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Affordable IT: Desktop Management Suites

The phrase unmanaged desktops can instill fear in an IT manager. Faster software deployment, simplified patch management, regular hardware inventory updates, software-license monitoring and locked-down security settings are all benefits gained from desktop-management suites. But do these products blow IT budgets out of the water or are they too difficult to set up and maintain? Fortunately, there's a wide range of lower-cost but fully functional desktop-management suites for the small-to-midsize enterprise.


We tested desktop-management suites intended for 10,000 nodes and more last year (see "Winning the Desktop Rodeo"). Many of the reasons for using a desktop-management system hold true for small shops as well as large: For starters, you could save $1,605 per desktop over four years with a well-managed system compared with an unmanaged Windows XP system, according to a Gartner study. This time around we reviewed desktop-management products intended for smaller organizations. Our fictitious company, Last Spike Enterprises, the largest manufacturer, reseller and distributor of model railroad vegetation and livestock figurines, is a midsize business with 1,000 desktops and a budget of $30,000.

Desktop Management Suite Features

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We invited 17 vendors, including all participants in our enterprise desktop-management review, to send their offerings to our Syracuse University Real-World Labs®. We wanted to be able to perform inventory scanning, software distribution, software-license monitoring and patch management for $30,000 or less. We required support for Windows 2000 and XP clients. We didn't consider outsourced or hosted solutions.

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