October 2010 E-newsletter
A New Lease on Life
As PCs become even more integrated into the K–12 learning environment, school districts' already bare-bones IT departments are finding themselves stretched too thin to accomplish even the most basic maintenance tasks, such as re-imaging desktops and notebooks for classroom use, deploying and upgrading software, and troubleshooting systems.
For many school districts, the answer is desktop lifecycle management (DLM) – software that automates the tasks critical to keeping PCs and applications running smoothly, no matter where they are located. Steve Brasen, a senior analyst at Enterprise Management Associates, says every school – every organization, for that matter – should have a DLM strategy.
With a DLM solution from companies such as Hewlett-Packard, IBM, LANDesk Software, Microsoft, Novell and Symantec, districts can not only track and manage their desktop and notebook computers more efficiently, but also reduce operational costs by simplifying administrative processes.
Off the Road
For the three-person IT staff at the Franklinville-headquartered Delsea Regional School District in Gloucester County, N.J., driving to and from the nine schools it services had gotten laborious, necessitating a move to DLM. So in summer 2009, they installed Symantec's Altiris Client Management Suite on a NetX server to streamline operations; a proxy server in each building allows the Altiris server to communicate with the deployment console on each IT team member's desk.
“From our main office in the high school, each of us can remotely install and update software, manage the systems and re-image” the 1,300 desktops and notebooks the team supports, explains Greg Taylor, shared services technology coordinator.
The solution has proved itself over and over again. Taylor says last year's addition of roughly 320 computers using the new system was the fastest and most trouble-free deployment he's ever seen.
What's more, Altiris paid for itself in the first year.
47% of IT managers from organizations that have introduced automated solutions for lifecycle management have reported real, measurable IT management cost reductions. An equal number reported significant reductions in management complexities.
SOURCE: Enterprise Management Associates' survey of 200 IT managers (2008)
“I sold [the idea] to the school board by explaining that the software would cost the same as hiring another IT specialist, which we were going to have to do without it,” Taylor says of the roughly $27,000 expense. “After the first year, it was all savings.”
Time Is Money
Cost savings weren't Dennis DeBroeck's primary goal when he turned to DLM five years ago. The 16-year Walla Walla (Wash.) Public Schools veteran teaches media animation and computer technology classes at Walla Walla High School and was looking to reduce the time and labor he spent managing, upgrading and imaging the 30 computers in his lab.
Thanks to ScriptLogic Desktop Authority, DeBroeck has reduced the time he spends on these tedious administrative tasks by more than 90 percent. “Now I can spend more time doing what I'm supposed to be doing – teaching animation and monitoring what my students are doing online,” he says.
“We do a lot of high-end work in this class, like animation and complex presentations,” DeBroeck continues. “With ScriptLogic, I've been able to create resources for each student, including video-based training, via log-in. And I can re-image the systems quickly so they're ready [to meet] the needs of the next student.”
ScriptLogic's reporting capabilities also have become a valuable resource for keeping track of software and hardware assets and for monitoring the energy usage of each machine. With that information at hand, DeBroeck can set the PCs to shut off automatically at specific times, saving the school money.
The ABCs of DLM
Every desktop lifecycle management system works somewhat differently, but all of them are focused on the same goal: managing desktop and notebook computer assets from acquisition through retirement. Popular DLM solutions include:
- Altiris Client Management Suite
- LANDesk Management Suite
- Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager
- Novell ZENworks
- ScriptLogic Desktop Authority
No matter which product you choose, make sure it includes not only asset management, but also systems and application deployment, patch management, license management, security and compliance functionality.
Other features might include incident and problem management, change and configuration management, endpoint virtualization management, automated power management and IT disposal policies.