Tech Friday: Managing User Desktops

For organizations that already have a file server network, you have an opportunity to automate some of the routine updates and checks that should be taking place on each user’s desktop computer. Typically, you have a program running at the server which checks the internet for the latest updates, and which makes them available to the user workstations. This accomplishes several things;

  • It conserves bandwidth by downloading patches and updates only once, and then storing them on the server
  • It allows you to look at the status of the workstations by running the management program at the server.
  • It allows you as the network manager to determine which files and patches get downloaded and installed.

An example of this is the Symantec Anti-Virus program. This program normally runs at each workstation. It has a component called “Live-Update” which, if set correctly will periodically checks the Symantec web site for the latest virus threats, and will download the appropriate virus scanning code to the workstation. If you have 10 workstations, this may be happening 10 times each week or more.

The Symantec corporate antivirus program provides a server component which does the live update. This program downloads the virus updates to the the server. When the virus program is set up at the workstation, it is instructed to look to the server for updates, not the internet. This keeps all of the update traffic on the local network.

What happens with laptops?

The above scenario makes a lot of sense with desktop workstations which are permanently attached to the network. With laptops, the anti-virus program can be set up as managed, unmanaged, or semi-managed… that is, it will update when attached to the local network. This works fine if the user regularly attaches to the local network. People on the road can have their laptop set up as “unmanaged”– whereby updates are delivered, as before, directly from the Internet.

The program is available starting around $260 U.S. for a five-user license. This includes the server components, and the workstation components. Similar programs are available from other virus software vendors such as Mcaffee and Trend.

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