Shavlik Updates Patch Management Product

Next week, Shavlik Technologies will begin shipping the new version of HFNetChkPro, its product for automated, real-time management of Microsoft patches.

HFNetChkPro 4.0 begins shipping on Tuesday, March 11, and new features will include more granular automation of patch deployment, in-depth information about patches, support for more Microsoft products and deep digital signature checking.

While patch management can be considered a part of configuration management, company CEO Mark Shavlik says the product is becoming increasingly viewed, and positioned, as a security purchase.

"I think people are patching for security. They're less concerned about getting the latest printer driver. We position patch management as part of security," Shavlik says.

While HFNetChkPro is a mature product, Shavlik believes the market segment is poised for major growth, due to patch-related lapses like SQL Slammer and public comments from Microsoft chairman and chief software architect Bill Gates that encourage the use of patch management tools.

"I'd say there's less than 5 percent market penetration of patch management software for all available desktops," Shavlik estimates.

Microsoft has gone a long way to raise Shavlik's profile over the last year. Microsoft distributes Shavlik's freeware command-line patch management utility, HFNetChk, on its Web site. Microsoft also distributes the free Microsoft Baseline Security Analyzer, which includes HFNetChk. With the Microsoft distribution and other channels, Shavlik claims 2 million downloads of HFNetChk.

HFNetChkPro is Shavlik's higher-end, paid version of the utility for real-time management of Microsoft patches. The product allows for GUI-based, agent-less scanning of the network for missing Microsoft patches, followed by automated pushing of patches to the appropriate machines and automated installation of patches on those machines.

A major enhancement in version 4.0 is more granular automation of patch deployment. Ease-of-use-related enhancements include administration by drag-and-drop, the ability to group by patch or machine, the ability to create templates and to run one-click Quickscans, as opposed to the formerly full scan-only functionality. Administrators can also mix and match scan options in templates to narrow and reuse complex scanning jobs.

The new version also returns more in-depth information about patches. Shavlik contracts with a third-party, Russ Cooper of TruSecure, to provide its users with independent assessments of the severity of Microsoft security patches. A new annotation area allows administrators to leave notes within the software about individual patches for the next shift or for the next time an administrator within the company wants to view information about the patch.

A new security feature means the Shavlik tool checks the digital signature of the Microsoft security patch three times during the deployment cycle to ensure that the patch is genuine.

Shavlik has also expanded its support for Microsoft platforms. In addition to Windows 2000, Shavlik supports patch management for Windows NT 4.0, Windows XP, Windows Server 2003, Windows NT Terminal Server Edition, SQL Server 7.0 and 2000, IIS 4, 5, 5.1 and 6.0, Exchange Server 5.5 and 2000, ISA Server, Commerce Server, Internet Explorer 5 and above, Microsoft Office, Microsoft Outlook, Windows Media Player, Java Virtual Machine, FrontPage Server Extensions and Tablet PC. The new version is also Active Directory-aware, permitting administrators to scan and deploy patches by Organizational Unit.

Pricing for HFNetChkPro 4.0 starts at $23.75 per server or workstation for 100 managed CPUs.

About the Author

Scott Bekker is editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner magazine.

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