Real-world advice about Office 2007 deployment

A few things to consider when deploying Office, and its unintended consequences

With the 2007 Microsoft Office system finally hitting the streets, IT departments around the globe are beginning to make plans for its eventual deployment.

What are some things to consider, both about the deployment process itself and also its unintended consequences and side effects? Read on for some real-world pointers regarding Office 2007 deployment.

Using Group Policy to deploy Office 2007

There remains some confusion around the issue of being able to deploy Office 2007 through the IntelliMirror functionality of Group Policy in an Active Directory environment. This is a 100 percent supported and fully functional method to deploy Office 2007, although in Microsoft's term, it's no longer the "preferred" enterprise deployment scheme.

It appears, although this hasn't been confirmed in any official way, that Microsoft is moving to encourage other software deployment solutions, so at some yet-to-be-determined time in the future, you may not be able to deploy upcoming versions of Office with Group Policy.

It's true that getting software installation to work correct with IntelliMirror is tricky, especially at the beginning, but once you have successfully configured all of the elements, a lot of companies have great success with Group Policy-based deployments. Unfortunately, this method is no longer the "best practice" of Microsoft. So put alternative deployment methods, not just for Office but other software instead, on your radar for 2008 and beyond.

Other Office deployment methods

Apart from deploying Office using the tried-and-true IntelliMirror process, what other options are there for deploying Office 2007? You have two major ones, which are profiled next.

-- Deploy Office as part of your new operating system image. If you're going gung-ho for Windows Vista and Office 2007 at the same time, use Vista's deployment tools, namely the Microsoft Solution Accelerator for Business Desktop Deployment (BDD) and deploy an image. That's the most efficient way.

However, note that the BDD and other image-based deployment tools are primarily suited for getting an entire image laid down on a bare-metal hard drive. So, if you want to deploy Office at the same time as Vista, BDD can help, but if you're leaving Windows Vista for another time, BDD won't work for you.

-- Use Systems Management Server or System Center Essentials. This option not only enables a pretty good Office deployment, but it also opens up some other opportunities for future software deployment, patch management, mass configuration changes, and so on.

While System Center Essentials is based on the updating technology of Windows Server Update Services (WSUS) and is geared toward smaller enterprises, Systems Management Server is industrial-strength management software and will pay for itself many times over should you choose to migrate to it.

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