Software Updates are a central part of any network maintenance. Almost all software receives regular patches to add additional functionality, correct bugs, and close security holes. As mentioned on the main maintenance section page there are three main divisions of software updates, we will look at each of them in turn:
Microsoft offers several methods to update its operating system. One is by visiting their web-based site http://update.microsoft.com/. Once you have installed an ActiveX control Microsoft will scan your computer to see what Operating System you are running, your current patches, what patches are available, etc. It also scans for some drivers for hardware and some of their other software as well (e.g. Microsoft Office, Visual Studio). One can also enable Automatic Updates to automatically download and/or install updates.
For most small companies using automatic updates is the way to go. In some larger companies where you want more fine-tuned management of your updates you will want to use a server application that allows you to choose which updates are available and to monitor whether or not they are being successfully installed. One excellent option for this is Microsoft’s free WSUS 3 server.
2. Hardware Updates:
There are two basic components to hardware updates. The first is drivers that run in your Operating System environment. The second is firmware which run on the physical hardware device. Both of these are regularly updated, especially on servers and storage arrays. Many providers of hardware do not offer an automatic method to receive updates and you have to occasionally visit their sites and download the patches manually. Though you can use a third party patching application to apply those updates on various computers throughout your network.
3. Third-Party Applications:
These are you run of the mill applications – office suites, internet browsers, development tools, games, etc., etc. They are updated occasionally. Many of them include automatic updating capabilities (e.g. Mozilla Firefox and Thunderbird) but many require you to manually visit the manufacturer’s website to download the patches.
Besides the workstations and servers on your network there is also another category of devices which need to be updated – that is your physical network infrastructure – for example, routers, switches, and firewalls. These devices are especially important when they are on the perimeter of your network (they are a device directly exposed to the internet) as they are often the first devices to suffer a hacker’s attack.