I Need a Patch Day is an annual awareness day that reminds IT and security professionals of the importance of ensuring a seamless approach to patch management. This annual reminder is always welcomed by IT teams, but never has it been more important than this year as they are facing a new challenge.

The COVID-19 pandemic forced businesses to make the unexpected shift to remote working almost overnight, and many companies weren’t prepared. As a result, IT pros are now realising that some of the solutions they have in place are unsuitable to manage certain aspects of this new remote environment.

Lacking remote control

Remote working brings with it unique hurdles not experienced within an office setting, and it’s important to understand these challenges to maintain a secure environment.

The rise of BYOD is one of the main culprits when it comes to off-network patching. Thanks to the need to adopt remote working overnight, many companies didn’t have time to acquire the correct infrastructure. This means they must now cope with employees accessing the network on personal devices outside of their control and field of vision, with no view of their patch status.

On top of this, IT teams are having to adapt to the workforce operating over a VPN. To update centrally, many patching solutions need to communicate with on-premise infrastructure, making patching remotely an issue. Fortunately, the VPN can be reconfigured to allow update traffic through it, but this doesn’t come without downsides. Valuable and in-demand VPN bandwidth will be further constrained and, if systems are made to get updates directly from the vendor, IT teams will lose further visibility over the patching process.

Head in the clouds

Businesses can of course take steps to mitigate the pain of remote patching. While there are services that can help, many have limitations – take Intune for example. Intune can patch all devices accessing a corporate network (BOYD and company-owned), but it can only apply updates from Microsoft.

Instead, IT teams should look to a hybrid or cloud-based patch management solution. Ivanti’s hybrid solution can enable off-network systems to get updates directly from the vendor’s download centre, but also allows them to report back to their on-premise management console to feedback results. This solves the issue of visibility and constrained VPN traffic, as well as enabling consistent reporting.

Business’ will benefit from this shift in the long run, as the way we work is predicted to be changed for good. Going forwards, IT teams must ensure every vendor, tool and application on their network offers hybrid or cloud support. This will enable them to provide support to all systems accessing the network, wherever they may be.

While the initial upheaval is over, and workforces are productively working from home, IT and security teams are still battling on. Adopting hybrid or cloud-based patching solutions can enable them to continue pushing out timely updates to every device and system access the business’ network, ensuring their environment stays secure.