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One of the primary drawbacks of the Windows platform is the amount of time it takes to keep up with patches for the operating system and the inextricably entwined Internet Explorer Web browser. New patches are issued so frequently that they could be dubbed "the patch of the week." That may be an exaggeration, but there's no question that keeping a fleet of hundreds or thousands of desktops and servers running Windows 2000 or Windows XP up-to-date requires near-constant monitoring. Or it did until now.
Microsoft first tried to address this problem five years ago, when it introduced the Windows Update service with the release of Windows 98. But the original Windows Update left much to be desired as a solution for managing patches in a business environment. There was no simple way to enforce patch installation through policies, and end-users were required to make installation decisions. On top of that, no network manager worth his or her salt would countenance the practice of pulling the same software bits time and time again through the corporate Internet connection.
As the desktop OS of preference evolved into Windows …