Aside from a few other species, one of the defining characteristics of human behavior is the
use of tools. And having the right tools has been one of the greatest determining factors in regards to success, regardless of the era or discipline in question.
This has become exceedingly evident ever since the industrial revolution, which magnified the tenet that those with the most power will have the best tools. At the same time, the inverse is also true – those with the best tools will have the most power, and for the actual users of those tools, a better shot at success. And nowhere does this ring more true than in the tech sector, whose entire focus is on developing and maintaining the best tools for success.
As a sysadmin, I have many tools (hardware and software) for different aspects of my job. Some are very specific in focus (screwdriver, USB drive formatting tool), while others have many uses (Swiss army knife, modern OSes). And while these tools can often be pressed into atypical uses (a screwdriver can also serve as a hammer or a knife), they generally produce substandard results in comparison to tools designed for those jobs. Typically, this is done more out of necessity – “I don’t have the right tool for this task… but, I can make due with this other tool or cobble together a tool that will make due”, at the expense of time and more effort. Ingenious – yes; efficient – no.
OK, so this is all probably very obvious and common sense. But one thing I’ve found to ring true countless times over the years is that efficiency in processes (i.e. having the right tools) is the key to success. Often determining that a better tool is needed involves a discovery process, where (after countless repetitions of a task) inefficiencies are found. And if it is determined that the screwdriver is truly being used like a hammer, it’s time to step back and focus on why and how to refine the process (to save more time and effort).
In regards to managing systems, there are basic high-level tasks necessary to maintain operations: recording configurations (inventory), tracking changes (auditing), securing systems (patching), updating software (deployment), maintaining uniformity (machine policies), addressing issues (service desk), documenting solutions (knowledgebase), determining trends (reporting). Just as there is “more than one way to skin a cat”, there are countless options for addressing these needs.
However, there are three major considerations when researching the best tool(s) for the job – these are maintenance, data availability and flexibility. For example, if inventory and patching are handled by separate systems, not only will correlating data between the two require time to export results (typically into a spreadsheet or common database) and scrubbing records, more time will be required to maintain both systems. And if these each use their own agent applications, the maintenance effort will be multiplied across all of the systems running those agents. Widen the scope to include all of the basic high-level tasks, and it should become readily apparent how much time is wasted by deploying standalone management systems.
In an ideal world, everything works, is compatible and standardized – but in practice there are always exceptions and proprietary methods. This is where flexibility comes into play, that is to say, being able to customize solutions to fit the nuances of an environment.
Humans, being the free-willed creatures that we are, will almost always find multiple solutions to complex problems, and nowhere is this more evident than in application development. Supporting the vast array of software that ends up on systems, with all of their different installation, updating and usage methods, requires a high degree of flexibility – both on the part of the sysadmin and the management solution.
So where is this all leading? After many years of many tools to address many challenges, I have not found a more comprehensive and effective, time and effort-saving solution to sysadmin tasks than the Dell KACE K1000 and K2000 appliances. Both address the challenges described earlier more effectively than any other tool I’ve ever seen or used, and the depth of customization possibilities to address issues and provide solutions is truly astonishing. For anyone who is currently dealing with the problems inherent in their current standalone or inflexible comprehensive management solutions, I would strongly suggest looking into these appliances further and either demoing them or speaking with a Dell KACE representative who can review your current processes and help you realize how much time and effort you have had wasted.
Guest Author: John Verbosky
About: John Verbosky has worn many hats in IT over the past 13 years, is a frequent contributor of KACE appliance-related solutions on ITNinja.com, and currently works as Helpdesk Coordinator at Resco Products, Inc. In his spare time, he enjoys playing guitar, studying Japanese, raising fresh & saltwater creatures, working in the yard, and spending time with his wife and two kids.
Photo by: Peter Alexanderson