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Application management dos and don'ts

Too often, IT managers can't get their hands on enough information to prevent application meltdowns. Master the subtleties of application management with these tips.

Too few administrators know the difference between metering, monitoring or managing your applications, according to Tyler Smith of Lindon, Utah-based systems management software vendor Altiris, Inc. As a result, finding points of failure or performance loss in applications can be difficult.

Smith, Altiris' marketing vice president, offered these tips to help administrators read the figurative fine print in application management.

Don't confuse application metering with application management. "Application management allows the scheduling of regular application health checkups or compares user machines against a default or baseline," Smith said. Advanced application management allows IT administrators to proactively monitor systems, schedule off-hour health checks, and access reports that help identify and resolve problems before they decrease productivity. On the other hand, "application metering detects what programs users are running and can prevent the running of unauthorized or unlicensed applications," said Smith.

Do enhance Microsoft Windows Installer (MSI) with application management add-on software, Smith said. Software capable of self-healing allows an application to go a predetermined directory to reinstall features or files that have been deleted or corrupted. Application management add-ons are capable of performing deeper file and registry scans than MSI by itself. "These add-ons can provide compliance scanning for non-MSI files and registry values, schedule regular application health check-ups and automatically restore missing or changed files," he said. Add-ons can also provide application state data collection and reporting through to a centralized infrastructure like Systems Management Server (SMS).

Don't waste significant IT resources on resolving application conflicts. "There are simple ways to set standard or baseline application configurations that detect and repair clients with non-standard configurations before they cause a problem," advised Smith.

Do centralize an application's source path to a single location on the network or on an application/package server. "Centralizing minimizes the number of source paths to a single source. That reduces the necessary amount of application maintenance and management required by the administrator," said Smith.

Centralizing the source path is critical in moving to the next level of application management. "IT administrators maintain tighter control of application versions if all machines are pointed to one source," he said. The IT administrator would have to make a trip to a problem machine with a CD and initiate the self-repair if MSI is used alone. "Centralizing a source path with an application management program will direct problem machines to the source path to automatically initiate the self-repair," said Smith.

Finally, do be proactive. Don't be reactive, Smith said. Set policies to:

*Run a registry value check

*Check the health of Windows and non-Windows applications

*Alert the administrator when specified events occur

*Generate Web-based reports that can direct you to a problem


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