Survey Results: What's the biggest problem you deal with?

I decided to formally ask the community of Citrix MetaFrame administrators what their biggest problems were.

A lot of people ask me technical questions about Citrix, but it seems that the same questions are getting asked over and over. That got me thinking, so I decided to formally ask the community of Citrix MetaFrame administrators what their biggest problems were. The answers themselves did not really surprise me. What surprised me was how many people had a single pain—printing.

I received 49 responses to my initial question. Here are the answers in order of popularity. Third-party utility vendors take note! (hint, hint)

1. Printing

Probably not a surprise to anyone, but 80% of the people who responded listed some form of printing as one of their biggest problems. Some quotes:

"Printing to every printer from every application from every type of device. My biggest nightmare is getting calls from people trying to print from our main HIS application (I work at a hospital) over citrix while using either a MAC client or a CE thin client. It sucks, and that's all there is to it."

"Printing Definitely, and not just from a stability point of view (although they cause 90% of stability problems). They want to fax, scan, print to different trays, lock their print jobs, different fonts, orientation, etc. I haven't used a single driver that has been problem or error free."

2. Profiles

The second biggest problem was profiles. About 40% of respondents said that profiles were a problem. (Note that these numbers do not add up to 100% because several people responds with several things that were their "biggest problems.") Personally, I feel that a lot of the profile problems have really started going away, especially with Windows 2003 and Microsoft's new UHPClean utility. However, it looks like they're not going away as much as I thought.

3. Everything Adobe

The third-biggest problem really surprised me, and it can basically be classified as "everything" about Adobe in Terminal Server environments. People complained about the lack of functionality, poor tech support, crazy administrative "requirements," blue screens, and general problems with Adobe applications on Terminal Servers. Personally, I've always despised the fact that Windows Adobe applications "feel" like Mac applications (no right-mouse button support, non-standard keyboard shortcuts, etc.), so it's no surprise that these applications aren't exactly Terminal Server-friendly.

4. Patch Management

Patch management is something that I didn't think about as being a problem, but several people mentioned it. The problems that people have with patch management in Terminal Server and Citrix MetaFrame environments are twofold. First, Citrix does not have any kind of patch management software that can easily show you what patches are where and help you bring all servers up to speed. (i.e. There is no "CitrixUpdate.") In fact, it's almost a challenge to find out what patches are even available from Citrix and which ones are relevant. Secondly, people have problems with Microsoft patches with the fact that they often require reboots and they sometimes break more than they fix.

5. Locking Down Servers

The last problem that posed a significant challenge to several people was locking down servers. People complained that there was no single method or technique that could be used, and that even when they think they did everything, users would still figure out ways to get places they shouldn't be.

Other Challenges

These five challenges weren't the only ones, but they were the biggest. Some of the other challenges that people mentioned that didn't make the top five include: rebooting servers, policies, poorly written custom applications, licensing models, missing functionality in MetaFrame, folder redirection, license consumption, application integration and installation, antivirus, and spotty performance.

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This message was originally posted by George Tagg on March 15, 2004
An excellent White Paper on the problems and solutions associated with profiles as well as with printer management and some other issues/problems may be found at http://www.managedprofile.com
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This message was originally posted by Gabe Knuth on March 19, 2004
I couldn't agree more with the top 5 problems. As a consultant, I run into these issues all the time. In fact, today alone I ran into numbers 1,2,4, and 5. The only reason I didn't have an Adobe problem was because the client didn't use Adobe (Thank you, Win2PDF!).--

As for the "honorable mention" problems, I'd like to know how some of them made the list. I've never found rebooting servers to be a problem. If a simple scheduled task isn't enough, writing a script isn't terribly hard.--

Policies and Licensing, while a pain in the neck, are just part of the game nowadays. Any improvements that can be made to these are likely to be marginal at best.--

I'd also like to know what features MetaFrame is missing. Having contributed to the Server-Based Computing Software Roundup, I can say that MetaFrame is the trendsetter when it comes to server-based computing features. From management capabilities to client-base, they have the most robust solution out there.--

Application Integration is borderline, as some environments are more or less turnkey, but it can be a pain in larger enterprises. I don't know anyone who enjoys regression testing.--

Spotty performance is typically fixable, but is still a royal pain. So are poorly written custom applications. No arguments here.--

Finally...antivirus. Hands down, the most effective solution is Trend. The only reason AV becomes a pain is when a company has standardized on another brand and refuses to use Trend for their thin client environment. Norton, McAfee, and e-Trust all have their places, but not on a terminal server.--

Great article. Maybe some more "Madden on the Streets" articles could help some of the everyday problems of Citrix admins go away. Keep up the good work!
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This message was originally posted by Tony Edwards on April 30, 2004
Come on - the main problems are always

Users not IT literate
Users resistance to change
Over selling and over promising by salesmen on what SBC can do.
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This message was originally posted by Gene Miles on August 30, 2004
check out the available profilesolutions like Hybrid, Flex oder Jumpingprofiles. They do the whole management with TS Profiles in my opinion
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I am curious to know why you do not like Symantec or others for Terminal Servers and prefer Trend. I am using Symantec and would consider switching if I could justify the cost to my management. I have not found any other discussion on this, so if you have any other information it would be appreciated.
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"The only reason AV becomes a pain is when a company has standardized on another brand and refuses to use Trend for their thin client environment. Norton, McAfee, and e-Trust all have their places, but not on a terminal server."

That seems like a blanket statement. Could you give details on why?
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Sorry, but I will not allow User Bashing!
>Users not IT literate
Users are not supposed to be IT literate!! That's OUR job!! Sheesh!

