With remote deployment tools and cloud-based network access, the possibilities of provisioning and maintaining software assets using virtual hands are endless. Practically any task short of a hardware failure can be added to service desk’s solution repertoire which is often much more expansive than many organizations anticipate. At the service desk, workstation software deployments or the reimaging of desktops and laptops are typically handled by the Remote Level 2 team using tools such as RDS, Altiris, or SCCM. Such tasks are easily accomplished assuming system requirements and access are provided by the client.
Physical deployment media such as the cd or flash drive have gone the way of the fax machine and the pager, the endangered species of the technology world. As IT environments evolve in favor of cloud-based deployments, those hands-on tools will fade from existence or severely date organizations that place hardware refreshes at the bottom of their to do list. It is not unheard of for manufacturing industry clients to maintain devices that still have floppy discs, and are still decades behind cd drives and USBs. In such instances, the age of the equipment precludes any other solution but an on-site technician performing a physical media installation, moving from one desktop to the next. It gets the job done, but is just another example of how much working around the limitations of legacy devices can really cost organizations in time and effort as they gather dust.
Rico Feliciano, one of ABS’s Remote Level 2 technicians, has had extensive experience with software deployment tools from the latest and greatest to those bound for the Smithsonian. “Now you can perform image management using ISOs or a digital copy of a cd or dvd via a virtual drive. You simply download the app from the cloud and then mount it. ”
What’s the difference between a software deployment and imaging/reimaging?
Imaging and reimaging pertain to the installation of standard operating systems and core applications like Word, Java, Flash, Chrome, otherwise known as the “golden image.” Software installs tend to be conducted for individual products like Acrobat or Photoshop that need a license, though both are managed through the same remote tools like SCCM. In addition to remote software deployment and imaging services, SCCM can also integrate with Windows Server Update Services (WSUS) to deploy patches and updates to the desktop.
Group Policy Management: No More Onesie-Twosies
The beauty of deployment tools such as SCCM is you can push entire software packets to multiple employees simultaneously, through pre-established groups in Active Directory using the Group Policy Management console in Windows Server operating system. So every employee in the design department gets an instance of AutoCAD along with the latest Windows Office products. Effectively, multiple end users are provisioned with a suite of software products that matches their job function. There can also be roles based security policies configured at a granular level in accordance with department clearance.
“Once you’ve created the group, every user within that group receives a particular application and appropriate set of configurations or Group Policy Objects,” says Feliciano. “You’re essentially building a path that will point to the location where the executable application resides. On each user’s machine is a probe or client that checks in with the SCCM server and if it sees if that user is part of a particular group and, if so, it will automatically launch the installer or deploy updates to previously installed applications. Through SCCM organizations can inventory an entire network and integrate with asset management tools as well.”
Simply put, leveraging remote deployment tools enables organizations to take stock of their IT assets and the most efficient processes for maintaining them.