Login scripts, GPOs or install it yourself?
Software deployment tools are not standalone offerings. They are built using existing and new tools and methods. We hope our overview of how they are developed will help you understand their functionalities. And please keep in mind that we will only talk about deploying and managing Windows and Windows software in this blog. Because frankly, that can be a challenge just in itself.
This is Part 3 in our Software Deployment series. You can find the other episodes here:
What is software deployment? Part 1 – From mainframe to the Internet
What is software deployment? Part 2 – Slowed down by Snearkernet
What is software deployment? Part 4 – Software deployment tools
Windows environments have a central Active Directory (AD). This is used as a database on all computers, users, servers and printers, and also provides users’ access rights. You can see in this summary alone that we’re clearly dealing with a very complex whole. But for organizations with hundreds of computers and Windows users, you just can’t ignore AD.
The AD learning curve is stylistic, but once you master its basics or more if you’ve taken an official LinkedIn course, for example, then you may actually learn to like it.
Logging in is one of AD’s main features. It does exactly what it says: when you log in, the server sends a prompting signal to finish a script.
Some examples include to:
· connect a printer as standard
· connect to the user folder
· configure software
Bottom line? You’ll save time and money when you can automatically log in individual users or entire groups.
The next step is to create a group policy object (GPO) that makes software available for use. This Active Directory prompts users with a message saying, “New software is ready. Do you want to install it?”
It would be much more convenient if the software can quietly install and configure itself automatically as soon as a user starts their computer. This sounds like an easy ask, but it can also have significant limitations.
Only software packaged in an MSI file can be installed with GPO. The drawback is that you’re completely blind to the details you need. You don’t know who installed it, if it failed when someone downloaded it and what if any error messages occurred. This process can feel like searching for a needle in a haystack.
Make centrally available
One possible solution is to make software centrally available and ask your users if they want to install it. Then you host the installation files on a network drive. This way, you only have to make sure the software in that location is always up to date.
However, many organizations won’t provide the necessary access rights for users to install software by themselves. And this issue is very common for the company’s security constraints.
Let’s look at a different angle.
You’re probably familiar with the phenomenon of virtualization. The computer doesn’t run the operating system locally, but through a network environment. This way, every time a user logs in, a virtual copy of a Windows environment that you preset will start up.
This option is supported in the operating system. But there’s also application virtualization, which is similar in principle. Your users start an application on their own PCs and their own Windows, but it actually runs on a virtual server. Your user only sees the front end user interface. The server captures and handles all interactions without the user noticing it.
This is a huge advantage for your system administrator. They only need to install an application once. And all your users are presented with the same “application environment.” Need a new update? Easy peasy. You just roll it out one time.
Unfortunately, application virtualization is quite expensive and only available for larger organizations.
Software deployment tools
And here we finally are. With tools that automatically arrange as much as possible for your organization. You get some login scripts and policy settings, and some available software. You’ll even get management tools with some of these built-in features. For example, Microsoft Endpoint Manager (formerly SCCM, and then SMS).
But at Provolve IT, we develop tools that are designed to automatically launch, manage and update software for you. This way, you’ll enjoy complete insight, control and flexibility about who installs software and when it happens. You can access many benefits that differ per product.
We’ll also re-examine the Sneakernet process and how it can still be useful for various situations, such as during digital fails. Or when a network connection is out at the same time one of your important customers needs new software.
In the next blog in this series, you’ll learn about common and less commonly known software deployment tools, functionalities, applications and the pros and cons of each tool.