Tactical Advice

Keeper of the Site

Software lets network managers run updates for security, applications and operating systems.
This story appears in the December 2008 issue of BizTech Magazine.

 


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Given the proliferation of modern malware and system-level attacks, a growing number of businesses now see the importance of managing Windows updates and software application updates right along with keeping virus definitions current. Although many popular security suites offer proprietary update maintenance, few offer the ability to manage updates for other installed software, including Windows itself. Sitekeeper, a systems management package from Diskeeper, fills this gap.

According to its website (www.sitekeeper.biz), Sitekeeper lets IT centralize patch management, security update management, hardware and software inventories, license compliance and software installations. The program consists of three modules: Patchkeeper, a patch management system; Inventory/Compliance, which collects hardware and software inventories and generates license compliance reports; and Push Install, a remote software install and uninstall utility.

Advantages

Sitekeeper’s inventory reporting is very flexible and includes the option of creating a given report immediately or scheduling it to recur or run automatically at a later time. Reports are surprisingly lengthy and can be saved in proprietary Sitekeeper format or in a more generic comma-separated-values (.csv) format for easy manipulation in third-party applications.

Similarly, the patch management module can be configured to scan and generate a report or automatically update a selected group of machines once or on a recurring schedule. The “report only” mode is extremely useful, especially if your company is concerned about bandwidth.

For instance, Windows XP Service Pack 3 is more than 300 megabytes in size. Reporting is a crucial first step when deploying an update of this caliber. Knowing what you are up against and planning accordingly before globally forcing client upgrades will ensure a positive experience for all involved.

One last advantage: painless software deployment. The beauty of remote installation lies not only in its convenience but also in its inherent efficiency.

Why It Works for IT

Any tool that saves labor will eventually pay for itself. In the case of Sitekeeper, this could happen with a single software deployment. Add to that the labor saved using its remote inventory module, and you have a compelling case for even the most conservative IT manager.

Sitekeeper’s inventory and compliance tool can keep your department informed of software license usage. In the same way that time saved on a major software rollout could justify Sitekeeper’s initial cost, avoiding the fines levied from a failed Business Software Alliance audit could go a long way to pay for this software.

Disadvantages

Predictably, report generation is at the mercy of the slowest computer. For example, on an initial hardware inventory of 10 machines, I scanned a batch of nine newer machines (2 gigahertz and above, with 512MB RAM and above) and then scanned a single older machine (1200 megahertz, 256MB RAM). While the nine faster machines completed their hardware inventories cumulatively in less than a minute, the older machine ran for nearly 15 minutes before completing and generating the inventory report.

Sitekeeper is licensed and purchased per seat, which means that cost may be one of the biggest barriers. Although system management software may not be an easy sell, ensuring the integrity of your company’s technology infrastructure should be.

CDW Price: $39.99 per seat

 

CEO Takeaway
Even with a conservative estimate, the business case for Sitekeeper speaks for itself. Consider the following:
• At an average company with 100 computers, for the $2,500 it would cost to roll out five applications, the company could license Sitekeeper Push Install for that same 100 machines and perform an unlimited number of software installations completely unattended. The bottom line: It takes only five applications to break even on the initial $2,500 investment.
• Using Sitekeeper’s compliance tool can lower operating costs by keeping your help desk aware of rogue apps and other threats that users could be introducing to your network. It also makes you aware of other threats such as games and P2P clients.

 

Jason Holbert is a Tier II desktop support technician at Harcros Chemicals, a chemical manufacturer and distributor in Kansas City, Kan.

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