Tuesday, 20 May 2008

PC Imaging Vs PC Backups Vs Remote Operating System Deployment

The main ways to keep your users workstation and notebooks running is never liked by them but as I say read network usage policy.

You know the drill Lockdown the install functions and removes any and every thing that is not needed. Control what can be seen on the internet and if they can't find a business reason for it don't allow it. Don’t let them connect devices to the PC or network without express permission from the network administrator.

However this keeps them from crashing it by installing disruptive programs, but what about in the advent of hardware failure. Now on the market there are three main ways to get around hardware failure at the moment the most popular one at the moment is imaging.

Imaging creates a file that contains the exact copy of the data on that drive at that time. So main things to note are that you will need to have enough space to have these images on the network as if they are on the local PC and the drive fails you’ve lost everything, so that might be as much as 5Gb per workstation and notebook and that after compression plus incremental .

Second point is that in a domain computer accounts passwords change after 90 days so if the image is older than 90 days is of no good if its imaged while connected to the domain, however Symantec have a option with their ghost to disjoin the PC before the backup and rejoin after its finished.

Third point is that the restore has to be done to similar hardware, this is where Acronis has the upper hand at the moment with their universal restore making it easier to restore to other hardware, note I said easier not easy there are still some hardware that you will have lots of problems with due to drivers.

Fourth point is that when you have allot of hardware that is the same you can build on imagine and just deploy it to all of the PC’s by CD or Network speeding up large builds.

PC Backup
PC backup use the same basic idea as imaging but backing up to tape or SAN, this again means that you need enough space to back up all your PC’s to tape or SAN so this again might leave you with a space issue.

Second point is that you have to restore to similar hardware. But there are some tools out there to help you with this depending on your backup solution and sadly there are just to many for me to cover them so I won't.

Third point is Backups don’t really help you deploy new PC’s to the network, so you are still left with having to use one of the other two if you want to speed up your installs.

Fourth point is remote backups notebooks might not be onsite when you want to back them up, now some backup software will work over a VPN link while some others will not handle this speed keep this in mind when picking a backup, while imaging can be done to a local hard drive and copied to the network when available.

Remote Operating System Deployment
Last but not least is deploying the Operating System from a network location, so if something goes wrong with the hardware you just install a fresh build on new hardware or the repaired hardware, and these install can be custom to install all your applications. Again space on the network to hold the installs is needed but less than the imaging and backup options, as an example a custom vista install is about 7GB depending on the drivers you place in the package it might also handle all you hardware from one build.

Second point is that you can if users store information on their desktop and you don’t have roaming profiles they will lose it, when a fresh install is done so remember this as this is the drawback to doing fresh builds every time. If you are using roaming profiles you'll notice that because you have profiles and not full content of the hard drive you'll save more than 20% because you don't have the Operating System files.

Third point is that you will have to update this build as often as your hardware changes and if you are buying only a few PC’s at a time different hardware vendors you’ll end up have to create or more builds to cover all your hardware, this can be very time consuming.

Now the over view
So I know what your dying to ask, what one would I use. Well there is no good answer to this as depending on the network and SLA for getting the PC running again the best one might change.

Personally I would say that Remote Operating System Deployment is a better choice if you've roaming profiles and a secure domain, but if you have local profiles only then you have to look at Backup or Imaging and see what one works better in your environment. And lastly the cost of each as none of these are free but all of them cost affective as its better than spending time building PC.

In short a mix of these should be used and sometimes even all three, however word of warning don't make your life harder than it has to be find one product in each area your happy with and use it don't mix and match, remember your doing this to free up your time not spend it reading product manuals.

Yes you hear the M word "Manuals" I know that we don't like reading them but with this kind of thing its best to find all the options to the product before deploying it.

I'll leave you with this as a finale example Backup for workstation and server, remote operating system for new builds and imaging for notebook.

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