A keyboard and two monitors showing blurred lines of code, such as might be required for software package management.

Software package management 101

Software packages are constantly being released, updated, and replaced with newer alternatives. This makes software package management an essential practice for any computer user, especially for businesses with complex IT environments. Below, we’ll go over everything you need to know about software package management.

What is software package management

A software package is a group of files, data, and other resources that are bundled together for ease of use. Each package contains all the necessary contents to install a software application on the given operating system.

Even the most basic computer systems may have dozens or hundreds of software packages installed. What’s more, many of these packages may be intricately connected, with some packages relying on others’ functionality. This is a relationship known as a software dependency.

To deal with this complexity, users must look for ways to perform software package management efficiently. Software package management is the continual process of finding, installing, updating, and removing software packages on a computer.

Many operating systems come with their own tools for managing software packages, simplifying the process of software package management. These applications are known as “package managers,” and may have either a graphical or command-line interface. Examples of software package managers include the Windows Package Manager for Windows, Homebrew for macOS, and the Advanced Packaging Tool (apt) for Ubuntu Linux.

Good to know

There are several excellent reasons why businesses should stay on top of the practice of software package management:

  1. Efficiency and productivity: By performing software package management, companies can easily see which software versions users have downloaded, and when new upgrades or updates are available. This lets users install the most up-to-date versions of their applications and enjoy new features and functionality.

  2. Troubleshooting: In some cases, certain software packages or versions may conflict with each other, causing unexpected system issues and behavior. Software package management helps with troubleshooting by identifying exactly which packages users have installed.

  3. Licensing and compliance: Much of enterprise software is proprietary, requiring users to pay for licenses or subscription fees. Businesses that perform software package management find it easier to keep track of their applications and comply with the software developer’s regulations.

  4. Cost reduction: Beyond regulatory compliance, software package management can also help reduce organizations’ software costs, giving more room in the IT budget. If users have installed a software package without needing it for their work, system administrators can decide to remove it, saving money on licenses.

  5. Security: In an enterprise setting, software package management helps companies monitor which employees are using which applications. This helps administrators implement access controls and permissions to ensure that employees are not unnecessarily viewing sensitive records or databases.

With proper software package management, businesses can save valuable time, money, and effort.
(Image courtesy: Unsplash)

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