Focusing on the near-Herculean task network executives face in keeping patches current on their Microsoft, Macintosh and Linux software, BigFix last week introduced tools to help with the heavy lifting.Focusing on the near-Herculean task network executives face in keeping patches current on their Microsoft, Macintosh and Linux software,\u00a0BigFix\u00a0last week introduced tools to help with the heavy lifting.With Version 3.0 of its Patch Manager, the company has added integration with Active Directory, controls to ensure proper downloads and throttle bandwidth consumption, and the ability to assign responsibility for certain machines to individual administrators."With this new version I can address the politics of patching," says Tim Rice, network systems analyst in the department of medicine at Duke University in Durham, N.C.Rice oversees the patch management needs of 19 departments, each of which demands their machines are off-limits to administrators outside their departments."Version 2.0 of BigFix didn't fly because of the security model. But with 3.0, I can assign a person to a machine or a group of machines," Rice says.He says he chose the software because of its agent technology, which installs a small piece of code on each desktop or server, as opposed to software that scans the network from a central point."We needed the agents because we have lots of laptops that are not always connected to the network. Now when those laptops are plugged in, the agent can check for patch updates," he says.Rice says he chose the software over similar software from St. Bernard Software and PatchLink.PatchManager 3.0 has added support for Active Directory to improve its integration with the network. Administrators can use the directory to target patches at individual machines, groups of machines, or entire domains or organizational units. The directory also can support the delegation of patching duties to certain administrators.BigFix also has added a download restart feature, which ensures patch downloads that are interrupted can be restarted from where the interruption occurred. Users also can control the amount of bandwidth that is used to feed patches to machines across the network by spreading downloads over a specific period of time.BigFix also has added security features, including the use of digital signatures that control who executes patch deployments, and encrypted communication between the BigFix Enterprise Server and Fixlets, messages that contain the intelligence to detect and patch vulnerabilities.PatchManager 3.0 supports Windows desktop and server platforms from Windows 95 to Windows Server 2003. The software also supports Linux and Macintosh. Version 3.0 is priced at $2,500 per server and $15 per node, per year.