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).
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.
Start LNSS, which can be downloaded as a 30 day trial, and navigate down the left pane to Tools section, shown in 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.
|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.
|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.
|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.
|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.
|Select a computer on your network to target for deployment.|
|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.
|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.
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:
- 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.
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.
- 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.
|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.
|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.
|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.
Derek Schauland has been tinkering with Windows systems since 1997. He has supported Windows NT 4, worked phone support for an ISP, and is currently the IT Manager for a manufacturing company in Wisconsin.