Find and manage your enterprise desktops with Altiris Client Management Suite from Symantec

Updated: September 18, 2009

Today we are on a quest to seek out and inventory all the desktops across our enterprise. Our goal is to try to bring each desktop up to the latest versions of applications that they have installed. To do this, we are using a series of software tools from Symantec's Altiris division called Client Management Suite or CMS.

Patching and updating all of your desktop applications is critical, as you can see from this report from the SANS institute that was published in September 2009.

Let's go out and discover what is running on our various machines. We can automatically deploy the Altiris agent across all the clients on our network, and then we can get more detailed information on each machine, as well as perform more management tasks. Once we have agents installed, we can automatically run a full software inventory by going into the manage/policies screen and selecting what we want to collect.

Let's see what we have got. There are lots of reports available under this menu tree and we are going to just show you two. On our sample network, there is a real museum of ancient software on these machines, including Microsoft Office 2000 and Firefox version 1. As the SANS report said, having these old apps is a real security risk and we want to update them with more recent applications.

So let's do some upgrades. The nice part here is that these can be done automatically, without an IT person having to manually install software on each PC. We go to Actions/Software/Managed software delivery and begin the wizard that you see here to set up the upgrade.

Once that is done, we can see that our systems have been automatically upgraded to the latest version of Firefox 3.5, without any user or IT department manual action. This can be a big time saver.

There is one final feature that I want to mention with Symantec's CMS, and that is its integrated PC Anywhere remote control tool. This is just another powerful means of supporting desktop users. We can right-click on any of the computers and go to remote management, and that will bring up a series of screens and you can see that in a few mouse clicks, we are now in control of a particular desktop.

While these features are impressive, this is a very complex product. Symantec's CMS isn't some Web 2.0 tool that you can pick up and install in a few minutes. For people new to this genre, getting everything working correctly is complex and will require coordination of various departments, skills, as well as a deep understanding of all of its software components. An example of its complexity is the composition of the Altiris desktop agent. As you can see when we switch over to one of our client PCs, the agent contains a series of sub-agents that handle different tasks and need to operate in synch with the management server.

You can watch a screencast video which goes into more detail here.

An enterprise desktop discovery, inventory, remote configuration, deployment, and patch management utility that supports a wide range of client operating systems.

Pricing: $95 per client, quantity discounts available

Desktops: Windows client versions support XP with SP2, 2000 with SP4, Vista with SP1, Server 2003, 2008 and Mac OS with 10.3.9 or later, Red Hat and SUSE Linux as well

Management console has special requirements that include IE7 and .Net framework 3.5

Symantec Corp.

20330 Stevens Creek Blvd.

Cupertino, CA 95014

We tested version 7.0 in September 2009 on a small network of mixed Mac and Windows machines with purposely really old application versions.

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