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Best Practices for Desktop Optimization

Desktop deployment, management and support are dramatically simplified with virtualization, automation and centralized administration. Frank Johnson delves more to find out how desktop optimization is redefining the very way people work In an era where the significance of flexible and cost effective business operations is increasing everyday, technology has to be used in the optimum way to achieve maximum efficiency. Imagine the benefits that you reap in the following scenarios:

  • Your employees getting a secure access to their data and applications from anywhere – their laptop at a customer site, a shared PC at your regional office or a non company PC at home.
  • Contractors and off shore workers running the latest powerful applications on older and less capable PCs while their data is secure in controlled, central locations.
  • Your organization’s desktop infrastructure providing the power and flexibility needed by end-users, while improving the security and control needed by IT.

Desktop Optimization for Flexibility and Control
Desktop optimization has provided multiple benefits to an organization. The employees can be more productive and access applications and data on demand – virtually whenever and from wherever they need. The information and systems are also secure, controlled and provide better support for compliance needs.

For an optimized desktop, organizations combine technology and practices, specific methodologies, procedures and policies to put their technology to action. Across the top organizations, there are 5 primary best practices that emerge essential for moving the IT infrastructure along the maturity continuum.

PC Lifecycle Planning – Using an optimized fleet strategy across the PC lifecycle
A standardized PC infrastructure lays the foundation for desktop optimization. By standardizing the desktop hardware and software, an organization can move towards a more flexible, agile and optimized infrastructure. Ad hoc PC purchases may prove quite costly to the organization if a comprehensive view of the PC lifecycle costs is taken into account. If the entire span of the PC life cycle is considered as a whole (from purchase to retirement), it is clear that purchase price is just one of the components of PC lifecycle costs. The initial step for desktop optimization is the standardization of PC fleet hardware into a manageable number of models and configurations.

The IT department of the organization can use hardware inventory management tools to evaluate the diversity level of the installed base, monitor standardization and address exceptions. In the initial phase, attrition may be used to move out diverse PCs. The remaining older PCs can then be replaced by new PCs or by transition of existing PCs no longer in use. For standardization of PC, it is crucial to define and articulate the total cost of ownership across the PC lifecycle – from planning to retirement. A complete view of the PC lifecycle and related costs helps in longer term planning for optimizing complex fleet management decisions including refresh frequency, laptop against desktop hardware capability level, re-issuing used PCs and role based scenarios. It also creates the opportunity to identify significant cost benefits.

Desktop standardization fundamentally enables the decoupling of hardware from software at the operating system level and creates the possibility for virtualization, automation, centralized management and deployment along with other optimization capabilities. It is the first step for a more powerful, dynamic desktop infrastructure, with capabilities like zero-impact PC hardware upgrades, automated configuration, and delivery of hardware-independent applications as dynamic real-time services.

Standard Image Deployment – Deploying standardized images centrally with zero touch to decrease complexity
Once the standardization of desktop hardware has been achieved, the next step for desktop optimization is to standardize the software images. With numerous images, deployments are more time consuming and require more manual tasks to accommodate a variety of hardware and software configurations throughout the enterprise. As against this, with standard software image, the IT teams get a strong platform for fully automated zero touch deployments, dramatically decreasing the number of manual steps required to deploy software. For standard image deployment: • The first step is to create a standard image to be used by all new PCs added to the infrastructure. The new image should be made available for the installation, whether it is pre-installed by an OEM or a ‘wipe and reload’ is performed by the IT team.

  • Next, IT team needs to create an ‘opt in’ policy and promote the benefits of standardization, making the employees aware of benefits such as improved system uptime and more responsive support for standardized groups.
  • Once the standard image is in use, organizations can centrally implement Group Policies to prevent unwanted configurations and software installations.
  • Ultimately, advanced image management can be used for attaining the highest levels of organizational flexibility. With an advanced operating system, a single image can support multiple hardware configurations.

Desktop Virtualization – Deciding how to virtualize the desktop for user flexibility and IT control
Virtualization helps to support the numerous applications found across an organization. It addresses different IT issues by decoupling user data, application functionality and settings from the operating system and/or decoupling the operating system from the physical hardware. By delivering applications from a centrally managed server, the applications issues are reduced, ongoing maintenance is simplified and migration is faster and easier for both IT and end-users. Virtualization can be applied to a wide range of components – User State Virtualization, Application Virtualization, Desktop Virtualization, Presentation Virtualization and Server Virtualization.

The key benefits include:

  • Reduced Application Conflicts
  •  Lower Cost for Deployment and Maintenance
  •  Greater Computing Flexibility

Automated Management – Managing Automated Software updates, central configuration and policy with remote monitoring and support
To curtail labor costs and to keep end-users productive, IT teams in many organizations use greater degree of automation and more centralized configuration. They seek the ability to remotely monitor and maintain the health of organizations’ PCs by using the following steps:

  • The organization establishes a network directory service and policies to keep track of the PCs on the network, thereby streamlining its IT management process.
  • IT can then organize PCs and other resources into groups as per roles, hierarchies, geographies and other relevant factors. Rights and policies are then assigned using these groups to form the foundation for automating PC management tasks.
  • Once the network directory and group policies are established, IT can automate the deployment of patches and software updates.
  • After the automation phase, IT can centrally manage the PCs across the network. It also limits end users’ ability to change settings and configurations, helping in avoiding potential application conflicts and reducing the downtime events found in unmanaged environments.
  • A key component to streamlining PC management is the use of effective tools for remote monitoring and support. The IT staff can respond in time whenever updates are required or problems arise in desktop infrastructure.

Comprehensive Security – Offering integrated comprehensive security and data protection with improved compliance
The recurrence and complexity of IT security threats call for an ever greater investment in time and resources by the IT teams of organizations. The first step to total security is to ensure that each PC has elementary tools for its own self defense. Firewall, anti-virus and anti-spyware solutions must be installed and configured to run and self update on their own. Along with network security, the IT needs to ensure that sensitive information cannot be accessed by unauthorized personnel.

Organizations with optimized infrastructure can also use content-level granularity to offer end point security that extends and improves network based security for groups and individuals. They can also use real time security reporting and monitoring to proactively and automatically defend against new threats so that the potential issues are discovered, contained and resolved in earliest stages. In the dynamic desktop environment, an organization can extend trust-based federation to web services through which its IT can bolster security both in the enterprise network and beyond. The implementation of these best practices can help you to realize the numerous benefits and employee productivity gains that can be achieved through desktop optimization.

About the Author:
This article by Frank Johnson is in continuation to his series on ‘Desktop Optimization’. Frank is a regular editorial contributor on technology products and services that helps small to mid size businesses. To know more about Desktop Optimization and for queries pertaining to latest technological strategies, you can interact with him by clicking here

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