Free is nice.
Okay, Microsoft Update has much more going for it than its very low price. When it comes to patching solutions, it is easy to configure, reliable, and timely.
Microsoft Update has its roots in multiple different services for patching. For operating systems, there was Windows Update, and for the Office Suite of applications, there was Office Update. Put the two together and you have the start of Microsoft Update. But wait — there is more. Not only can you get Windows Update and Office Update for the price of one, you can also add to that the ability to update some vital back office applications. Microsoft Update can be used to scan for patch levels, download patches, and initiate installation of patches for:
Operating systems from Windows 2000 Server and later
Office applications from Office XP and later
Exchange 2000 and later
SQL 2000 and later
MSDE 2000 and later
Microsoft Update is expected to include more mainstream applications in the future as well, even though there have been no official announcements. So, multiple combined technologies, all for the price of the least expensive of them all: free.
When it comes down to it, as long as there is a connection to the Internet, Microsoft Update is a viable alternative to patching desktops as well as servers. It is nice, even for larger enterprise organizations, to have Microsoft Update as that proverbial card up the sleeve. If, for some odd and strange reason, it is not possible to use SMS 2003 or WSUS, it will always be an option to use Microsoft Update as long as there is connectivity to the Internet.
There are also good reasons not to use Microsoft Update. First and foremost among the reasons is trust and dependence on the wrong people in the organization. While most of the employees in the organization are dependable people and they want to do the right thing, it does not mean it is a good idea to give them the responsibility to protect the assets of the Information Technology department. Accountants have their role in the organization, and it is not to be responsible for maintaining their individual workstations; nor is it to be responsible for keeping any servers used by their department updated and patched. MU does not allow for a testing process and using MU can result in broken applications or services. Another good reason against using Microsoft Update is the demand for bandwidth. If each and every workstation and server has to download the latest updates from Microsoft, files will be downloaded many times over and will take up a great deal of network bandwidth as well as Internet bandwidth. Microsoft Update might not be the best choice in some cases.