LANDesk wins client management shootout

LANDesk comes out on top with balance of strong traditional tools, new features, and diverse client support

In this Network World Clear Choice Test of client management product we review products for a myriad of traditional desktop management capabilities such as asset inventory, client configuration and software distribution and metering. We also tested new client security management capabilities. Among the six vendors participating - Aagon, Kace, LANDesk, Novell, ScriptLogic and Symantec, LANDesk came out on top due to its strength across the board in these areas.

In an age where every worker in your force has at least one client machine at his disposal at all times, it's an IT imperative to apply the same management standards to these varied, distributed machines as you would to your server and network components in order to keep them operational to a five-nines level.

The ideal client manager is a multi-faceted set of tools that automates client administration responsibilities across a broad range of client types. Longtime standard components of this toolbox include operating system and application version control features such as operating system image distribution, operating system configuration and recovery, remote application installation and patch management. This combined set of functions helps administrators automate these time-consuming and error-prone administrative tasks. Likewise, automated asset inventory and management tools as well as license metering software can help with new compliance regulations. Remote control access to client machines, for either repair or for training purposes, can save a significant amount of support time and travel expenses. Backup and recovery of desktop files can save scads of user and administration time.

How we tested the client management products

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Some of the new tricks offered by client management wares since we last tested comprise links to antimalware tools and vulnerability analysis engines and the abilities to manage mobile devices, detect USB port usage to alert administrators to the users who bring "memory sticks" into the office, provide both network access control and some host-based intrusion detection.

In this test of client management tools, while we invited more almost 20 vendors to join in, six agreed to stand up and be judged in our lab: Kace with its two complementary appliances, the KBox 1200 and KBox 2100; LANDesk with its LANDesk Management Suite 8.8; Novell with its ZENworks 10.0, and Symantec submitted its Total Management Suite 6.5 and Security Expressions 4.0, along with a copy of the Endpoint Protection 11.0 antimalware tool. From ScriptLogic, we downloaded its Desktop Authority 7.7 and from Aagon's site we downloaded ACMP 3.3. The other vendors we invited (AdventNet, Attachmate, BMC, CA, Centennial Software, Configuresoft, HP, IBM, Microsoft, NetSupport, New Boundary, Solarwinds and Touchpaper) declined to participate for a variety of reasons. Some were between versions, while others didn't want to compete because their products didn't offer features in each and every category we wanted to test.

In scoring these products for this test, we gave heavy weighting to the old standbys of desktop management: License tracking, asset inventory and operating system, application and patch distribution. These processes have been around long enough for us to press vendors for both a high level of accuracy and manageability. We also gave our standard weighting to administrative ease of use, installation processes and documentation as all are paramount to getting these products up and running in the first place. We separated out the client security features (including antimalware tool integration, vulnerability threat tool ties, host intrusion-prevention system and network access control capabilities) from the final other features category (which takes into account virtual machine management, remote control capabilities, mobile device management, USB device management and backup and recovery) because of the specialized nature of the former group.

LANDesk Management Suite's rather comprehensive framework of desktop functions and supported client platforms earned the vendor our Clear Choice award. However, while LANDesk Management Suite bested the competition in this test, the winning margin was not overwhelming..Each has its strengths and its supported client platforms and warrant a very close look based on your specific requirements.

If a simple-to-install appliance appeals to you, if your clients are mainly Windows-based and if you're primarily interested in asset management and license tracking, then the Kace units may be in your future. If you want a desktop manager that integrates with Symantec's Endpoint Protection desktop-based antimalware tool (and is likely to integrate even more tightly in the future), that vendor's Total Management Suite is a good choice. Novell's ZenWorks' remote control, application deployment and asset inventory features make it a good, all-round desktop manager. Aagon's ACMP is very good at asset inventory and management, and ScriptLogic's Desktop Authority excels at deploying and configuring applications 

 Learn more about Client Management products from our Client Management Buyer's Guide

Nance runs Network Testing Labs and is the author of Introduction to Networking, 4th Edition and Client/Server LAN Programming. His e-mail address is

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