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Installing applications in a corporate environment can be
quite an endeavor. Running from PC to PC with software in hand is an option, albeit
not a good one. Using applications like Microsoft Operations Manager or Systems
Management Server to handle deploying the application is also effective, but
extremely expensive to implement. Group Policy could get the job done, but can
be occasionally unpredictable and can increase logon times and other things for
your users. There’s a more effective weapon you can use in your application
deployment arsenal: Here’s how you can deploy applications from a central point
using GFI LANguard Network Security Scanner (LNSS).

Author’s note

LNSS contains many features beyond software deployment,
including: security scanning, port scanning, missing MS patch detection, and a
few other bells and whistles. These features are great and work very well, but
are beyond the scope of this article. For more information on additional
features, see GFI’s
Website
.

Deploying applications

Start LNSS, which can be downloaded as a 30 day
trial
, and navigate down the left pane to Tools section, shown in Figure A.

Figure A

Tools available within LNSS.

Within Tools, select Deploy Custom Software. This will
change the screen in the right pane of LNSS and prepare you for software
deployment of almost any application.

Figure B shows
the top portion of the software deployment panel. In this section, add the
applications you plan to deploy. Acceptable file types are batch files,
executables, MSI installer files, or almost any other file; some applications will
not be deployable and still require a CD installation.

Figure B

Add applications to deploy here.

When adding applications, you will be presented with a
dialog allowing you to select the applications to deploy and specify
parameters. Many applications you might deploy will not need any parameters;
however, the /s:all switch works well (in some cases) in keeping
the entire installation silent to the user. Figure C shows the Add Custom Software dialog.

Figure C

Select the application and its parameters.

Once you have selected the application to deploy and
specified any desired parameters, press Add to add this application to the
deploy list.

The next step in deploying an application is to tell LNSS
where to put the software. In the lower half of the custom deployment screen,
you can list any PCs on your network that you wish to deploy the applications
listed in the top section on. Figure D
shows the PC list portion of the screen.

Figure D

The computers for this deployment will be listed here.

You can add computers by NetBIOS name or by IP address by pressing
Add. This allows you to quickly enter the PC you are targeting, as shown in Figure E.

Figure E

Add PCs by name or IP address.

Other methods of adding computers to the deploy targets list
are to press Select and browse the network for the PC you want, or to create a
text file listing the PC names (one per line) that you wish to use for
deployment. Figures F and G show the Network Browse and Import
dialogs, respectively.

Figure F

Select a computer on your network to target for deployment.

Figure G

Select a file containing a list of PCs.

When you import from a text file, the PC list portion of the
screen will be populated with the names of the computers in the list. Figure H shows the PCs listed as they
will appear when imported into LNSS.

Figure H

An imported list of PCs.

You will also notice the warning listed when PCs are added. This
is to let you know that these PCs were added directly to the deployment console.
Usually, it is recommended that you scan your network for missing patches or
updates and deploy applications after that process completes. This is only a
warning message and will not prevent deployment. When using a list of computers
and importing it for deployments, please remember to list one PC per line.

Deployment settings

By default, the LNSS deployment interface shows the Options
pane on the right side of the window, which is similar to the Microsoft Office
task pane. To turn it off, press Options. (You can press Options again to
restore the pane.)

The options available for deployment are as follows:

Before deployment

  • Warn User
    Before Deployment:
    Displays a pop up dialog letting the user know a
    deployment is coming when checked.
  • Wait For Approval: Suspends the deployment until the user of
    the target computer has OK’d it.
  • Stop Services
    Before Deployment:
    Allows you to select a list of services that should be
    stopped prior to deployment.

Note: If the deployment is scheduled for a time when
there are no users logged on, you do not need to warn the user. The deployment
will happen as needed. Typically, scheduling deployments after hours or on
weekends makes this process even easier.

Target computers

Copy software to deploy to target computers via:

  • Administrative
    Shares:
    Uses a hidden administrative share for storage of deployed items
    (recommended).
  • Custom
    Share:
    Use this option if you want to create a custom share for deploying
    applications. The share must exist prior to use on each computer targeted for
    deployment.

After deployment

  • Do Not
    Reboot/Shutdown The Target Computers:
    Does not cause the PC to reboot
    following deployment.
  • Reboot The
    Target Computer:
    Restarts the computer at completion of deployment.
  • Let The User Decide When To Reboot:
    Allows the user to choose the reboot time.
  • Shutdown The Computer: Turns off the target computer(s) after
    deployment.
  • Delete Copied
    Files From Remote Computer(s) After Deployment:
    Cleans up files copied for
    this deployment.

The Computer Filters button on the General Options page
works only if you have scanned the network for the computers you are targeting
for deployment. It allows you to select to perform the deployment only on the
selected OSs. Figure
I
shows the general tab of the Options pane.

Figure I

General Options for LNSS deployments.

The other tab on the Options page is the Advanced
tab. Here, you can specify an administrator account within your domain to
perform the deployments, as well as specify the number of seconds the
deployment should wait before displaying a timeout message. You can also
specify the number of threads to use for the deployment.

The time out setting is used to display a message on the PC
or server where the LNSS console is running, and its default is 600 seconds. When
a message is displayed about a timeout, it does not mean the deployment failed,
it just means that communication between the remote PC and the console has
timed out. The Advanced Options tab is shown in Figure J.

Figure J

Advanced options for deployment.

The last LNSS deployment feature is the Scheduling pane,
found at the bottom of the screen. The options available for scheduling are as
follows:

  • Deploy Immediately:
    Run this deployment as soon as the start button is clicked.
  • Deploy On:
    Set a date and time for the deployment to run.

If you select Deploy Immediately and press Start, the
deployment is pushed out and executed on all specified targets at that time. You
can also set deployments to happen after-hours, allowing the PCs to be
restarted by the deployment; this works well if you need to deploy Windows
updates or hot fixes.

When you have set the scheduling preferences, press Start to
run or activate the schedule for your deployment.

Pressing Reset will reset the entire deployment interface,
not just the scheduling portion. Scheduling is shown below in Figure K.

Figure K

Schedule your deployment for now or later.

Save time with LANguard

Deploying applications in a small- or medium-sized business
no longer requires the use of a CD-ROM and a good pair
of running shoes; nor does it require huge resources like SMS or MOM to handle
the task. GFI LNSS can meet the needs of your organization at an affordable
price.