Version 6.0 of agent-based PatchLink Update from PatchLink Corp. is aimed at providing enterprise customers with a range of vulnerability detection at a high rate of accuracy, and at detecting and remediating a number of security vulnerabilities that are not patch-related.

The PatchLink Secure features of version 6.0 adds a configuration analysis that can detect when security holes may be created by configurations not aligned with corporate policy. It can also detect unauthorized services such as peer-to-peer software applications.

Also in version 6.0, PatchLink Distribution Point provides enterprises with a multi-tier patch distribution option that is scalable, allowing administrators to intelligently sequence and prioritize patches within an administrator-defined patch group. It also allows IT administrators to apply patch groups to individual systems or groups of systems. A FastPatch features finds the closest distribution point to download the patch.

And in features aimed at maximizing system uptime, Auto-Agent Install, Auto Qchain and Auto Patch Orders provide assurance that enterprise patch management policies are automatically implemented, to maximize system uptime.

A new Desktop Deployment Manager provides users with patch information and install options. It administrators can apply user options for different patches. And Agent Management Center automatically discovers computers within a specific IP address range, domain or organization group. It can be used to automatically install agents without user interaction.

Platform coverage has been extended in the 6.0 release to AIX, HP-UX and the Macintosh.

A primary advantage of buying from a patch supplier such as PatchLink versus downloading directly from software suppliers, such as Microsoft, is the amount of testing PatchLink does, says company CEO Sean Moshir.

"We test on over 250 versions of Windows 2000, for instance," he says. "We catch a lot of problems that break anti-virus and other software applications."

To test the dependencies between new patches and running applications is a complex business, he maintains. "We highly recommend that companies do a lot of patch testing, or use an automation tool," Moshir says.

Available in Q2, 2004, PatchLink Update 6.0 is priced on a subscription basis, costing $1,495 initially for the server component, and $18/node/year for Windows users, and $75/node/year for Unix, Macintosh and Netware users.