Managing Software in Place of People
Places of worship face unique IT challenges, particularly when it comes to managing software licenses and assets. Getting PC applications to a church staff and its revolving-door of volunteer workers is not only time consuming and costly, but frustrating. Whether worship workers use their own laptop or work at a desktop on the church premise, software applications are cumbersome to install and managed by skeleton IT staffs. Application management can quickly become unruly and chaotic; a scenario most unbecoming a place of worship. Application streaming is a technology that has recently come to the rescue of IT departments plagued by the daily stresses of provisioning, tracking and enforcing application licenses.
Application Streaming Defined
Application Streaming is a software distribution method that streams applications like MS Office and Adobe Photoshop to an end user’s PC, just as a video is streamed from the Internet for local viewing. Software is installed and executes on the user’s computer, without the need to download, install and configure it. This self-service model of application delivery is very efficient, bringing only the functionality required by the user and saving on time and network bandwidth usage.
To the end user, streamed applications behave identically to applications that are fully-installed by conventional means, without the extra workflow required to facilitate a push install, and avoid the need to perform frequent application downloads, uninstalls or reinstalls. To the administrator, the result is reduced network congestion, reduced server load, universal application access across all networks, ensured version consistency and guaranteed license compliance.
Key IT Challenges In Worship Organizations
Today most worship organizations provide their employees with access to PC applications either by installing all applications locally on each user’s machine (manually or using a desktop management solution); or by housing all applications on a central terminal server where end users can access them across the corporate network. There are limitations to each of these approaches such as:
• Inefficient, costly “push-based” access to newly-required applications. Anytime an end user needs an application not currently installed, a call must be placed to the IT administrator, who must arrange an installation of the software.
• Inadequate application updating and patching. The increasing threat from viruses, worms, and trojans has made timely installation of application patches and updates vital. This is a difficult task with multiple applications installed on many distributed machines.
• Costly multiple version support. Each PC, when it is brought online, is installed with the then-latest version of each common desktop application. Over time, this results in different application versions installed on various PCs throughout the organization, forcing IT administrators to track version deployments and support multiple versions of dozens of applications.
• No disconnected access to terminal server applications. In order to function, terminal server solutions require that end users have access to the server that houses the application and does all processing. Hence, this solution cannot support frequently-disconnected or remote end users.
• Poor interactivity and performance. Terminal server solutions have limitations when using graphics intensive or interactive applications, as these applications can result in high network traffic and choppy performance.
Application Streaming Rises To The Occasion
By leveraging application streaming, worship organizations can overcome such challenges and significantly streamline and simplify the application management process. Application streaming is quickly becoming recognized as a cost-effective method of application deployment and management because it not only reduces costs, it frees up the IT staff to work on more critical tasks needed for the church. Using application streaming, an IT staff can, from one central location, set application availability, provisioning and versioning for each user and group in the worship organization. As a result members have instant, self-service access to desktop applications exactly when they need them, and the proper level of security and functionality.
There are a number of key benefits for both the software user and the IT administrator.
For the software user, benefits include:
• Increasing their productivity – with immediate, on-demand access to any application without IT involvement
• Lowering their maintenance requirements – since updates and patches are deployed automatically and transparently
• Increasing their flexibility – with the ability to access applications when remote or disconnected
• Getting up-and-running fast – as the user experience is identical to conventionally installed applications
• Providing instant repair of corrupted applications
• Giving end users the ability to work securely from any device and location, including their home
• Recovering from hard drive failures because end-users can acquire another system or go to another location with Internet access to begin working with the application again
• For the IT administrator, benefits include:
• Dynamic license management for ALL applications – re-harvesting idle licenses, expiring licenses, guaranteeing compliance
• Ability to pre-deploy selected applications – that are automatically updated in the background and are always current
• Accelerate application deployment – providing universal access within the network and across the Internet
• Simplify PC administration – with a single, central management control point
• Effectively track license compliance – while eliminating the threat of piracy
• Optimize software license management – with more-informed license purchase decisions and increased utilization of current software assets
• Better understand end user needs by tracking actual application usage patterns
• Creating instant access to large applications at full performance, even for remote users
• Enabling real-time tracking of each version of an application and its actual utilization
Not All “Application Streaming” Solutions Are Created Equal
A good application streaming solution will double as a software license management platform, automatically enforcing and ensuring compliance with software licenses and preventing piracy, while simultaneously maximizing the value of software assets and optimizing the purchase of future software licenses.
The streaming solution should also not interfere with the normal operation and interactivity of the applications, by insuring that they run in a native Windows environment. This guarantees full functionality and no user re-training required.
When shopping for an application solution, look for the following:
• Integrated license compliance
• License optimization tools based on actual usage
• Support for all license types, including host-based, user-based, and concurrent
• Provision expirations that will automatically uninstall and re-harvest licenses, even if the end-user system is not connected to the network.
• Internet streaming (standard HTTP) for maximum location flexibility
• Applications should operate in the native Windows environment (not isolated) for proper function and no user re-training
• Capable of streaming standard package types, like MSI, to avoid a huge repackaging effort