Managing desktops can be fairly well organized into dealing with three
Automating Processes. If a site is to be developed as cost effectively as reasonable these tasks should be automated for any platform that is widely used at a particular site. Usually it is extremely difficult to justify automating these tasks for platforms that aren't very prevalent.
In some instances it can be extremely difficult to fully automate these processes. If you are ever buying a new product one important characteristic to always look for is whether these processes can be automated with the product. Rapid deployment is becoming more and more important in product development and vendors are building in or supplying these capabilities.
Some of the major advantages to automating are
Again, the more these processes can be automated the better. While it can take considerably more time to develop the automated processes initially they should save considerably more time when implemented.
Cloning Hard Disks. Some sites set up cloned hard disks which implies setting up a host with the exact configuration for all its deployments. This can have its disadvantages because of dealing with a variety of platforms. There is likely to be a need for more than one configuration due to things like platforms, settings and other things. Some operating system vendors do not support cloned disks because their software installations make decisions at installation time.
It may be possible or essential to strike a balance. Some sites choose to clone disks to establish a minimal standard install and then use automated software to layer in other applications as needed.
Vendor Installations. One of the biggest questions a system administrator needs to consider is, "Should you trust a vendor's installation?" In what is likely to be a high quality, but more demanding answer, reloading the OS yourself is usually better for several reasons.
Updating Installations. Unfortunately, new bugs, security holes and fixes are occurring in software all the time. It is important to remember the ways in which an update is different from an initial install.
Many system administrator's reduce the risk of failed updates by using what may be called a one - some - many approach. This may be summarized in the following bulleted list.
An automated system that is poorly developed has the potential to cause massive damage. The following are the likeliest steps in an update process.
Network Configuration. You also need an automated way to update how the desktop should interact through the network. This can also be characterized as updating network parameters.
The most common process for updating these is through DHCP - Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol and making use of DNS - Domain Name Service. This is used so that IP addresses can be both dynamic for some hosts and static for others. Due to the form of IP addresses, a DNS entry is almost always used to make it easier to establish connections with more frequently used hosts.
DHCP has many options and features and as usual it is best to keep things simple and effective. One of the major features that is very often used is to hand out available internal IP addresses from a pool as users login to the network. Fortunately, it is possible to use static addresses with other properties for more frequently used hosts such as e-mail servers, database servers and printers.
If a host is running services, it should receive a permanent DHCP lease and always have an appropriate name. Hostnames should be controlled by a centralized authority so there are no conflicts and the naming conventions help users determine what sort of services are being provided.
The Icing. One of the main things to create in any installation process is a high confidence in completion in success. A very major component of this is involving the customers in the specifications and designs. They need to feel they are getting what the need and desire.
It is also important to have a reasonable variety of standard configurations available. Some people need primarily office related tools, some need engineering related software, others might need marketing analysis programs. There can also be some basic differences in configuration needs such as processor speeds, video cards, CD ROM capabilities and different operating systems. Obviously, the greater the diversity in such standard configurations the greater the work for the system admins. Though on the other hand, these sorts of things are some of what they are getting paid to provide. But there are also many other more sophisticated ways that system admins should probably be spending their relatively high priced time.