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Most Innovative Product - 23 Aug 2005

DesktopStandard PolicyMaker Makes the Grade

Readers voted DesktopStandard's PolicyMaker the Most Innovative Product of the year. PolicyMaker Standard Edition is a set of Group Policy client-side extensions that gives Windows administrators additional control over user and computer settings through the Group Policy infrastructure they're already familiar with. PolicyMaker can deploy files, folders, registry settings, and shortcuts to client machines; set environmental variables; modify .ini files; map drives; configure a host of settings for various versions of Microsoft Office and Microsoft Outlook; control local users and groups; and control various Windows options, from the Control Panel to the Start menu.

Nick Duda, senior systems administrator at VistaPrint, shared his history with the software with us. VistaPrint is an online printing service that prints everything from business cards and letterhead to brochures and magnets, serving more than 5 million customers worldwide. In addition to managing VistaPrint's corporate network, Nick provides support for a customer care facility in Jamaica.

The Jamaica facility operates 24 × 7 and houses more than 200 customer care representatives. PolicyMaker helps Nick meet the needs of these employees. They need access to a consistent desktop environment, even though the shift schedule may place them on various different computers. New employees also need access to the same desktop that their colleagues use. Nick supports multiple standardized desktop environments for employees in different roles and departments, too.

Nick says that PolicyMaker is key to supporting the environment at VistaPrint. By placing users in the correct Active Directory (AD) organizational unit (OU), Nick can reconfigure their desktops on the fly. By organizing AD computer accounts in a similar manner, Nick ensures that the closest printer to a desktop is automatically mapped to that desktop, no matter who logs on to the computer. This proactive management makes work easier for both users and IT personnel.

Prior to using PolicyMaker, VistaPrint IT staff used complicated logon scripts and manually configured users desktops to provide some of the same functionality that PolicyMaker provides. With PolicyMaker, Nick no longer needs to perform manual configuration and he has eliminated logon scripts from VistaPrint altogether. "Purchasing PolicyMaker has made a difference," Nick said. "Without it, IT was a nightmare."

VistaPrint has used PolicyMaker since release 1.0. Nick first came across the product while trying to find a way to prevent new employees from having to use the Outlook Setup Wizard the first time they log on. PolicyMaker let Nick configure users' mail profiles on any machine at logon.

Administrators who use Group Policy often find that it's tedious to troubleshoot. No so with PolicyMaker's client-side extensions, according to Nick. PolicyMaker has amazing logging features that make it easy to determine why policies are or are not being applied. Nick has also been more than satisfied with DesktopStandard's support. The company is quick to respond and quick to provide updates when problems with the software are discovered.

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