This phase involves examining and documenting the current computing environment, determining business and technical objectives, and building a test lab in preparation for the pilot project.

During preplanning, the following steps should be performed:

Analyze and document your current network and computing environment

  • Ensure that you have a thorough understanding of your computing environment, and supporting documentation, before making planning decisions for your Configuration Manager deployment.

Analyze your needs and identify objectives

  • You need to understand exactly what your business and technical needs are and how Configuration Manager features can help you accomplish them.

Establish a test lab environment

  • Installing Configuration Manager 2007 in a production environment without first testing it on an isolated network can cause undesirable and potentially damaging results. A test lab should be used in all phases of Configuration Manager deployment, from preplanning to day-to-day operations, after fully deploying your Configuration Manager hierarchy.

Analyze and Document Your Current Environment

A thorough understanding of your computing environment helps you determine the scope of your Configuration Manager 2007 implementation project. Having accurate information about your physical network infrastructure and the issues that influence your network operations is critical to many of the decisions you make as you plan your Configuration Manager 2007 deployment.

For example, network topology greatly influences the locations, types, and number of Configuration Manager 2007 sites and site servers that will need to be deployed.

To optimally design your Configuration Manager 2007 site and site hierarchy, it is essential that you create detailed documentation of your computing environment. For an overview of the type of data you can collect, refer to the following table. As you examine your environment, review how Configuration Manager 2007 integrates into existing operational processes and the effect it will have on existing operational roles and responsibilities. Also, be sure to anticipate and track any proposed infrastructure changes.

Environment Data needed

Previous installations

The history of your organization’s systems management solutions

Current installations

List of any existing software distribution, software update management, or other system management product currently in use

Geographic profile

Diagram of the geographic locations of your organization’s sites, including information about international operating system languages and time zones

Organizational structure

Diagram of the divisions or departments within your organization and their associated managing and reporting structures

Network topology

Diagram of your network infrastructure, including LAN and WAN architecture, physical topology, network size, bandwidth, usage, traffic patterns, network protocols, and subnets

Client environment

The number of clients at each location, software applications and operating systems in use (including logon scripts, if applicable), client mobility, and type of network connectivity (dial-up, wireless, LAN-connected)

Active Directory site structure

Diagram of the forests, domains, and Active Directory sites in your Active Directory site structure and organizational unit information for later use in Configuration Manager 2007 operations. Pay particular attention to the IP subnets defined for each Active Directory site

Server environment

Diagram of the locations of the core servers on your network, indicating their primary functionality and operating system version level (domain controllers, servers running Terminal Services, file servers, Web servers, DHCP, WINS, and DNS servers)


Documentation containing your security settings, including Windows security groups, Administrator and Domain Administrator accounts, client lockdown levels, shared folder access restriction policy, account policies, account control needs, and sensitivity to security risks

Information Technology (IT) organization

Knowledge of your IT organization, the support areas defined for IT staff members, what the management control policies are and any policies that play a part in the success of the organization’s infrastructure projects

You can use the Configuration Manager Preplanning Worksheets to help collect and document this information.

Analyze Your Needs and Identify Objectives

Having a clear understanding of how you want to install and modify Configuration Manager 2007 to suit your business and technical needs is an integral part of the preplanning process.

For example, reducing the cost of software upgrades and simplifying hardware asset tracking are typical business objectives. A technical objective might be migrating from a Windows 2000 Server domain structure to a Windows Server 2003 domain structure or upgrading the operating systems currently running on workstations.

It is important to understand what you need, want, and expect from Configuration Manager 2007. A core requirement that is often stated is to distribute software, but what exactly does this mean? Which software, how often is it to be distributed, and to how many computers? What size are the application files, where are the destination computers located, and are there any language-related issues? Will software package installations be optional, mandatory, or a combination of both? The answers to these questions can have a significant impact on your design.

Identify Requirements

To establish business objectives, you must first gather specific information about your organization. This helps you determine which Configuration Manager 2007 features you want to use.

Use your organizational charts and the following table to create a list of requirements. Map each requirement to the Configuration Manager 2007 feature that you will use to meet that need. This table is meant as an example of how you can map a business requirement to a Configuration Manager 2007 feature. In many cases, you might not find a clear one-to-one map of a business requirement to a feature, and in some cases, a business requirement can map to many features.

Business Requirement Configuration Manager Features

Configuration management

Track hardware and software assets for auditing purposes and identify computers that require upgrading or replacing.

Hardware and software inventory


Allow management to view reports on current computer assets and compliance from any computer that has a Web browser.


Centrally administer client reporting across products that can use Active Directory® Domain Services.

Active Directory discovery

Group computers so that they can be most efficiently managed as a unit.

Active Directory site boundaries


Centrally deploy and manage software releases and license compliance.

Software distribution


Conserve bandwidth on slow and expensive communication links.

Delta replication

Manage computers that are on the Internet without installing and managing a virtual private network.

Internet-based client management

Compare usage of software programs against license agreements, and reconcile where necessary.

Software metering


Provide the help desk with tools to remotely diagnose and resolve computer problems.

Remote Tools

Hardware and software inventory


Install Windows Vista on all new computers using corporate builds.

Operating system deployment

Decrease security risks associated with workstations operating with local administrator accounts by upgrading existing computers to Windows Vista and retaining user files and preferred settings.

Operating system deployment

Decrease support calls and stay within Service Level Agreements by proactively identifying computers that are out of compliance with best practice configurations specified by Microsoft and other vendors.

Desired configuration management

Identify "configuration drift" on production servers before it affects performance and up-time.

Desired configuration management

Audit computers for a regulatory security policy.

Desired configuration management

Reduce the risk of a security attack by keeping computers up-to-date with important security-related software updates.

