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When you're busy working on your computer, what do you do when you see a little pop-up message notifying you that it's time to download an update? If you're like most people, you click on "Try Again Later," or "Try Tonight." You don't want to be bothered with having to download and install software updates.


But if you ignore those updates for too long, it's like leaving the back door to your dealership open at night. Come on in, thieves! Take whatever you want!


That's because 90% of updates are security patches for software and operating systems (OS). A software program with a security hole in it lets in malware and viruses that can wreak havoc on your entire computer network.


Applying software updates, also known as patching, is one of the most important security measures you can take to protect your dealership. Yet in my experience, 95% of dealerships aren't doing this on a regular basis.


In addition to security, patches add new features or push updates to device drivers. Ignoring these patches not only leaves the software at greater risk to attacks, but also ensures that your software becomes outdated and possibly incompatible with newer devices and software.


In dealerships, you want to regularly patch Microsoft Windows and its related applications such as Microsoft Internet Explorer.


For dealerships, patching can be tricky. Many OEMs and third-party software vendors build their web interfaces around a browser version such as Internet Explorer 10. Microsoft is constantly releasing patches to update Internet Explorer, Windows OS and Office. Over time, if your OEMs and third-party software vendors aren't updating their software interfaces at the same pace as Microsoft, this can eventually cause compatibility problems.


The solution is to check with your OEM and vendors periodically to see what versions of OS and Internet Explorer their software supports. If they aren't the most recent versions, complain!


The only way to deal with this problem is to selectively patch everything except the programs necessary to interface with the software. Then keep hounding your vendors until the necessary updates are done. It's a matter of security and there's really no excuse for vendors who aren't keeping on top of this.


A while ago Microsoft decreed the second Tuesday of every month "Patch Tuesday" because that was the day they officially released all patches. Due to increased security risks, Microsoft has abandoned a weekly schedule and now releases patches whenever they become available.


We recommend that dealers use a centrally managed patching system to control the release of approved patches into the dealership. While Windows has a built-in automatic patch system it can wreak havoc. Although the auto-patching will keep your PC up to date, it will not block patches that can disrupt applications.


Think of patching software like routine maintenance for a car. The car may run for a long time without maintenance, but driving becomes more dangerous the longer you go without replacing worn parts.


Your customers don't want to take the time to bring their car in for maintenance, but they know they it's important so they do it. That's how dealers should think of patching; it may be annoying, but it's absolutely necessary to protect your dealership.

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