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Managing Disk Partitions Over the Network with Ghost Corporate Edition

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System administrators often need to deploy images to multiple machines, or they want to make and send images (including system images) to machines over a network. Daniel Dern explains the process using Symantec Ghost Corporate Edition as a solution.

If you're a system administrator, you may have to support dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of Windows users in your company. This chore probably starts with initializing new systems with a standard core set of applications. It continues with performing software and database updates/upgrades, migrating users to new machines, scrubbing and reinitializing loaner laptops, and restoring machines with fresh software. You could do all this work on foot, hand-carrying CDs, with remote users either carrying or shipping their machines—or you could use a program like Symantec's Ghost Corporate Edition, which lets you load and retrieve full system images over the network, and load images to many systems in one operation.

Partition imaging is the process of deploying, saving, and restoring the full contents (also known as the image or image dump) of the partitions on the hard drive of a desktop or notebook computer. For many organizations, this process is an ongoing system administration challenge. Partition imaging includes a variety of tasks:

  • Saving a system "as received" (for example, from vendor, VAR, or integrator), for later restoring, or "cloning" to one or multiple machines

  • Loading the operating system and core applications (together known as the "corporate image") to a new system

  • Upgrading the operating system and/or applications

  • Migrating a user's data and personal settings to a new machine

  • Providing a clean system—for example, for a notebook loaner or when reissuing a used machine to a new user

  • System/data backup

  • Problem resolution—for example, recovery of files or even full system restore

A variety of products are available to assist the system administrator in partition imaging. These are some of the most popular:

Of these products, only one—Symantec Ghost Corporate Edition 7.5—offers the capability of making and restoring images (including the operating system partition) and deploying those images to a group of machines from a central administrative console. According to Thom Bailey, group product manager with the Ghost team, Ghost Corporate Edition 7.5 "[...]represents a large paradigm shift from the consumer edition, which was used for up to a dozen or so users, over a mapped network drive if need be."

NOTE

Symantec may not be alone in this area for long: According to my conversations with them, Acronis and other vendors are working on "central console" partition content-administration tools. Dantz Retrospect can also be used over the network.

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