Point product or management suite?

As agency officials look for products to speed up the task of applying security patches to system software, they can choose between stand-alone products that focus solely on automated patching or systems management suites that perform other functions besides patching.

The choices they make may be based on the software infrastructure for their particular agency, industry experts say.

"Patch management is a software distribution problem," said Mark Nicolett, a vice president at Gartner Inc.'s research division. So, the question to ask, he said, is: "Does the organization have software distribution employed and, if so, does it have the capability for patch management?" Also, they should consider how effective the software distribution system is, because there are a fair number of ineffective distribution solutions.

If an organization doesn't have a good software distribution infrastructure, then a stand-alone automated patch management product may be the way to go, he noted. Such tools can be deployed quickly and are not complex to configure, Nicolett said.

Several of the leading players that offer products that focus solely on patching include Big Fix Inc., PatchLink Corp., Shavlik Technologies LLC and St. Bernard Software Inc.

Some of the companies that provide either configuration or systems management suites that also include automated patching capabilities include Altiris Inc., ConfigureSoft Inc., Computer Associates International Inc., Ecora, LANDesk Software Ltd., and Opsware Inc.

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