Hey all,

Long time reader, first time poster.

I'm trying to talk to some other people that have setup laptop infrastructure for their company. It's recently been deemed by the business that they want a much more robust laptop solution and so I am beginning to come up with how we are going to do it. The goal is to have laptops that function similar to our desktop (I'll explain what I mean in a moment).

We'll have roughly three scenarios for how our laptops will be used:

On network, locally - the laptop is plugged into the network at one of our offices/locations.
On network, remotely - this would be a laptop connected via VPN
Off network - either no internet access, or internet with VPN

Let me describe our application deployment methodology up to this point. We're using Package Studio to make silent installs for everything - we don't do manual installs. We use SMS 2003 for our "large" software pushes...such as Adobe Flash/Reader, Office, Service Packs, etc. We deploy the "big stuff" that has to be on all computers via SMS. I'm not worried about these things on our laptops - SMS will be on them and they'll get updates when they are on the network. No biggie. Oh, we also have a Citrix farm but we don't necessarily want to put all laptop applications on Citrix as that leaves the laptop dependent on at least an internet connection. These things have to operate (at least a little bit....) while being offline.

What I am curious about (and this is why I'm posting here, I want to see if anyone else has insightful feedback on a similar situation to ours) is our other auto installs. We are a pretty large diverse company. We have about 300 pieces of software that are all auto installs. Here is how they work:

Our users use a tool (wrote in house) to launch their applications. They launch this tool and it presents them with a list of applications they can launch based on their group membership. They can then double click the item in a list, or hit a button (or what have you) and this launches a small Winbatch script.

The Winbatch runs and first checks the install state of the application. It does this by comparing a small file located in the source directory for the software - it will compare the small file (a text file containing the version number and date the software was put on the network) that is located in the source directory with the copy of that file located on the users hard drive. If the files match, the Winbatch launches the software. If the files do not match it will run the install/configuration for the software and then run the software.

We do this due to the nature of the way people work around here. Some of our apps are only used by 5 or 10 people, and those people roam all over the place so we need that "on demand" capability. We can't pre-deploy this software to a set group of workstations as we never know where they will be.

So anyway, that's our environment as it stands now. Have any of you had anything similar to what I describe?

Now I need to come up with something for laptops. I'm not sold on our existing method of doing things - I think it was neat at one point in time but I know there are better ways to do it. We are not opposed to completely changing how we get software to our users to make laptops and desktops match. The problem we have now is that our desktops are VERY dependent on their network connection - they need access to the Winbatch scripts that install/run the software.

If we put the Winbatch scripts local on the laptop, they STILL need network access, as they check the install status by comparing a text file on the network. So if, say, a laptop installed a piece of software while on network, and then they were in an airport somewhere, the Winbatch script would try installing the software as the file compare would fail. Not good.

What are you doing in your company to get software on to laptops? We know that not all of our software will be going to our laptops...it will be a small subset of our applications that will/can be used remotely.

I'm really curious to see how other professionals handle software deployment to laptops in the situations/scenarios I've described:

On network
On network via vpn
Off network

I really appreciate you taking the time to read this and really, really look forward to hearing any feedback. Heck, even if you could give me some pointers as to what I should be Googling would help :)
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Here is how we have done it:

On network = SMS like normal.
On network via vpn = SMS as well, just have to set the advertisements to not expire or longer time frames as the laptops only check in ever so often
Off network = CD upgrades. I know, it's not sexy or cool, but the users are used to doing it. We send out updates quarterly to them.

As for a better solution for the off network ones, I would probably implement a desktop client that checks in periodically with a web service for updates. If there are any then it grabs them from an FTP site. That is the better solution, but it means development plus hosting your updates outside the companies internal network. Shouldn't be much of a security concern if using FTP or ftps though.
Answered 08/14/2007 by: yarborg
Blue Belt

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Interesting idea.

Thanks for the feedback - I'm just trying to gather any information that I can at this point to try and brainstorm what I should do.
Answered 08/14/2007 by: JDostal
Yellow Belt

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