Before you can deploy application software either directly on client computers or over the network (both of which are discussed in the next section), you must first select the applications that will allow your various users to get their work done. The process for selecting software for end users should not only revolve around the features provided by the software but also the overall usability of the interface that the software provides.
While in an ideal world, cost would not be an issue in choosing the best software for your company or home office, we, of course, do not live in an ideal world. So, you will have to weigh software features and the user -friendly factor in light of the cost of the software.
Before selecting new software, you should test the software. This might mean buying a copy or two of the software package and testing it in a "mock" network setting to get a picture of the overall usability of the software and how it performs in a network setting. Since, on a small network, buying "test" copies might be prohibitive, take advantage of the fact that most software vendors do provide limited-use demo copies of their software either in the form of shareware or trial versions. Usually the cost of a trial CD is limited to shipping and handling. Testing the software first can save a lot of headaches in the future.
Ideally, setting up an end-user focus group to test the software and then comment on its strengths and weaknesses can help you determine the overall usability of the software. Using this information, along with other factors such as cost and licensing issues, can help you decide whether or not the software will be appropriate for your network (and your users). Many software vendors also supply white papers and various case studies that allow you to see how other companies have deployed and used the software.
Having worked in the computer networking field for a number of years , I have sat in meetings and presentations on a number of occasions where I have heard network administrators and information systems managers say the following:
"I see no compelling reason to deploy or upgrade to that particular software product."
Now, reading between the lines this statement can mean a number of things. It can mean that the network administrators have not done their homework and know nothing about that particular software product. It can also mean that the features provided don't outweigh the overall cost (both in terms of the time needed for configuration and deploying the new software and the budgetary hit) that will be required to deploy the software on a companywide basis.
Corporate executives will often (unless there is a real budget crunch) want to have the latest and greatest software running on their networks. It almost seems to be a status thing, so that they can say they are running "Super Software 2005" on their network when they are playing racquet ball or golfing with their executive buddies .
Network administrators must do their homework and also exercise great diplomacy in guiding corporate officers into making the right decisions in regard to selecting software for end users. Keep in mind that you will have to support software on the network and poor software selections will only reflect on you, because you have to keep them up and running.
When selecting software, use the following list of questions as a starting place:
When choosing new software, go slow, do your research, and get as much input from your user base as possible. And don't reject new software versions outright just because it will mean more work for you. Having a network that runs well but doesn't provide the proper productivity tools for end users will eventually come back to haunt you.