Network Administration: Installing Software with Group Policy

One option you should consider for network software deployment is using Windows Group Policy to automatically install software to network users. Group Policy is a feature of Windows Server 2003 and 2007 that lets you create policies that are assigned to users. You use the Windows Group Policy feature to specify that certain users should have certain software programs available to them.

Note that group policies aren’t actually assigned to individual users, but to Organizational Units (OUs), which are used to categorize users in Active Directory. Thus, you might create a Group Policy to specify that everyone in the Accounting Department OU should have Microsoft Excel.

Then, whenever anyone in the Accounting Department logs on to Windows, Windows checks to make sure that Excel is installed on the user’s computer. If Excel is not installed, Windows advertises Excel on the computer.

Advertising software on a computer means that a small portion of the software is downloaded to the computer — just enough to display an icon for the program on the Start menu and to associate Excel with the Excel file extensions (such as .xls).

If the user clicks the Start menu icon for the advertised application or attempts to open a document that’s associated with the advertised application, the application is automatically installed on the user’s computer. The user will have to wait a few minutes while the application is installed, but the installation is automatic.

For more information about setting up group policy software installation, search Google or any other search engine for “Group Policy Software.”