Software updates

Help preserve the integrity of the network by preventing computers from accessing network resources until they have mandated software updates.

Network Access Protection

Reduce electricity costs by turning off computers at night but have the ability to wake them up for essential management tasks.

Wake On LAN

It is recommended that you list your requirements in order of priority. In situations where time is limited, the design effort must first focus on the essential requirements to ensure that key functionality is delivered. On time-limited projects, it is still important to be aware of lower priority issues, because a design that is based on only the essential requirements might prevent the implementation of other deliverables.

In accordance with Microsoft Solution Framework best practice, requirements should be

  • Specific

  • Measurable

  • Achievable

  • Results-oriented

  • Time-specific

The metrics to measure success must be known and achievable within the allowed time, budget, and other constraints. Following this guideline assists you in establishing and tracking project milestones.

Assessing Time and Budget Allotments

When you are determining your requirements, assess the amount of money and time that can be allocated for the project.

Expenses for the project can potentially include software licensing, IT staff salaries, training costs, and hardware procurement or upgrades. Identify how much money you can afford to spend on the project before you finalize your Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager 2007 hierarchy design or hire additional staff.

Knowing when you and your team must complete the project is relevant to how much work can be accomplished. It is recommended that you not move forward with planning your Configuration Manager 2007 deployment until you establish the length of time that can be dedicated to the project.

After each phase of the project, it is a good idea to review any changes in budget and time allotments and whether these allotments are appropriate for the expected scope of the project.

Establish a Test Lab Environment

Set up a test lab on an isolated network in your organization. Do not set up your test lab in your production environment, and do not install Configuration Manager 2007 on any of your production servers before you install it and work with it in your test lab. Installing Configuration Manager 2007 in a production environment without first testing it on an isolated network can cause undesirable and potentially damaging results. Later, during the deployment planning stage, you should design a pilot project in your production environment for further testing.

If your test lab uses the same Active Directory forest as your production network, then do not use the same site codes in your test lab as you do in production. If you use the same site codes in both the test lab and the production network, it is possible for Configuration Manager 2007 clients in production to be incorrectly directed to Configuration Manager 2007 sites in the test lab, and for Configuration Manager 2007 clients in the test lab to be directed to Configuration Manager 2007 sites in the production environment.

Use the test lab to perform tests throughout the following steps of the planning phase:

  • Designing the Configuration Manager 2007 hierarchy

  • Planning the deployment and site configuration

  • Planning your security strategy

  • Planning for backup and recovery

Also, use the lab to perform tests throughout the following steps of the deployment phase:

  • Deploying the hierarchy

  • Deploying Configuration Manager 2007 clients

Maintain your lab for post-deployment testing.

Developing the Test Lab

Your test lab computers must use at least the minimum recommended configuration required for their Configuration Manager 2007 site system roles. The computers must contain configurations that are representative of those in your organization.

Before you deploy Configuration Manager 2007, even in a pilot, you need to test your proposed design in an environment that simulates and protects your production environment. It is critical to the success of your deployment to develop an environment specifically for testing. In this test environment, you can test hardware, operating systems, or applications designed to run together before introducing them into your production environment.

Minimum Recommended Configuration

Lab computers must meet the minimum recommended configuration for the roles they perform in Configuration Manager 2007. For example, ensure that your Configuration Manager 2007 site servers and site systems have the minimum system requirements specified in the Configuration Manager Supported Configurations document.

Standard Configurations

If your organization has standard client and server configurations, use those configurations in the lab. If it is possible, use the same hardware, software, network connectivity, and logon scripts that are used in your production environment. For example, if your production environment includes computers with nearly full disks, obsolete and possibly unused software, and an assortment of network adapter cards, ensure that your lab computers have the same characteristics.

Duplicating Network Conditions

If production networks are connected by routers or slow links, be sure to duplicate those conditions in the lab. This approach ensures that design concerns can be identified and resolved in the lab rather than during deployment.

Creating a Representative Test Environment

For the test results to be useful, ensure that the lab environment reflects your production environment as closely as possible. Use the network diagram you created at the beginning of preplanning to help you create a representative test environment. Add at least one client for each client platform that you plan to support.

Include a representative of each type of site system role, server, and client that will exist in your full Configuration Manager 2007 hierarchy. Also, the network link connecting these objects should mirror the network speed and availability in production.

Your hierarchy should contain a central site and a representative number of child primary sites and secondary sites. Include desktop and mobile clients that are based on the standard configurations of your organization. Your test data might be distorted if you create a test environment that contains computers that have only fast processors and a lot of memory, instead of less powerful, smaller computers in the hierarchy. You can gain valuable information by analyzing how your planned Configuration Manager 2007 hierarchy functions in your network as it exists today, including any outdated computers and obsolete applications.

The closer your test installation resembles your actual network design and hardware, the more valuable your results are as you plan the deployment of Configuration Manager 2007 throughout your organization. In your test lab, install all applications that are in use in the production environment so that they are available for application compatibility testing.

During testing and the pilot project, test and refine your project plan documentation regarding support and deployment. As you plan your Configuration Manager 2007 hierarchy design, you might need to add more servers or clients to your test environment, depending on your needs as the planning progresses.

Maintaining the Test Lab

After deploying Configuration Manager 2007, keep your test lab intact. Use it for future testing of Configuration Manager 2007 service pack installations, proposed site changes, software distribution scenarios, and other Configuration Manager 2007 activities. For example, you should test each software package in your test lab before you distribute it in your production environment. Continually update your test lab environment as your production environment changes. By maintaining this test lab throughout the life of Configuration Manager 2007, you will always have an isolated Configuration Manager 2007 hierarchy for testing purposes.

Because the test lab represents your production environment, it is ideal for performing periodic recovery tests. This helps you identify shortcomings in your backup and recovery plan.

See Also