ZOHO Corp. (formerly AdventNet), the publishers of ManageEngine Desktop Central, sponsors two licenses of its Windows client management solution’s Professional Edition. The winner will get licenses for 100 computers (worth $995) and the runner 50 (worth $545). If you want to take part in this contest, you just have to send an email to:
with the subject line ManageEngine Desktop Central. Please, add your name and the name of your organization. The deadline is July 12, 2009.
It would be great if you also answer this question:
What type of reports should a client management tool have?
I should mention that there also is a free version that you can download without registering. Its main limitation is that it only supports up to 10 computers. There also is a Standard Edition which lacks some of the features. This article is about the Professional Edition. Please check out the comparison table to learn about the differences between the Standard and the Professional Edition.
Note that ZOHO Corp. offers a product called Desktop Central Free Windows Tools, which was added to the 4sysops list of free admin tools a while back. Even though the name sounds similar, it is a completely different utility. So don’t confuse it with the tool discussed here, ManageEngine Desktop Central, which is a much more sophisticated client management solution. The following only refers to “Desktop Central.”
Installing Desktop Central takes just a matter of minutes. You can install it on a desktop machine (Windows 2000 or higher) or on a server. I recommend the latter, especially if multiple administrators are supposed to use the tool. There are no special requirements. The tool supports Active Directory, but it can also be used in a workgroup environment.
You must install agents on the machines you want to manage. Some of Desktop Central’s features would not be possible without agents and deploying them is fairly easy. You only have to select the domain or Active Directory containers and let Desktop Central do the rest. Desktop Central comes with a script that you can execute on client computers to adjust the desktop firewall settings.
If a computer is not online while you trying to install the agent, Desktop Central will mark the machine accordingly. You can retry deployment on those machines with just a mouse click. Once the agent is installed, Desktop Central will always be aware of which computers are offline and perform remaining tasks as soon as the computer starts up or a user logs on.
Destkop Central is managed through an easy-to-use Web interface. I skimmed over the manual, but I only needed it once during my tests. This is astonishing as the tool’s capabilities are quite comprehensive. It has the following features: Software Deployment, Patch Management, Service Pack Installation, Asset Management, Software Inventory, Configurations, Security Policies, Remote Control, Windows Tools, Active Directory Reports, and User Logon Report.
I will discuss these features in the next two articles. Today, I just want to outline the concept behind Desktop Central because it differs slightly from other system management solutions. Essentially, all tasks you perform with Desktop Central are Configurations. A Configuration is a certain desired state of the targeted desktops. It can be a program you want to deploy or a specific desktop setting, like a firewall configuration. As different as these tasks may seem, they are handled the same way with Desktop Central. This makes the tool quite effective since you only have to learn one user interface to manage all aspects of your client computers.
There is another important difference compared to most other desktop management solutions. It is how the targets for a specific Configuration are defined. Many systems management tools use collections, that is, computer groups with certain properties, such as an OS version or specific hardware configuration, to target machines. Desktop Central does not work that way. Instead, targets are mostly based on Active Directory objects: sites, domains, organizational units, user groups, and specific users. In particular the possibility to target users instead of computers is an interesting option. This allows you to deploy a certain program or special security settings whenever a specific user logs on to a new machine.
But perhaps you don’t want Office to be installed when the user logs on to a Terminal Server. For this, Desktop Central allows you to define exclusions. The properties that can be used for exclusions are more specific than those for targets. For instance, you can exclude IP address ranges, operating system versions, and machine types (servers, desktops, notebooks, etc.)
In my next article I will discuss Desktop Central’s client configuration features.
Update: Check out the new features of ManageEngine Desktop Central 7