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Technology

How to enforce software standards on PC desktops

Current Situation:

Software standardization is extremely important in the corporate environment for the following reasons:

  • The diversification of the user base. Not all users use the network in a similar fashion.
  • Administration of installed software. Having a common application area allows an administrator to update one set of applications instead of multiple installations.
  • Minimize server downtime. By ensuring all necessary configuration and driver programs are available allows a technician to quickly and efficiently respond the server issues or failed workstation issues.

There are three aspects to software standardization in the company corporate environment:

  1. Application Software. This is the software used as productivity tools or host access methods by the user community.
  2. Server Configuration and Drivers. This software is used to configure the EISA/PCI busses on the server and to tell the NOS how to handle the hardware used by the server.
  3. User Access to the System. Users have access to files that can change their drive mappings and the method in which they access the network applications. Users also are not executing through a true login script when they logon.

One of the more important aspects of company’s corporate environment is access to the productivity applications used on the network. Our research showed that the primary application used is Microsoft Office for Windows 3.1. In addition, software is loaded and used by roughly 35% of the user base. We found that users can execute Microsoft Office from five different locations on the file server. We found three of these sites to be in use.

How to enforce software standards on PC desktops photoAnother issue concerning application software is the method in which users access the software. company has developed more than one standard for people to execute software from their PCs. This leads to longer troubleshooting processes and longer problem resolution.

The next aspect of software standardization are the configuration programs and drivers loaded by the servers. The corporate environment includes a variety of servers using different configuration programs, disk, LAN and other drivers. Unfortunately, a centralized location for configuration programs doesn’t exist, which leads to additional downtime when a server needs to be reconfigured.

The different revisions and types of drivers can lead to issues and delayed response when troubleshooting or upgrading. The driver revisions and types are not documented nor stored centrally.

The final aspect of software standardization is a common user entrance into the system. company currently uses the login script as a personal script. Many of the items found in the current login script shouldn’t be part of the enterprise login script. In addition, the users are allowed to use two different methods of controlling their mappings, etc. when the log into the network. These methods are personal login scripts and the execution of STARTUP.BAT and ALL.BAT. STARTUP.BAT is used to load items outside of the login script. The issue is users have access to this file and can make whatever changes they need to. ALL.BAT is used by the network administration in the proper manner, for it is readable by the user community, but cannot be modified.

Issues:

Application Software
There are two core issues surrounding application software in the corporate environment. They are as follows:

  • Multiple copies of the same software.
  • Users accessing the same application using different methods.

Proposal:

contractor will deliver the following items when working on the Application Software Issues of software standardization:

  • Install one working copy of each networked software application. A quality review into what features of each application are needed will be completed so that there are no missing pieces. (IE: Ensuring that all templates that ship with Microsoft Word are installed.) Deliverable: Complete set of working network applications in a common location.
  • Ensure each workstation is designed to access the networked application software in a common manner. Deliverable: Ability to logon with your user ID from any workstation on the network and access the applications without an error message.
  • Deletion of the older application software after the migration to the new software is complete. Deliverable: Deleted files and more drive space.
  • Develop methodology for moving changes to the networked application software into production. This process includes an automated procedure as well as manual procedures for ensuring a successful installation and backout if necessary. Deliverable: Document describing procedure and batch files to deliver changes into production.
  • Develop documentation concerning the installation of the networked applications. Deliverable: Documented network applications and reference material concerning installation.

Issues:

Server Configuration and Drivers
There are three core issues surrounding server configuration and drivers in the corporate environment. They are as follows:

  1. Location of configuration disks.
  2. Location of drivers disks.
  3. Procedure for updating configuration and drivers disks.

Proposal:

contractor will deliver the following items when working on the Server Software Issues of software standardization:

  • Create a binder with the current configuration programs for every server type at corporate. This includes not only EISA/PCI configurations disks, but diagnostic disks as well. Deliverable: Two binders that contain the proper disks and utilities. One will be kept at the server room at corporate and the other will be kept offsite at IS.
  • Create an area on the network where there are disk images of the configuration and diagnostic software mentioned above. Images are an easy way to replace lost diskettes, etc. Deliverable: Sub-directory on the CORPDATA server with the proper diskette images and multiple copies of the program to create the images.
  • Create a binder with the current driver programs from at least, but not limited to, 3COM, Adaptec, Novell, Backup Exec and Seagate. Deliverable: Two binders that contain the proper disks. One will be kept at the server room at corporate and the other will be kept offsite at IS.
  • Create an area on the network where there are disk images of the configuration and diagnostic software mentioned above. Images are an easy way to replace lost diskettes, etc. Deliverable: Sub-directory on the CORPDATA server with the proper diskette images and multiple copies of the program to create the images.
  • Ensure the latest drivers are loaded on the corporate servers. This includes downloading or securing the latest versions and testing on the testbed first. Deliverable: Latest drivers loaded on the servers.
  • Develop a procedure for a company employee or contractor to be notified of updates to the configuration or drivers disks. Deliverable: Process that uses minimal resources to determine changes in the versions of the disks or drivers needed.
  • Ensure an inventory of computer batteries is kept on hand. Many times a computer battery will drain or die leaving the computer useless. Deliverable: Purchase of one of each type of battery with instructions on how to replace the battery if needed.

Issues:

User Access to the System
There are two core issues user access to the system in the corporate environment. They are as follows:

  1. User’s ability to change mappings in STARTUP.BAT and Personal Login Scripts.
  2. Improper usage of login scripts.

Proposal:

contractor will deliver the following items when working on the User Access to the System of software standardization:

  • Remove the ability of users to store drive mappings in the STARTUP.BAT file. Deliverable: Method for administration to incorporate STARTUP.BAT settings in read only areas on the network.
  • Remove the ability of users to set personal login scripts. We will meld the personal login scripts into the new STARTUP.BAT or into the login script if pertinent. Deliverable: Deletion of all personal login scripts and removal of users ability to create/execute them.
  • Create a standard corporate login script that uses groups properly to ensure successful application setup and execution as well as definitions for unique groups. This includes, but is not limited to, drive mappings, printer capture statements and the ability to set environment variables in the login script. Deliverable: Totally redesigned and efficient login script so that a user can login from any machine of the enterprise and access all applications.