End of the Year Lockdown? Time to clean up your Configuration Manager environment!

End of the Year Lockdown? Time to clean up your Configuration Manager environment!

You may be like many businesses that go into IT lockdowns this time of year. It is very common that no changes are made to the infrastructure between the Thanksgiving and New Year holidays as it is a very important time of the year, especially in the retail sector.

If you are in one of those enforced lockdowns, this may be a perfect time for you to do some cleanup of your Configuration Manager environment. While you may not be able to implement an upgrade to your environment – such as finally getting around to migrating from Configuration Manager 2007 to Configuration Manager 2012 (there still are tons of you on Configuration Manager 2007 out there – too many of you), or updating to CU3 of Configuration Manager 2012 R2 – you should be able to implement some clean up, tune up, health check, etc. in your environment.

Since you may not be doing any deployments or upgrades, now is a great time to do a check to see how effective your implementation is. How effective are your deployments of software and patches? Are you hitting the magic percentage you need to hit in order to keep management happy? Is it time to delete objects that are old, no longer used, using an older naming scheme, etc.?

One of the things I’d recommend is to perform a simple health check in your environment. You now should have the time to do some of those deeper analysis tasks to see how well you are doing with Configuration Manager. Some things to look at (certainly not an all-inclusive list here) would include:

  • Verify all the disk drives have plenty of disk space – you know what happens if the drive fills up, especially the OS or SQL Server drive
  • Dig into those annoying status messages – do your analysis to see why you are getting them (normal warnings/errors for your environment that you can live with or are they indicating a  real cause for concern)
  • Look for backlogs in the site server’s Inboxes – some backlogs may be normal (such as in Ccrretry.box), however most backlogs would not be normal and should be looked at
  • Compliance percentages for your content distributions – are you having any problems distributing content to any of your distribution points?
  • Compliance percentages for your deployments – are you meeting the SLA set by management?
  • Client activity and client health percentages – these can play a huge part in those compliance numbers for deployments

You would expect that your client activity numbers would drop a bit over the holidays. This is a very common time of year for people to take vacation. As such, they may very likely shut down their computers – or at least the computers will go to sleep for very long periods of time – and this will affect your active client rate. Obviously deployments can only happen on clients that are online (including those woken up by Wake on LAN type of technologies). So you need to factor that into any deployments that might happen this time of year. However I’d suggest that you look at your longer term trends to see what your active client percentages are hovering around. You likely would experience some fairly consistent values for active clients over months at a time. If not, investigate to see why you are not seeing consistency here. If it were my environment, I’d absolutely do some investigations if my active client percentage was anything under 95%. I have worked with some clients where that percentage is very seldom achieved given their work environment. That’s fine, just know and understand what is ‘normal’ for your environment, so that you can answer the question to management when asked.

Client health – those clients that should be active on the network, and in the Configuration Manager environment, and are not – is also a very important metric to monitor. In previous versions of Configuration Manager, you may have struggled to maintain a healthy client rate in the mid-80’s (a fairly common percentage). With Configuration Manager 2012, and its built-in, auto-remediating, client health feature, I’d be questioning anything less than some percentage in the upper 90’s (such as anything less than 98%). Most of the real client health issues that you likely encounter are WMI related. Configuration Manager 2012 does a pretty good job of fixing those now, so your percentage of healthy clients should be well up into the 90’s. If not, now’s the time to figure that out before the new year rolls around, and your lockdowns are over, and you have to start really deploying software again.

Some of these investigations may lead you to check into, and possibly modify, some of your site maintenance tasks. Some of the common ones to consider changing are:

  • Delete Aged Discovery Data
  • Delete Inactive Client Discovery Data

These two values, if set appropriately according to your Active Directory discovery intervals, as well as the Heartbeat Discovery cycle, can help reduce inactive clients, thus raising your percentage of active clients, and thus achieving a higher compliance percentage – which makes you look even better in the eyes of management.

If all of this seems a little daunting to you, don’t feel like you have to go it alone. There are many consulting firms out there (including Cireson) that are very familiar with conducting health evaluations on Configuration Manager. Feel free to contact a few to engage with someone to help you out. Enjoy your holidays everyone.

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