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PatchLink Update is best of 4 tested.

eWEEK Labs tests of four patch management products—Ecora Corp.s Ecora Patch Manager 2.0, PatchLink Corp.s PatchLink Update 4.0, St. Bernard Software Inc.s UpdateExpert 6.0 and Shavlik Technologies LLCs HFNetChkPro 4—reveal a wide range of capabilities and performance.

PatchLink Update—which earned an eWEEK Labs Analysts Choice award—is the only product we tested that uses agents on all managed systems. This accounts in part for its strong security and wide range of operating system support. St. Bernards UpdateExpert has an optional agent (a cool development) that can be used when encryption is required or when a system is protected so that remote procedure calls wont work.

Ecora Patch Manager, St. Bernards UpdateExpert and Shavliks HFNetChkPro are currently Windows-only products, but not for much longer. The products will support non-Windows operating systems, including Linux and Sun Microsystems Inc.s Solaris, sometime this year, said officials at all three companies.

Ecora Patch Manager stands out for the fact that it integrates with Ecoras wide-ranging configuration management family, as well as for its strong change management and logging capabilities.

HFNetChkPro, meanwhile, is widely used and therefore widely familiar to IT departments. However, it is also relatively more expensive than the other products we tested.