What is our primary use case?
With KACE Systems Management, we can deploy this specialized software for students and teachers in separate computer rooms. In the beginning, we used a master PC. We edited one PC with all the usable software, then enrolled this master PC at the beginning of the semester. However, a big problem was when (in the middle of the semester) one of the teachers told us, "We needed another software," or, "We need updates." We did not have the possibility to go into the computer rooms during our work time. We had to do it at night and on the weekends. That was a big problem for us, so we looked for a solution to this problem. So, we installed the specialized software for the students and teachers in a short amount of time.
During the first years, we used the hardware/server from Dell in our environment. We then switched to the virtual appliance, which we use now in our network for one of my university's faculties.
It is a private cloud because we can't use a third-party cloud due to data protections for our university researchers.
How has it helped my organization?
There is a course for students where they learn to build buildings. They have to buy parts for the buildings: stones, wood, etc. The updates for the software come inside one semester, and we have two semesters in one year. Inside of a semester, there will be a very important update for the teacher. So, in April and October, we have to update this software during the semester. We get the new software and install it on one of our test PCs, then we create an executable file and ZIP file with all the configurations for our environment. Then, we distribute it with KACE Systems Management.
With the information from KACE Systems Management, I am able to make a report. For example, in the next 30 days, if the pro support is running out, it is very important to see that because I can then extend the pro support for our hardware. In another example, the reports allow us to see if older software is not working after an update, which is also interesting and important for us.
The scripting part increases IT productivity because of the specialized software in our environments for students' courses. You need to use software which is not programmed by developers. A lot of software for building houses or other things is developed by normal guys, who do not have much skill in programming. When you need to install this type of software, it is very difficult. You have to install registry keys, etc. For that, it is very good to use the scripting part of this solution. So, you can automate this part as well.
What is most valuable?
- The security part with updates
- Patch management, because we can update all the standards and software in our environment.
- Asset management with license compliance
- The overview with all the Dell EMC-specialized information.
We use only Dell EMC hardware in our environment. Therefore, it is good for us to use a system which can read information from hardware.
It has a single interface for us to be able to see everything that we might need for the endpoint management of devices, which is absolutely important. We also use the single sign-on service. Of course, we have other systems in our environment which we use for DHCP servers and to manage other things, but for this kind of information, it is very good for us that there is only one system that I have to use; where I can see everything I need for asset management and license compliances as well as for the monitoring of the system, e.g., which system is active and which system maybe was not there in the last two or three days or weeks.
The asset management and license compliances are very important and good for us to see which software is over-licensed or under-licensed.
I use their patch management to look at the security of our systems. Because of the research programs and the researchers who use these software systems and the computer, that is all secured for intrusion detections or interventions from criminals. So, it is very important for us that the patch management is working 100 percent.
What needs improvement?
It is a little bit difficult to use the license compliances because you need to decide when you are using the software catalog if you are using it with their license compliance or the normal software part. Under the inventory, you can use software as a menu link or software catalog. Most of my specialist software is not in the software catalog. When I try to import them, in my license compliances overview, there are cryptic names for this software that I have to import. That is not very good for the reports that I use. When I take them to my bosses, they see cryptic names of software that they don't understand. It would be much better for me if I could use software and the software catalog as well for the license compliances.
If it could be possible to use GUI to create reports, where I could drag and drop like in Microsoft Access where you can create reports, e.g., when you take columns from tables from the drag and drop menu, then you can slide it down in another area and sort columns or create new columns. This would be nice to see in the graphical user interface as well as be much more developed for the reporting part than it is at the moment.
For how long have I used the solution?
It has been at least 10 years. We started with the physical appliance from Dell.
What do I think about the stability of the solution?
It is a very stable system. In the last 10 years, there has been only one breach to the system. That was very quickly closed with the help of the technical support. I can't remember another problem with the system where it went down.
What do I think about the scalability of the solution?
We can buy new licenses for clients. There is no problem to import these new clients into the environment, which is pretty nice.
We are using SMA at its full potential at the moment. It is also possible to import printers, and you don't need any extra licenses for that. This is a nice feature as well.
How are customer service and technical support?
What has been very good for me has been the ITNinja websites where I can look for information. For example, if I need something, then there has been a solution there. Also, the help system of the help sites inside of the KACE Systems Management Appliance are very helpful and easy to understand.
I use the support system of the KACE. So, I use the ticket system to stay in contact with KACE support, which has been very good for me. It has been very positive because they know what to do. Every time, I have had a solution in a couple of days, and that was very good for me.
I use the ITNinja websites. I think KACE developed these ITNinja websites with Dell EMC, which has a lot of information about KACE SMA and SDA. We don't use third-party companies. We only use KACE support when needed.
Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?
We don't use WSUS in our environment anymore. However, we also don't use SMA for Windows updates. We use the Windows updates on the Microsoft website.
How was the initial setup?
In the beginning, when you try to install new software, you need a little bit more time. That's absolutely normal. Then, I installed this software on over 160 PCs. In the past, I had to go to every PC in real-time by remoting on every PC and installing the computer software on every PC. Now, I can install the software in half an hour. In the past, I needed two days. For me, this has been very good. It has been very nice to see how fast it can install new/used software on new hardware.
For every upgrade over the years, SMA has been very intuitive and easy to use. Also, when I changed the physical appliance to the virtual appliance four or five years ago, it was easier to make a backup. Then, I could import the backup from the physical SMA to the virtual SMA. That was very easy to make. The surface of the website has not changed very much in its paths, which are very good. Parts of those paths are easier to look inside or adopt more functionality, but the surface is not so state of the art. Some websites, like WordPress sites, are a little bit difficult to see where information is and what to look for. However, in the KACE Systems Management, I know where the information is, and that is very good for me.
To deploy the appliance, it takes maybe an hour with all of the configuration and the DHCP server. When you start a system for the first time, you have to import all the information that you need or connect your clients with a system, which needs a bit more time. Also, when you are trying to distribute software, you need more time with the managed installations. I needed half a year with all my software products, maybe longer. For all my software products, I had to use them with a managed installation script or other scripting tools. However, if you have used other systems, then you can very quickly switch to SMA.
What about the implementation team?
Two to four people are needed for deployment. In my environment, we have a network administrator and me as an administrator for the system. There are also one or two other administrators for the solution in my company.
What was our ROI?
We saw ROI after the first year. Every year, the system becomes so much more valuable for us. Maybe the quality of our service is much better now. The students at our university can use more software, so the knowledge of students using state-of-the-art software is much better than in the past. We can react to requests from our teachers when they want to use new software in their courses. We can manage that in a short amount of time.
Most of the time, we install software in two months between semesters. So, we are saving four or five days over the year.
What's my experience with pricing, setup cost, and licensing?
We are a university. So, we have a very good price for the system. I think the price for the system is worth it because of the security patch management. The security patch management is very important for us. The price is very good for KACE SMA, the functionality you get, and the patch management.
The technical support you get from KACE is sometimes priceless. Sometimes, you don't need very much support. However, if you need support, it is good for me to know that there are people who have very good knowledge about the system. I am willing to pay for that.
Which other solutions did I evaluate?
When we bought the SMA system, we researched other systems. I did some tests with SCCM and other systems as well as open-source software. It was very difficult for me to configure the other systems. Also, the open-source software was a bit too difficult for me to configure just in time. There was not so much time for me to sit there for a couple of weeks doing trial and error.
I am very happy that I found a solution which was easy to install and use. That is also a reason for me to look at SDA from Quest because I know the system and it works fine. I don't have time to configure a new system from scratch. It just has to work.
What other advice do I have?
It is very important for me to see that there is one GUI/website where I can have an overview of my computers and environment, see which computers are healthy, which ones might be damaged, or if everything is fine with the software. Another thing is that I can distribute software with executable files using the system. This was also a very important reason to use SMA because we have so many software systems where you get only a setup executable file, not an MSI file to convert the executable file, which is sometimes very time-sensitive.
I had a very good start with the software because I had training with one of the specialists from Dell EMC in the past, which was very good. Now, it is very intuitive for me to use the software, which is also very good. It is very clear. You can look for information in one of the paths, such as, home inventory monitoring and asset management.
When you buy this software, use a bit more money and buy a training program as well. What you learn in such a short amount of time when you get the training is so much more valuable than when you do trial and error for yourself. That is my advice. They will help you to configure your environment in a very short time, then you can use it very quickly.
Mobile device management is not very important for us at the moment because we only use our physical PCs and sometimes our laptops. I have used tablets as well. However, for mobile devices, we don't distribute software on these kinds of systems.
I am on a way to using KACE's Systems Deployment Appliance in the future. At the moment, we only use KACE SMA, but I want to try to buy SDA as well. I hope that I can this year. It makes total sense to use SDA as well when you use SMA. Both systems are integrated with one another. At the moment, we have installed the operating system on the computer physically. This is a very bad time with the pandemic, as it is very difficult for us to go to our workplace and into the computer rooms. Doing our work there physically is not possible now. I live in the UK at the moment and my work is in Berlin, Germany, so it is very difficult for me to go there and install new hardware. However, I am looking forward to getting SDA as well.
I would rate this solution as a nine out of 10.
Which deployment model are you using for this solution?
Which version of this solution are you currently using?