Computer Image and Imaging Deployment Products and Solutions

Discussion of Vendors and ProductsEdit

  • The KACE KBox is a pretty slick solution.
  • Altiris Deployment Solution is the best product I've seen. There aren't a lot of products out there that I can say "it changed the way I do my job," but Altiris is one of them. I've been using it for the last five years. It can do imaging, distribute software, copy files, even collect data on what hardware and applications are stored on a computer. It stores all this information in an MSDE or SQL database, so it's easy to retrieve the information for reports. Altiris offers Deployment Solution by itself, or you can purchase it in conjunction with patch management and inventory management capabilities. I'd steer you away from the additional modules, simply because DS itself is so feature-rich, it takes a while to learn. The other modules are even more feature-rich (read: complicated), and it is hard to get the most out of them unless you have a full-time Altiris administrator on staff. DS itself is fairly pricey (though the educational pricing helps), and it can get very expensive to go whole-hog with the other modules.
  • For imaging Macs, we use Netbooting off our Xserve farm for system imaging use only; this is great benefit during our annual client re-imaging project during the summer months. Much less finicky and more reliable than either LANDesk or Ghost on the PC side of our plant with no additional licensing or hardware costs.
  • If you run Active Directory, Microsoft gives you "Managed Software," which allows you to roll out software each time the system reboots. It's pretty nice considering that it's free, but has some limitations. It can also be annoying because the software is installing before the end-user logs in, which means they may have to wait while the software is installed. I think Microsoft touts MS SMS as its robust deployment package, but it's pretty pricey.
  • If you are working in a Novell shop, then Zenworks is the way to go. It provides tremendous customization and a boatload of features. It also includes workstation imaging or "ghosting." Even if you don't work in a Novell shop, you can still use Zenworks. You would need to set up an eDirectory to run in parallel with your Active Directory though. I have been very impressed with the flexibility of this product. Zenworks also allows for the easy implementation of post image scripts. For example, when imaging scores of machines at once, you can have Zenworks run a script after the image has been deployed which looks up a spearsheet or inventory database and then automatically names the machine and configures it to the appropriate update channels. Each box can be customized without either no or minimal intervention from your staff.
  • Another idea might be Acronis True Image. I've created several images based on access level and platform and placed on our file server. Whenever I need to reimage a workstation, I load the bootable TI CD into that workstation, the manager on my laptop recognizes the client and I can reimage the workstation remotely from my laptop. Very inexpensive and it came highly recommended to me.
  • Imaging tablets: We adapted our existing XP image to the tablet PC edition using this guide. We use Altiris Deployment Solution, which allows me to do some wicked things with the image after it's been pushed down but before it boots. I can conditionally copy down the correct drivers, extra applications, and things like the tablet PC cab files, giving me a huge amount of flexibility. I would imagine you could create an image using just about any software from a reference tablet PC that's been sysprep'ed. You would need a corporate license version or something similar, however. Our campus licensing agreement allows for such things.
  • Our ThinkPad vendor,, provides us with a 5 user version of Ghost, a Volume License for the Operating System and an Imaging Expert to assist us with creating our image. We receive a ThinkPad early in the season, configure it the way we want it and send it to their Imaging Expert for testing, Sysprep and Rapid-Restore configuration. They then ship us a second machine for final approval before the bulk of our machines are shipped. Before school starts, they send us a bootable external hard drive with the Ghost image on it and our restore time is about 10 minutes per machine. All-in-all it is a rather painless and very reliable process. We also use Zenworks for imaging laptops and storing image files during the school year. We solved the problem of lacking a bootable built-in CD-ROM drive on the two tablets we have by purchasing a dock with the CD-ROM drive. A USB CD-ROM drive did not work.

Research & ArticlesEdit

Gartner Group white paper

Windows UpdateEdit

The answer, if anyone in the listserv needs to know, is to create WSUS services in house with one master WSUS server and one or more "downstream" servers to deliver the updates on a predetermined schedule, like after hours, or alternating daily updates. This will prevent all your users from downloading the same files at the same time and installing them at the same time, which will of course cause the slowness we have heard about.

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