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How long should it take to update and patch Windows 2008 server?

Posted on 2009-07-08
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I have a possibly strange question regarding Windows 2008 server patching.

I have 4 web servers serving the same site, 3 public facing (load balanced) and one dev/test that need monthly patching/updating.

I plan to patch, update the Development server first, then test the application throughly before patching and updating the 3 live servers.

I was wondering if you could give me an idea on how long it would take (on average) to patch and update the one server every month, I can estimate testing the application time but as 2008 is new I'm not sure on the frequency or volume of updates.

Ask and tell away.
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Question by:RedChris
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by:Lee W, MVP
ID: 24805417
It'll take 12 hours... if you are running on an OLD, OLD machine with very slow hardware.

It'll take about 5 minutes... if you are running on a superfast machine, loaded with RAM, 15K RPM RAID 0 disks or high quality SSDs

Or to put it another way, I don't think you can possibly get an answer to this with any degree of certainty.

Speed of the machine, load at the time you perform the updates, what bugs are found in Windows that need updating, what roles you are using on the server - the more roles, the more prone to patching you are...
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by:RedChris
ID: 24805474
OK not so much how long the updates take but how long would you put aside a month to do such a task, reading up on updates and running through the lists, also what kind of failure rate should I expect (From MS not patching right). I can leave the server updating whilst I do something less boring.
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by:Lee W, MVP
ID: 24805560
Oh, so you wouldn't be testing the updates first?  Especially on production web servers, that's what you SHOULD be doing.  

In general, Microsoft updates don't cause problems in my experience.  I said IN GENERAL.  There are exceptions.  Over the course of a machine's life, I would say that maybe 5% of the machines I've used/patched have had problems with patches at some point... but it also depends on what is being patched and how it's being used.  If your server has patch 2323232 applied (random #) and it affects networking but a bug only is seen when accessing files from a linux system, then you may never know there's a problem.

Some admins (I don't agree with) set the servers to auto-update and you never know there's a update unless there's a problem.  I set my servers to auto-download the updates but *I* chose when to install them so I can test them first and wait a little to see if there are any reports of said update breaking anything.  (But you don't want to wait too long as the updates are released for a reason...)

Are you familiar with the update process?  Because I usually do do other things while an update takes place - it requires two things - one, my approval to start (takes about a minute), and then I check back periodically (usually through an RDP window) and when it's done it takes about 1/10 of a second to click the "reboot" button.
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Author Comment

by:RedChris
ID: 24805665
The 4th server thats Dev\test will be the testing server, it's not a production server it's identical to the production server but not live to the public.

I've been updating 2003, Xp, 2000 for a while now, but I've just been handed the task of 2008 on these very important live servers, a bit of a nightmare and I need to give an estimate on how much time I'll spend on it each month, an almost impossible task, none the less they want an estimate.

I actually need to read up on the updates before I patch/update etc.
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Lee W, MVP earned 1000 total points
ID: 24805773
My answer to them would be:

Given the nature of updates, most months there is only one update release date, but there can be more if a critical update is found and the number and size of the updates vary depending on the kinds of problems found and resolved, it is impossible to give anything more than a rought guess as to how long applying updates will take.  On the production servers, once the updates have been vetted on the test server, they can be expected to take, most months, about 10 minutes per update per server.  On the development server and factoring in time to carefully review each update and subsequently test that they have not caused issues, one hour PER update.

(My comment is somewhat guess work since I don't know exactly what kind of testing would be required on your end; you can generally test this, at least to some extent, by creating a new install of Server 2008 and then running through the process.  Really, YOU are the best judge of how long it will take you.  I don't know how fast you read, how fast you type, how fast the servers are, how fast... you get the idea.... create a baseline for YOU and you'll have your answer.
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Author Comment

by:RedChris
ID: 24805800
Thanks for the help, I knew it was a strange one to answer! back to the drawing board!
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by:Lee W, MVP
ID: 25331913
TheLearnedOne - in my opinion, this was a question that could not be answered the way the asker wanted.  I tried to get that across.  I believe the comments I posted are, in effect, the only realistic and valid answer that could be given to a question like this.  I believe all my comments should be awarded the answer in a split fashion.  If that's not deemed appropriate, then the last one is most "answerish" to the question, in my opinion: 24805773
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