>Users resistance to change
Understandable if you've been around long enough to remember it was the Users' willingness to change that got us into this mess in the first place!!! If you wonder why Users seem to almost hate us, look at the poster who has "no problem rebooting a server" !!!!!!!! Go find a Netware Engineer & ask him/her how often a Netware server needs rebooting!! Then show me a Citrix Server with zero defects!! Please!!! Sorry, poster, but you and I made the Users resistant to change, by "persuading" them to change ("update", "upgrade", whatever) every time we needed a quick cash fix, which leads to:

>Over selling and over promising by salesmen on what SBC can do.
Okay, we're in perfect harmony on that one, but it's not new, and hardly unique to Citrix or even to MSProducts. In fact, if you change the "SBC" to "computers", you can find that complaint going back to the first computer salesman! Remember all the fun we had in the '70s and '80s making up new translations for "IBM"? Like: "Invented By Marketing"? "I'll Buy More"? "I'm Being Manipulated", etc.? So what's changed? The "mainframe" of today is far, FAR less reliable, less powerful, less manageable, less secure, and (don't believe me, ask your Users) less USEFUL than before. In exchange we get more downtime, more server reboots, more excuses, more missed deadlines, more low quality work product.
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I agree with most of what you said except this:

"I'd also like to know what features MetaFrame is missing. Having contributed to the Server-Based Computing Software Roundup, I can say that MetaFrame is the trendsetter when it comes to server-based computing features. From management capabilities to client-base, they have the most robust solution out there.-- "

Taking them out of order:
"MetaFrame is the trendsetter"?? Nope!! Citrix is stumbling over a very smooth, well-worn path. It's just that those who refuse to learn from history will be forever condemned to repeating it. Do you get it yet? Go look up "MVS/XA" and "JCL" and "CICS" and "VSAM" and see what turns up. Still no lights? Look up "System/370" or just (okay, I'll give it away) "IBM mainframe"... So much for "trends".

"From management capabilities to client-base, they have the most robust solution out there."
Nope!! Once again, the real-world numbers don't lead to that conclusion. Once again, Citrix has been trumped by stodgy old mossbacked System 370s and MVS. Thousands more Users (client base); management capabilities Citrix/Microsoft can't even envision in their dreams; and if you want to talk "robust", how long has *your* Citrix or NT Server been up without a reboot??? (Hint: the Uptime Counter isn't easy to find -- for a reason!)

(As an aside, how can you possibly say "I've never found rebooting servers to be a problem."??? FYI, your *Users* find it to be a problem!!! Unless you don't have any Users, and then who'd pay you to play with all these kewl toys?)

What features is it missing??? Okay, I considered Googling a list, but I'll spare you. Let's start with RACF. It means "Security". Look it up. (And if you can successfully port it to WinNT I will personally work to make your birthday a National Holiday!!) Then (for the developers) Panvalet, Roscoe, etc. For Users, well, okay, virtually every application is customized in the source for the task at hand. Guess what? That means it works perfectly, or there will be a team of programmers & analysts and their managers who will be busy updating resumes really soon... At this point I'd *really* like to see "works perfectly" correctly applied to any Wintel product!

So we agree in principle to most of these, but our answers may not be "in the future", but "in the past". Or we could keep reinventing the wheel...
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Woah, looks like someone's got into mainframe bashing now.
 
"The "mainframe" of today is far, FAR less reliable, less powerful, less manageable, less secure, and (don't believe me, ask your Users) less USEFUL than before."
 
Seems like a very broad statement taken out of context here. If this was actually true, then why would people bother upgrading their systems. just stick with the older, more reliable, more powerful, more manageable, more secure, and more useful systems (assuming your statement is fact). however, this is hardly the case. imagine regressing your organizations systems back to the systems of the 70's, 80's...
 
i agree, there are problems with today's mainframes, but these are expected with all systems (and to think otherwise is naive). if there weren't, there would be alot of IT departments out there biting their fingernails waiting for a redundancy notice. the fact is that globally, we're relying more and more on technology (duh, i know), and that it is expected of newer systems to contain more bells and whistles (which is the source of most bugs anyway...the 'nice to haves' aren't always the 'good to haves'...). MS Word is a nice example. most of the newer features are buggy, or just plain annoying/difficult to use.
 
but i do agree with your stance on user bashing...should not be allowed. sure, users are our main source of problems, but that is why we are employed (talking about administrators and support staff here). of course it would be wonderful if all users were IT literate, but that would be like a mechanic wishing everyone knew what a carburetor is.
 
as with users hating us (or almost hating us)...well this is a tricky one. i find users hate their IT dept due to lack of communication or common sense (on the part of the IT dept). not due to people having non-troublesome server restarts. once again, this is not a problem unique to IT. if you had a department that lacked both of the afore mentioned, then you would almost hate them too.
 
your reasons for user's being resistant to change are rather farfetched. most of the upgrades/updates shouldn't be noticed by the user anyway (or barely noticeable by the user). upgrades/updates/changes to systems are normally conducted after-hours, as to affect as few people as possible. as with persuading them to change...you're going to have to be more precise. to change what exactly?
 
the fact is, almost everyone is resistant to change, whether for the better or worse, if it's going to inconvenience them in some way. it's not a problem only faced by IT depts. take the increased security measures adopted by airports after 9/11 (overused, yes i know, but it's a good example). how many people would accept that this is necessary to ensure their safety? everyone of course, and they would all be happy about it. now how many people would be as happy if you told them that increased security measures meant clearing customs would take around an hour longer than usual...
 
finally, i've never heard of a 'quick cash fix'. normally the words 'quick fix' and 'cash' don't go together, but that may have been lost in the translation somewhere.
 
enough of this...seems our pdf printer isn't working through citrix again...
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