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Selecting What’s Right for You

You can get desktop management software for any price from free to more than a million dollars. What you shouldn’t do is choose based on price alone. Consider the following issues when making your decision:

  • How many desktops do you have to manage? Unlike with provisioning software, the difficulty of desktop management generally only grows linearly: The effort stays in proportion to the number of desktops. In fact, it may be a good deal less if many of the desktops have stable configurations that only need occasional patches and software updates.
  • How many operating systems do you manage? While most products are aimed at a single operating system, usually Windows, some of them, such as LANDesk, support multiple desktops, including Linux and Macintosh.
  • Will you be managing portable computers or other systems that aren’t always connected to your network? Some desktop management systems handle this situation well and some don’t.
  • How much reporting capability do you need? Reporting (with the exception of inventory functions) isn’t as important in a DTMS as it is in something like a LAN manager, because you don’t generally need DTMS reports for troubleshooting or performance-tuning purposes. Still, reporting is a useful feature. How useful is generally a function of the size of the enterprise and, to an extent, of management style.

    While a desktop management system generates very few reports that you can’t get in other ways, it’s convenient to get all those reports in one place, especially if the software offers a dashboard for commonly used reports.

  • How well does the software integrate with your present environment? Again, desktop management systems vary widely in this regard. Microsoft SMS, not surprisingly, does an excellent job of working with Windows operating systems. However, it’s weaker in supporting other operating systems.
  • How easy is it to use? A DTMS is one of the most commonly used pieces of software for administrators. If it isn’t easy to use, the administrators will waste a lot of time and suffer a lot of frustration because they interact with it so frequently. Or they’ll just give up and stop using it.

    Most desktop management systems today offer some form of web-based interface. However, the interfaces vary widely in capability.

  • What kind of support will it offer for Vista, and when will it be available? Some enterprises will begin deploying Vista as soon as Microsoft makes the production version of the new OS available later in 2006. Others will hold off for a while, and some don’t even have Vista on their IT roadmap. If you plan to be an early adopter of Vista, you should pick a DTMS that plans to support the new operating system as soon as it’s released.

Choices and decisions aside, the main point about desktop management software is that you need it. Unless you have a very, very small organization, DTMS will pay for itself quickly.

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