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The Top Three Windows/Mac Client Management Options

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Managing large numbers of workstations is a challenge at the best of times, but when you have to manage a mix of both PCs and Macs, it can become a massive headache. However, with the right tools, you can develop a single and easy to manage approach that works for both platforms. Multi-platform design expert Ryan Faas can help you figure it all out.

Setting up options for client management (in which system configurations, update policies, and restrictions are centrally defined) can be a major asset for any IT department, be it a school, small- to medium-sized business, or an enterprise environment. But, it is just as a helpful in that it reduces the resources required to manage and monitor workstations, deploy updates, and can reduce desktop support needs by limiting the impact of user actions or malware. A wide range of solutions and options specific to Windows or Mac OS X environments can enable you to incorporate these techniques.

The one challenge to many of these tools is that they often result in two solutions needing to be implemented—one for the PCs and one for the Macs. This can result in a less unified working environment that requires additional cost to implement, requires redundant configuration of user and computer groups, reduces efficiency because similar actions must be taken to achieve one consistent approach across platforms, and often requires differentiating the management tasks between staff members dedicated to managing each platform. If you’re looking to avoid these issues by implementing single cross-platform remote and client management solutions, here are your top options.

Group Policies and Direct Control for Mac OS X

One of the most common Active Directory solutions for client management is the use of group policies. Group policies allow administrators to define a very wide range of Windows system and application configurations for clients. Because they are implemented at the directory service level, group policies can be implemented based on user or computer accounts (or groups/organization units). This makes them extremely flexible, and allows administrators to develop a very granular system for determining the user environment.

If you are working in an Active Directory environment, Centrify’s Direct Control for Mac OS X is a stellar client management solution for your Mac workstations. Direct Control extends the Active Directory schema with support for hundreds of additional group policies aimed at managing the Mac OS X user environment. This is coupled with a Directory Services plug-in for Mac OS X that not only allows for Active Directory authentication (something also provided by Apple’s own Active Directory plug-in), but also integrated with the managed preferences architecture built into Mac OS X. This allows you to configure group policies that mirror many of the options otherwise only available when managing Macs using Mac OS X Server and Apple’s Open Directory. The result is a highly flexible client management solution that can implemented and organized using the same organizational units contained in Active Directory and using familiar group policy management tools and techniques.

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