Ensuring the client manager you choose works for you

By Barry Nance, Network World Lab Alliance

Propagating the installation of a client management product across a network entails some basic and some not-so-basic steps. For example, how can you be sure you haven't inadvertently skipped a machine which rightly falls under your administrative umbrella? This sort of problem rarely crops up when you're deploying server-oriented tools. But in a large company, thousands of desktop PCs can form a seemingly impenetrable jungle.

The answer to the dilemma is to take a methodical and systematic approach: Use the client manager's discovery feature to find all the desktop units. Then examine its reports to verify you've included every machine.

Here are some additional tips to ensure your client manager deployment goes smoothly and that the product works the way you need it to:

1. Before deploying a client manager throughout the network (even with a vendor's help), first try out the software in a controlled, small environment to better understand how it installs, how it performs and what it does in specific situations that you force it to handle. Become familiar with how the desktop manager behaves and know how to use it to enforce licensing as well as operating system and software versioning. Get comfortable with the product's remote control feature, and run some practice drills to understand how the tool distributes software, updates and operating system patches.

2. Use Windows policies, directory and file permissions and desktop controls to keep users from altering corporate-approved PC configurations, but keep in mind that the corporation, not the employee, owns each desktop screen. Other employees will from time to time need to use the PC that the employee thinks of as "his" or "hers."

3. For the sake of simplicity and consistency, avoid mixing and matching different client management products across the network. Centering on one tool will yield better control over desktop PCs and other computing devices. It will also reduce the variety of backup devices and backup formats you have to manage. Using a single tool will give you consistent, consolidated reports on the number, types and configurations of your desktop units. And it will make life a lot easier for network administrators and troubleshooters.

4. Take the time to document the client computing environment in your organization. Keep the documentation up to date. The documentation will help you the next time you need to do a major upgrade. It will be a useful resource for capacity planners. And it can even be your justification to the IRS for the depreciation expenses your company claims at tax time.

5. Assume, despite your best efforts to prevent it, that spyware, a virus or some other malady will damage your client management configuration at some point in time. Establish procedures to restore desktop configurations and run fire drills to make sure your procedures work. Use similar goals for your desktop and other computing devices that you use for your servers – you want to maximize uptime and availability for the users who rely on the desktop machines to get their work done.

Nance runs Network Testing Labs and is the author of Introduction to Networking, 4th Edition and Client/Server LAN Programming.

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