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Back in April, we reviewed PDQ Inventory and found it to be very easy to use and packed with a fountain of features. Today, we are going to dig deep into PDQ Deploy, the sister product to PDQ Inventory and see how it stands up.
Any organization running Active Directory has native access to Group Policy Software Installation (GPSI). As a basic feature, GPSI supports rudimentary scheduling by installing applications on startup or login. While great, GPSI is limited to MSI and ZAP files. GPSI also suffers drawbacks with chained installations. Because of this, most organizations need something a little more robust in terms of enterprise management. PDQ Deploy can provide these additional features. However, only the new beta of version 2.2.1 supports chained installations (only available in the pro version).
Free vs. Pro ^
First, PDQ Deploy comes in two versions. The free version allows for full unfettered application deployment of MSIs, EXEs, Scripts, etc. These files can be core applications or upgrades/patches. As expected, it also integrates with PDQ Inventory and with the free packages in the Package Library.
The Pro Mode version allows for scheduled deployments, multistep deployments, and reporting. It also allows for advance filters, an increase in customization, and wake-on-LAN features. It also has unfettered access to the Package Library.
Like PDQ Inventory, installation is very simple due to little more than an install location being required. After the installation completes, you do have to complete a short wizard and make a choice between the Free and Pro mode versions. Because most people will likely try out the free version first, I chose to use the Free mode.
PDQ Deploy does require a dedicated administrator user for installations. This user must be an administrator of any target machine and of the PDQ Deploy machine. PDQ Deploy does allow you to use multiple credentials though. This is especially useful for environments with tightly regulated permissions or in non-AD environments. Although I didn’t use this in my testing, service accounts can also be used.
Application deployment ^
Once the initialization completes, we are taken to a welcome page and what would appear to be an order of steps to try.
The PDQ Deploy Welcome Screen
I started with the “Download ready-to-deploy packages from the Package Library” and was impressed by the sheer number of packages that are ready to deploy. Scrolling through, Admin Arsenal already has every major plugin, Service Packs, Uninstall packages for common bloat ware, and many third party programs preconfigured. However, most of these packages require either PDQ Deploy Pro or a Basic subscription. A few packages are available for the free mode (including Adobe Flash).
The Package Library (which currently has 86 premade packages).
As a test, I checked Adobe Flash and downloaded it. After a few minutes, it was added to my Packages and could be deployed.
Deploy Adobe Flash
A downside of PDQ Deploy is that it can only deploy to online computers. However, the pro version supports Wake-on-LAN (WOL). You can pull a list of computers from a variety of locations. These include Active Directory, PDQ Inventory, and Spiceworks. The inclusion of Spiceworks really surprised me and is a nice bonus that is also available in the free version. If needed, you can also import a list of computers from a text file.
Target selection in PDQ Deploy
Final thoughts ^
Over all, PDQ Deploy would be a nice addition to a small or medium organization without an existing application deployment method. If Admin Arsenal included basic scheduling (such as installation on restart) into the free version, then organizations with investments in GPSI or startup scripts would be likely to use the free tool. Because the free version limits you to deployments to live computers, medium size or larger environments would find this crippling and would need to purchase the Pro mode.
The integration with PDQ Inventory and Spiceworks prevents duplication of work and the ability to deploy EXEs, Scripts, and MSIs allows for the deployment of nearly anything. When paired with PDQ Inventory, it does a good job of completing an IT administrator tool belt.