How do schools (with no IT staff) and large numbers of laptops manage their software configurations?

Joseph Videtto April 27, 2013
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I now work in a school that has no dedicated computer personnel, and about 10 carts of 10 computers each (Windows 7).

For pushing software to many laptops, in your school, is it done one machine at a time or is there an automated way that software is loaded. If automated, what software ? Please comment for both macs and windows machines.

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  1. Kevin S
    June 12, 2013 at 3:45 am

    I Secon Clonezilla, works pretty well for me when I need to push out several PC's. Also another thing to mention for schools like in your case is Restore on reboot type of software so where students or users can do what ever they like but the computer reverts back to the same state each and every time when it restarts, I find that it saves me hours of work from things like reinstalling windows. Theres few programs out there but couple that I am familiar with is Windows Steady state no longer supported in Windows 7 or 8 and a program I recently found and tested called Reboot restore rx., so far its been a great replacement.

  2. susendeep dutta
    April 28, 2013 at 8:29 am

    It can be done by creating a single image and pushing them on all machines via server using PXE booting.

    It -

    Allows computers connected to a single server to boot from a single OS image without need of HDD on all PCs.

    PXE boot server is a DHCP and TFTP server

    Accelerate deployments, upgrades, and server repurposing.

    Now,it can be done for Mac by using gPXE (Etherboot).

    You can download and burn it in CD and after that boot and press C.

    Source

  3. Rajaa Chowdhury
    April 28, 2013 at 2:14 am

    Obviously the two most established IT enterprise managers are IBM Tivoli Enterprise Manager and Computer Associates Unicenter Management, however they cost millions and are used in Fortune companies and big corporates. Obviously, they are a overkill for a school environment. :)

    I found a website, where they are different modules available, which can do similar fuctions. Choose the function you want, and download the module accordingly. This may help you to have a centralised management and deployment environment. the url is http://www.manageengine.com/free-software-download.html . Click on the one you want, at it will take you the related portion of the page.

    • Rajaa Chowdhury
      April 30, 2013 at 4:48 am

      In the mentioned url click on the Desktop Management Solution hyperlink and checkout the OS Deployer solution. Will help you out a lot. More details of the product is at http://www.manageengine.com/products/os-deployer/

  4. Jan Fritsch
    April 27, 2013 at 8:18 pm

    Usually schools use either a system image (cloning) or a unattended installation. Software is than handled via the domain (windows group policy, etc.) or using other options like Puppet, Munki, post-install scripts.

    Most of these methods don't require a full time educated IT staff but one technically advanced person doing the core work (installation, adding new software/updates/patches) and a part/on demand IT staff maintaining the server(s).

  5. Oron Joffe
    April 27, 2013 at 7:31 pm

    Adding to what Bruce has already said, WSUS only deals with Windows Updates (which includes some Microsoft products in addition to Windows itself). For everything else, you need a software management system such as Group-Policies in Active Directory, SMS, ALT-Iris and many others.
    The catch is that some of those systems require VERY THOROUGH UNDERSTANDING of the systems (that's particularly true for Group Policy Objects), while others are very expensive. I'll be interested to see what answers are given by people in your situation who have found (or perhaps haven't found) a solution.
    Another partial solution is to use "frozen" systems, with products such as Deep Freeze, which allow the PC to be reset to its build state simply by restarting them. Updating these can be a real hassle, but at least you don't need to worry about the machines getting messed by by users or viruses.

  6. Bruce Epper
    April 27, 2013 at 6:01 pm

    The easiest way to handle something like this for initial setup would be to configure one machine, clone it with CloneZilla, then use CloneZilla to push out to all of the other machines (provided they are all going to be configured identically). CloneZilla is free and works for most filesystems on Mac, Windows, Linux, and the BSDs. When set up with the Server Edition, it can push out images to more than 40 machines at a time.

    After that, the routine maintenance and updates should be handled by a WSUS server internally for Windows machines if they will be connecting to the school's network.

    There are a ton of other considerations regarding the administration of the laptops (and the network as a result) including security issues, software maintenance, configuration verification, backups, etc.

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