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What would be the best approach to cross-platform system and asset management in a primary school?

I have recently started work at a London primary school as their ICT Co-ordinator and am responsible for a (growing) number of Windows PCs and Macs and very soon iPads. We will soon have over 150 machines, but I am also responsible for the ICT curriculum, the VLE, and French across the school, as well as my teaching responsibilities.

I was a software engineer/ web developer for 4 years and have a computer systems engineering degree, so I am not a total novice when it comes to this. My main constraint is time.

At the moment, we have a contract technician who visits one afternoon a week and who partly use MSIs with Windows Server, and partly visits individual machines (always for the Macs, although they are woefully under-used) to install software / fire-fight. Most machines are in a bit of a state and I am planning a school-wide rebuild.

I am considering paying for either FileWave, Absolute Manage or LanDesk (all cross-platform solutions) to aid with administration and asset management. I have received roughly equivalent quotes for FileWave and Absolute Manage, so the financial impact on the surface would seem about the same.

Unfortunately, there is a real lack of comparative reviews or evaluations online and I was hoping someone here might be able to share their experience and make some recommendations or perhaps point me in the direction of some detailed evaluations or comparative reviews. These products are fairly difficult to evaluate due to their nature, and since I have not managed a network before, there may be issues that I miss.

Factors in order of importance would be:
+ Simplicity (partly for my own benefit, partly because in the future, someone less experienced may have to take over)
+ Time (it's always at a premium, but unlike most companies with this many machines, there is no IT department in a school)
+ Reliability
+ Cost

The other concern that I have is that these products may actually be overkill, since we probably install relatively little software during the course of a year, and I do have a certain amount of expertise and a limited ICT budget to play with - perhaps you might also be able to comment on this for me.

Many thanks in advance!
Watch Question

Sounds like you want a helpesk with integrated device and network management?
sounds like you want to pay? check out manage engine http://www.manageengine.com/products.html

BTW, I can tell you right now that a one size fits all solution is not only hard to find but is even more harder to configure - the good news is this solution that you are looking for will teach you a lot.

Free asset and network management software - there are lots but 2 of the easiest windows based click and install packages are
1) spiceworks - http://www.spiceworks.com/ 
2) zennos - http://www.zenoss.com/
Aaron TomoskyDirector, SD-WAN Solutions

Apple has remote desktop (ard). You can do some stuff like script domain joining if you have a common password on them.

For a school the usual path is to keep data separate and two age using Acronis or something on a regally basis (weekly?). Students will break whatever security you have if you give them enough time.



I appreciate your responses, and I haven't ruled out ARD and some kind of imaging solution, but there is no shortage of information about these online.

I'm really seeking feedback about the cross-platform solutions listed in my post, which I am having trouble finding reviews or in depth evaluations of.
I can talk about LANDesk which I've been using for about 4 years in a 4000 PC environment. One of the reasons why we went with it was the MAC support but soon after we implemented it, we realized that MAC support was a far second thought for them, especially the patching (couldn't snooze reboots requests is one example). Because of this we went with Casper for the MAC management.

From what I understand, they have put considerable resources on the MAC side of their house and it is much better (from a sales speech I recently received).
We could yet adopt LANDesk, but Casper did seem to be the better option. Unfortunately it proved to be exorbitantly expensive.

The cost of the system itself for education establishments is actually excellent value, but JAMF insist that clients participate in a training which runs to thousands of pounds and we couldn't justify the cost.

For now we manage our Windows clients from a Windows server and a series of GPOs and installers etc.

Our Mac solution is less than satisfactory but we use DeepFreeze so that unwanted changes are wiped when a computer is rebooted, and are starting to make use of ARD to manage some aspects. Work group manager which I believe is a component of OS X Server might also be a possibility or Profile Manager. It's a work in progress!


I was hoping for someone very familiar with my situation to share their recommendations and I didn't feel that happened on this occasion.