In Praise of Lean Desktop Management

This fall, a crop of feature-bloated desktop management tools will show up on IT managers' doorsteps. Don't be afraid to use these tools. Just don't feel like you should use all their features.

This fall, a crop of feature-bloated desktop management tools will show up on IT managers doorsteps. Dont be afraid to use these tools. Just dont feel like you should use all their features.

In fact, after talking with several IT managers about desktop, laptop and PDA management, which includes software distribution, software and hardware inventory, as well as backup and remote control, it is clear that more is less. Getting the right information has always been more important than getting all of the information. These days, tools from Peregrine, Mobile Automation, Tally Systems and others do a good job of getting both.

As eWeek Labs evaluates desktop management tools, were increasingly looking at how well these products support IT policies, rather than whether they get every iota of data. We realize successful IT managers rely increasingly on centralized policies to smooth support and maintenance operations.

To be sure, technology still plays a big part in supporting centrally controlled desktop standards. For example, desktop management products now use standards including DMI for hardware and WMI for software to effectively gather inventory data. And management tools that use these technologies have gotten smarter agents that are easier to install and maintain.

But it is much cheaper to send out standard desktops that work than it is to use inventory systems to see what mayhem of software and hardware has been installed by end users.

One way to ensure adherence to policy standards is to institute regular, reliable technology refreshes. These, along with smart leasing plans that shift old machines out of the organization as soon as they become obsolete, help bring order to hardware chaos. Ensuring that everyone has a standard desktop means that IT can set up a test lab with a limited number of machines that mirror the companys computing environment. This reduces many IT hassles, from maintaining software configurations to the haggling over who gets what PC when an employee leaves the organization.

It is up to IT managers to establish a culture of orderly updates. Work with senior executives to implement regular equipment and software upgrades, at whatever frequency makes sense for the organization. Users who know the upgrade plan, and know it happens on a regular basis, are much more likely to get through the change quickly and efficiently.