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Washington and Lee University

Washington and Lee University
Information Technology Services

Computer Management

Hardware management, software distribution and updates using Altiris remote support tool

Information Technology Services uses a tool called Altiris for managing software distribution and remote support to the University-owned desktop workstations. This page describes procedures for use of Altiris at the University and the impact on you as a computer user.

Altiris is composed of two components: a desktop agent that has been installed on all University-owned workstations accessing the network, and an administrative component that connects to those desktop agents to automatically perform various functions. Those functions targeted for use include security, software management (installations and upgrades), and remote desktop support. Each function is outlined below:

SECURITY: Minimize risk to University's assets and data

  • Workstations without the proper Windows updates, Symantec AntiVirus patches, and other critical components leave your equipment and information at risk for loss, corruption, and/or exposure to hackers, and put the University's network at risk. Altiris will automatically update all workstations connected to the University Network with critical updates and patches.
  • Schedule: Workstations updated daily at 4 a.m.
  • Procedure: Altiris will automatically update all workstations with the necessary upgrades and patches. If the machine requires a reboot, you will be prompted to restart your workstation when convenient that day. Those machines not rebooted by midnight the same day will be automatically restarted. Note: In some cases where a reboot is mandatory for critical patches to take effect, your machine will be rebooted immediately; this will be the exception.
  • Example: - 4 a.m. - Updates and patches are applied to your workstation. The countdown to a midnight reboot begins. - 8:30 a.m. - You login and receive the "Software Update Reboot Pending" dialog box and select the Reboot Now option. - The process is complete; no further messages will be received and midnight automatic reboot of your machine will not occur.
  • Example: - 4 a.m. - Updates and patches are applied to your workstation. - 8:30 a.m. - You receive and ignore the "Software Update Reboot Pending" dialog box with the remaining time until reboot displayed (e.g., 15 hours, 10 minutes). - Midnight - Since no reboot occurred, your machine is automatically restarted to satisfy the requirements and complete the process.

SOFTWARE MANAGEMENT (Installation and Upgrades):Efficiently deploy new software

  • As new, campus-wide software applications become available, Altiris will be used to manage the installation (or upgrade) directly to your workstation with minimal effort by you or a technical support employee.
  • Schedule: Installations and upgrades provided either on request by the user or on pre-announced schedule when older versions of software are being retired.
  • Procedure: Two options exist with installations and upgrades;
    • With permission from you, Information Technology Services will schedule software installations and upgrades to occur on your workstation while you are logged in or while you are away from your workstation for convenience and less interruption.
    • If a software application is being upgraded campus-wide (e.g., Adobe Acrobat 8), communication from ITS will be sent in a timely manner to alert you of the upgrade, schedule, and ramifications.
  • Example: - You request the new version of Microsoft Office 2007 to be installed immediately. - Altiris begins the installation in the background of your workstation (i.e., silently so you don't notice). - The new program icon appears and you are ready to begin using the software.
  • Example: - You request the new version of Microsoft Office 2007 but for a later time while you are away from the office for convenience. - On the schedule agreed to, Altiris begins the installation in the background of your workstation. - Upon returning to your workstation, the new program icon appears and you are ready to begin using the software.
  • Example: - Information Technology Services announces a campus-wide upgrade to Adobe Acrobat, moving to Version 8. - On the schedule communicated (typically Sundays), the new version is automatically upgraded to your workstation. - Upon returning to your workstation, the new program icon appears and you are ready to begin using the software.

WORKSTATION SUPPORT: Support users via remote control

  • In the event you require workstation support, Altiris has the capability of allowing an ITS technician to take remote control of your workstation in an effort to correct this issue. For your security and screen privacy, this function requires approval from you before any ITS employee is allowed to view and control your desktop remotely.
  • Schedule: On request or with user permission only.
  • Procedure: If you contact an ITS staff person and agree to remote control of your workstation for resolution, you will receive a dialog box indicating remote access is being attempted with the option to allow or cancel the action. It is only with your permission that remote control will occur. If you prefer to have an issue resolved while you are away from your workstation, you must pre-authorize ITS staff to access remotely and logoff your workstation. If you do not logoff, ITS staff will not remote but reschedule for another time. For security and audit purposes, a logging procedure is in place to record all remote access sessions and the actions taken while your workstation is under remote control.
  • Example: - You contact the Information Desk due to workstation issues. - The technician who is assigned to your problem requests remote access of your workstation and you agree by selecting the "Approve" option when presented. - Issue worked to resolution.
  • Example: - You agree to allow an ITS staff member to work on a workstation problem when you're not in your office and while you are logged off of your workstation. - The technician requests remote access of your workstation and logs in with Administrator credentials. - Because you have pre-authorized this access and logged off your workstation, you do not receive a dialog box to approve. - Issue worked to resolution.