Microsoft Adds New Bells And Whistles To SMS 2003

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Microsoft's recently released Systems Management Server 2003 has been significantly improved on from its previous iteration, version 2.0, and enables enterprises to effectively manage their infrastructure.

Solution providers selling the software can make a decent buck on the service after the sale, including managing the remote services, rolling out the software and maintaining the organization's infrastructure.

The bells and whistles of the suite start with the advances Microsoft has made with software deployment, inventory tracking and remote troubleshooting. However, SMS' benefits do not end there,the support it has instituted for mobile users is quite impressive as well.

Assistant Technical Editor

Microsoft has made it a point to improve on mobile system management. Keeping up with mobile workforces is a daunting task, and providing a comprehensive management solution is usually complex. Plus, companies would prefer to roll out software and upgrades to their mobile users the same way they upgrade PCs in the office. With those needs in mind, Microsoft added the Advanced Client to help solve the woes of dreaded rollouts within the mobile workforce.

Microsoft's Advanced Client offers software distribution asset management and remote troubleshooting, all without requiring a designated set of local servers and services. SMS 2003 also includes a low connectivity bandwidth transfer service, called Background Intelligent Transfer Services, for low-bandwidth or dial-up services.

Besides the advances in mobile management, the suite really shines when it comes to software asset tracking. With companies pinching every penny possible to keep costs down and employment steady, it would be productive for companies to keep track of monitoring what is installed on each machine, as well as how much the installed applications are being used. If an application is not being used, why pay a licensing fee for it? Why let it hog up space and resources? CRN engineers cannot emphasize this point enough.

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Using SMS 2003, IT administrators can measure the licensing aspect of software within an organization and quickly identify redundant applications on a machine, thus saving money on licensing costs, rollouts and even hard-drive space. For example, if a particular machine has been upgraded remotely several times with the same application, that particular piece of software then becomes a resource hog, eating up hard-drive space and possibly CPU and memory resources. Metering the software usage means patches, service packs and upgrades can be applied as needed, which could increase productivity in the work environment. Increased productivity minimizes downtime for employees, and IT costs decrease if IT does not have to act on so many service calls per year.

For example, Company X claims that a phone call to the help desk costs around $40 per call. This includes the reduced productivity of the worker placing the call and the help-desk worker. Multiply that by the number of employees, say 5,000, and multiply that by the number of calls per person per year, which we'll set at two. The company therefore spends a minimum of $400,000 a year. This is just one example of how SMS 2003 can save companies a tremendous amount of money due to its broad functionality and use.

Continuing with the software and rollout theme, SMS 2003 incorporates a patch distribution wizard, which can automatically download patches from the Microsoft Web site, again reducing IT administration costs. One feature that CRN engineers found clever was the fact that during patch or software downloads, the package stays in cache in the client machine until the prescheduled install time. The administrator doesn't have to use this option, however, and can elect to have clients download from a distribution point.

Microsoft claims the product has a life of five to seven years. Estimated retail pricing for SMS 2003 with 10-device client access licenses is $1,219, but there are several tiers for volume licensing. With SMS 2003, customers no longer need to acquire separate systems server licenses for Systems Management Server secondary site servers.

SMS 2003 delivers the proper tools to enterprises to deploy software to clients on a network. Implementing the software will reduce IT costs of managing users and machines and will provide seamless one-to-many solutions for desktop, laptop and server users.

PRICE: $1,219 for 10-device client access licenses
DISTRIBUTORS: Direct from vendor

CHANNEL OVERVIEW: Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft provides a broad range of support, training and general assistance for solution providers. Microsoft offers hands-on training, road shows, seminars and online courses at minimal cost. Volume rebates, demos and sales resources are available in Microsoft's tiered channel program, and a variety of training courses, forums and other technical resources are available online.

Note: Vendors can earn up to five stars for technical merit and five for their channel program. If the average of these two scores is four stars or greater, the product earns CRN Test Center Recommended status.

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