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Plan for rollouts -- and rollbacks -- for zero client firmware updates

Zero clients are usually set up to update automatically, but it's important for you to make sure those updates will play nice with your existing settings. And be prepared for a rollback, just in case.

One of the most crucial facets of managing zero clients is setting up firmware updates. Most zero clients will be set up to automatically install new firmware when you place it on the management server. But you should make sure those updates won't cause problems, and be prepared for a rollback if they do.

IT workers who assist end users may be inclined to make configuration changes to terminals, but with zero clients, you shouldn't make changes to the client itself. An IT support team may need to be trained to use the zero-client central management console, or they might need to defer to the team managing that console. Either way, everyone should be locked out of the configuration screens on the actual zero client device, and deviations from standard configurations should still be controlled from the central console.

Over time, members of the support team will walk less to visit users' desks and instead provide more remote support using the virtual desktop. Reducing the need to support the device on a user's desk is one of the cultural shifts that must take place so that an organization can realize its return on investment (ROI) with zero clients and virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI).

Deploying and rolling back updates

Ideally, you should use only a single firmware version across all terminals. Vendors release zero client firmware updates from time to time, and you should evaluate them for deployment. If the update addresses specific issues or enables new features, you may want to roll it out.

Before putting the firmware updates into production, however, be sure it is qualified in a lab. This ensures that the upgrade is stable and consistent with the existing environment before it is exposed to users.

More in this series on zero clients

You're reading part two

Part one: Zero client configuration doesn't allow special snowflakes

Part three: Mobile enablement, desktop access play key roles in zero client rollout

Also, remember to test rollback as well as deployment. The worst possible scenario is having a bad update roll out from the central console. Then you need to send staffers to terminals for a rollback.

Testing should apply to changes in settings that you have made to the zero clients. Test all standard configuration changes prior to rollout. Also, validate a back-out method beforehand so that you will be able to undo a change if it causes problems.

When new firmware updates are rolled out, you will want to track the completeness of the rollout and ensure any straggling terminals get updated. Your management console should be able to report the firmware versions in use on every zero client.

Because a new firmware rollout is incomplete until every zero client uses the new firmware, you may need to chase straggling devices and further train users to make sure that updates are applied. A periodic report of firmware versions is useful for when newly purchased terminals arrive with older or newer firmware.

A test lab should reflect the production environment as closely as possible so that its results are useful. One way to replicate production is to use clones of the production virtual machines. Some disaster recovery products make it easy to produce a test lab that is an exact clone of production.

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