The biggest chore in maintaining a network is managing upgrades. It is pretty annoying when you have a handful of systems, and can be quite challenging when you have hundreds or thousands of systems, particularly because you not only need to do software version upgrades for new features and compatibility, but also patch management for security issues and bugs. And, you need to keep all your systems on the same version.
If you have a responsibility for a moderate to large number of Microsoft servers, you should look at Microsoft's new Windows Server Update Services (WSUS) software. This is the next version of SUS (Software Update Services) and is a free download from www.microsoft.com.
WSUS is a client/server architecture and for the money, is an excellent balance between the need to update and the need to control the time and manner in which the update occurs, particularly in contrast to letting the users and other administrators access Microsoft's Update on their own. And in the future, Microsoft plans for WSUS to include management of all their application software, instead of just the OS. However, don't look for this free product to replace customizable, package-based install tools like SMS, because you can't add your own updates to be distributed by WSUS.
According to Microsoft's FAQ on WSUS, if you're currently using SUS, you've got until June of 2006 to migrate. And some of the reasons you might want to migrate early, in addition to the ones listed above, are that WSUS includes reporting and targeting capabilities. It also lets you do some network optimization.
Tom Lancaster, CCIE# 8829 CNX# 1105, is a consultant with 15 years experience in the networking industry, and co-author of several books on networking, most recently, CCSPTM: Secure PIX and Secure VPN Study Guide published by Sybex.