The invention relates to a method executed by a computer system to increase the ease and efficiency of the configuration management task in large, complex, distributed networks of heterogeneous computer systems. In this paradigm, referred to as management-by-subscription, a central configuration database is used to store configuration information. Individual systems (e.g., computers) express interest in receiving configuration information from the central configuration database through a process known as subscription. By subscribing to the central configuration database a system establishes a persistent relationship (also stored in the central configuration database) through which it becomes eligible for future distributions or updates of the configuration information to which it subscribes. The management-by-subscription paradigm uses object-oriented programming technology to define a class of template objects which can be used by system administrators to establish consistent and coherent configuration management policies (operating guidelines). End-point systems can subscribe to individual template objects, to logical collections of template objects known as a virtual host, or to a combination of templates and virtual hosts. Management-by-subscription, through the use of template objects, allows distributed system's administrators to: (1) divide management tasks between different individuals while maintaining system security, (2) provide a consistent means of propagating and enforcing management policies, and (3) encourage configuration consistency across different platforms.