompts. Using WUfB you get the built-in Windows 10 restart features which gives your end users more control, postponing and picking a time that suits them.
  • Get control over devices away from office network. Many organizations have little, less or no control or possibility to patch devices that are solely on the internet or away from the network office. With WUfB that is not an issue as you can not only patch but also follow-up on each and every Windows device that has a working internet connection.
  • Less error prone = higher patch level. By cutting all the steps and infrastructure components that need to be in place for patching via ConfigMgr you get a higher success rate of patching your Windows 10 devices.
  • Timesaving for IT admins. No more spending time on approving patches and dealing with distribution and install problems. Instead leaves time to focus on other more relevant security work.
  • Fully automatic. Well, you can achieve fully automation in ConfigMgr as well but not many do that as they want to stay in control. With WUfB everything is automatic and only if problems during the multiple testing phases are discovered is the flow paused.
  • Less control. Yes, on the negative side, you lose control as you cannot really choose which Windows patches you deploy. This revolves back to the question which there is typically only one answer to: Do you really need this control as you need to have all Windows (and Office) patches?

Summary

By shifting to modern patch management using Windows Update for Business you can free time and put that time on patching other stuff, for example insecure firmware, applications or device drivers.

You can also focus on activating Windows features that raise security, such as the Windows Defender technologies Exploit Guard and Application Guard, or Microsoft Defender ATP which can take your security work to a level you could only dream of.