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Pane Relief: Desktop Management

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Install. Reinstall. Uninstall. Administrators spend a lot of time on repetitive tasks to keep users' desktops running. If you have more than a few desktop (or smaller) machines, Rick Cook explains how your business can benefit from a desktop management system that automates these tasks.
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Managing Desktops Remotely

Next to handling passwords and recovering files, managing users’ desktops probably takes more time than any other part of Windows administration.

Users need applications installed. They need updates and patches. Administrators need to know what software is installed on which machines and whether everything is properly licensed and accounted for. They need to make sure that scheduled updates and patches have in fact been installed on everyone’s computers. None of these jobs is difficult, but all can be enormously time consuming, especially if technical support people need to go around to everyone’s computers and do the job.

The problem is even worse for an organization with multiple sites. If you don’t have trained people at all those sites, some technician has to go around to all the locations and perform all these tasks. Even if the other site is in the same city, you can waste the better part of a day just to do a 20-minute update.

Or you can use a desktop management system (DTMS) that lets you handle all these jobs over your network—and do most of them automatically to boot. Not surprisingly, remote desktop management systems are an increasingly popular category of Windows software. In fact, if you’re managing more than a dozen or so users in one location, you need DTMS. It’s as simple as that.

While there’s an entire active class of software that manages individual desktops, for Windows administrators the most useful products are the ones that let them manage desktops remotely over the network. Products in this category range from simple to elaborate and from free to very expensive. Typically the programs that cost money are priced on a per-seat basis from about $50 a seat to about $125 a seat. However, even the expensive software has a fast payback. A study by Forrester Research estimates that remote administration of user desktops can save a company 15–20% of its administration costs every year.

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