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Taking the Pain out of Server Deployment

February 11, 2008

Summary

For most small and medium businesses, the ultimate measure of success is how rapidly the business grows. And growth in today’s environment generally necessitates a more complex IT infrastructure – which creates some challenges for SMBs with limited IT staff and budget.

Expanding needs

Managing a growing business is challenging, especially when it comes to managing the increased IT needs that result. Adding an additional server or two may help boost a business' operations if it finds itself needing to:
  • Accommodate more users: The more employees using computers, the more additional server space would help to maintain a growing workload. More servers will boost performance by adding more memory and processing power.
  • Allow sharing: An increased need to share files and resources may require a new server to enhance the sharing process.
  • Store and back up more information: As the number of computers increases, storing data and backing up files can become time-consuming and difficult to manage. Additional server(s) can lessen the load.
Servers are critical to business, when one server goes down it affects hundreds. Business needs are expanding, but headcount isn't increasing, making server provisioning and deployment a challenging process for many SMBs.

Provisioning and deployment challenges

Many IT managers cringe at the thought of deploying new servers, and for good reason – it is a complex, costly, and time-consuming process that can easily become disorganized. During the 4 hours and approximately 50 different steps it can take to manually build each server from start to finish, there is potential for a lot to go wrong. Here are a few of the more common bumps along the manual server provisioning and deployment path:
  • Inconsistencies: Any time new servers are deployed, there are checklists that include a whole host of configurations and settings that must be set and maintained. Even though each step should be perfectly replicated on additional machines, inconsistencies often occur.
  • Complex: Deployment involves a number of highly intricate steps, which are made even more complex when dealing with a heterogeneous IT environment.
  • Error prone: Using manual processes introduces a greater risk of error to each step – and there are a lot of steps involved.
  • Time draining: Provisioning and deployment require a number of tedious steps, which take days of valuable IT staff time to accomplish.
  • Tough to troubleshoot: It's virtually impossible to standardize manual server builds. So, by the 4th or 5th deployment job, the configurations may not be identical, making it difficult for another person to come in and troubleshoot later.
  • Resource draining: The involved processes can be taxing on the IT resources that are already stretched thin in many SMBs
  • Too custom: If a SMB is running five different versions of servers, when the annual budget review is done and server upgrades are deemed necessary, the custom upgrade process of assembling all necessary components for each version is painstaking.

Benefits of automation

In light of the challenges noted above, when a SMB finally decides to deploy more servers, it should seek a method that is as painless and efficient as possible. Automated migration tools can help make a complex deployment job easier. Here are some benefits of automatic deployment:
  • Creates efficiencies: Instead of having to spend up to 4 hours manually deploying a server to each machine, automatic deployment can set up to 30 machines simultaneously.
  • Easy to manage: IT staff can remotely configure server deployments from a single location. This bird's-eye view gives an easy-to-use hierarchical view of all servers, groups, and events on the network.
  • Less chance of error: Manual jobs leave too much room for error. With a manual server build, every keystroke represents potential for an improperly configured server, and ultimately, downtime. Automatic jobs eliminate such build discrepancies.
  • Saves money: Automation means that less manpower will need to be dedicated to server deployment, and less time spent means less money. By reducing the need to "touch" each server, the automation lowers support costs, often paying for itself in a single project.

Deployment solution

The Altiris (now part of Symantec) Deployment Solution makes server deployment as easy as possible. Tasks that used to take hours when performed manually can be done in minutes with the Deployment Solution. Here are some ways the Solution can benefit a SMB:
  • Saves time with zero-touch deployment
  • Flexible and powerful as it supports multiple form factors and vendors with popular SMB operating systems
  • Saves time with pre-built jobs for the latest Dell, HP, and IBM servers
  • Helps you manage virtual growth by provisioning virtual hosts and virtual machines
  • Reduces troubleshooting time with a standardized build for your servers
  • Compresses build time with pre-configuring HW and post deployment software delivery
Jobs are easily executed by simply dragging and dropping them onto one or more servers via the Altiris console (with no further involvement by the administrator). The Deployment Solution takes it from there by automatically controlling the rest of the build process, ultimately reducing build time from hours to minutes with many machines simultaneously.

Conclusion

There comes a time in every SMB when it's necessary to add, replace, and upgrade servers. Fortunately, server deployment doesn't have to be the costly and messy project that IT managers have come to dread. The Altiris Deployment Solution is an easy way to provision and deploy as many servers as needed, quickly and efficiently. It works for all organization sizes, and the user-friendly interface makes it easy to use. The Altiris Deployment Solution allows IT staff to focus on the day-to-day operations that contribute to a growing SMB.

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