Why should I care about patching? What the heck is it anyway?
Imagine you grab your favorite shirt, realize there is a large hole in a spot that would be embarrassing to wear in public, and would invite all sorts of trouble. You have no idea how it happened, but you are certainly not going to wear it today. It probably cost you $25, and since it would cost you $50 to repair the hole, you toss it in the “donate” or “throw away” bag.
Now imagine the same “hole” in your computer software and you are not even aware of it, let alone know what to do about it. The ever-changing world outside may render the software more “vulnerable” to “threats” such as hackers or other malicious attacks, because developers did not anticipate future variants of “threats” when they first created and sold the software, and hackers are fully aware of these “holes” so why not take advantage of them? So, software that may have been written with virtual “holes” will not perform optimally and make your systems vulnerable.
Over time, the software becomes more vulnerable as outside threats evolve and change. In technology, “patching” plugs or covers the virtual hole or vulnerability, so you don’t have to throw away your $350 software and buy a new one for $500, because last time I checked, newer versions of software cost more.
Next time you buy or develop custom software, make sure it is supported by the vendor or developer so that periodic updates and patching is performed. We have often run into situations where the developer, usually an individual, burns out, takes an early retirement, or simply vanishes from the face of the earth and the software is left unsupported, creating a slew of problems for the customer.
While patching is a good thing, it should be performed professionally. Updating software without knowing much about the patch or the software can be harmful. For instance, Microsoft’s patches, brought out in a hurry to fix vulnerabilities, can sometimes cause issues to existing systems. Have a triaging system for patches, so they are categorized into “safe”, “under-observation” or “unsafe”. That way, your systems can be patched in a professional way.
Other related terms include “hotfixes” which address specific software glitches or vulnerabilities but are not always made public, and “Service Packs” which address multiple patches and hotfixes together. These will enhance the performance of your system.
Next: Hacking for gold!