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How should I manage 8 computers for a small business? Answered

My father's store has eight computers at the moment and management has been a bit, well, annoying. (I'm his IT guy at this point.) When the store only had 3 computer, managing them was as simple as scheduling defrags and virus scans, periodically fixing hardware issues and network problems, and reinstalling XP every few years. They had LogMeIn, which was nice, and helped get the computers back and running quickly. A few years later wiith eight computers, though, It's just too much. The biggest problem I'm facing now is the lack of automation among the different computers software-wise, especially when downloading new software. When installing AVG, I have to do it eight times. Updating LogMeIn? EIGHT FRIGGIN TIMES!

I noticed that my entire town's school system's computer' system's IT people's method to manage their thousands of computers was a great approach, (don't mind the apostrophe's,) and I hope to try to apply similar management methods to the store. The thing that I'd really like to do is to have all of the computers, essentially,  be identical. This means, for example, that all user accounts work on all computers, and the hard drives' contents would be identical, other than specific drivers for the different computers.

So, where do I start? (I wouldn't mind doing some light programing for that, or, em, scripting would be the term, actually.) I assume I need a server of some sort, probably a logon/PXE/FTP windows server, right? Or would it be simpler if I do the whole thing using Linux? Do I need a specialty program? Should an actual IT guy be hired at this point? Please help.



Best Answer 7 years ago

In my opinion you need to setup a centralized server to download / store / deploy applications and updates. If you use a windows server and setup a domain you will be able to manage user accounts via active directory. Once you have the domain / AD structure setup you can create policies to create roaming user profiles like you wanted.

The same things can be performed with virtually any current operating system. Setting this up in Linux may be more time consuming than the same operations in a Windows environment. The amount of time spent really boils down to how proficient you are with Linux (or windows for that matter).

Hope this helps, good luck.

Thanks; I think I'll try this.


7 years ago

If all your computers were identical, hardware wise this would be really simple. I set up school labs this way. All you do is set up the first PC then clone it for every other one that you need. When you install the clones you have to not plug in the network cable at first. Simply rename the computer so its unique then connect it to the network and your done. Each one will be identical and each one will have a unique network address. But like I said this only works for identical machines. If the boards are different then they will have to install all the drivers for those components. For doing a computer lab this works great. On master harddrive with a USB plug and a cloning CD and you just go down the line. It only takes a few minutes for each one.

Really, what you want is remote deployment/management software - you set up one machine and 'record' what happens, then setup of the remainder is as simple as running a script on a usb drive or network share.

There are a LOT of commercial products available that perform these tasks, depends on what you want.

Software install/update/deploy automators
Backup config, etc.

The information is a little dated now, but you should check out this article. At my job we use Xsan, but with a bunch of PCs, and the cost of apple products, I doubt that is a good solution for you. Another option- you could hire a teenager/college kid to update your computers. You guys would be really helping each other out in the long run.  There is also some open source stuff out there if you care to investigate.  Good luck!