Computer imaging best practices: 3 tips & tricks

This article is part of the SmartDeploy Whiteboard Series

The world of computer imaging is rapidly changing. Gone are the days when you had to reimage devices using only physical reference machines or when you had no other option but to do it manually.  

Today, with the widespread availability of virtualization software and file-based computer imaging solutions like SmartDeploy, IT teams can now increase efficiency by simplifying and streamlining the imaging and deployment process.  

Here are three general tips and tricks or computer imaging best practices that we hope you might find useful.  

1. Use a virtual reference machine (VM) instead of a physical device 

VMs provide a clean and controlled environment to start from. They are easy to use and very portable.  

You can also run multiple VMs from one piece of hardwareall independently from one another and the physical host machine. This means you don’t have to secure physical space or a bunch of hardware just to do imaging.  

The best part? You can easily find a lot of virtualization software that’s available for free, like Oracle VM VirtualBox and VMware.  

Simplifying image deployment with virtual machines 

The team at Cal Poly was using Symantec Ghost to reimage over 300 lab computers of varying makes and models every year, as part of the school’s lab refresh cycle. This required them to purchase and maintain a dedicated physical computer for every golden image deployed to each OEM model. Doing so cost them thousands of dollars each year and hours spent keeping each image up to date.  

That all changed when they started using SmartDeploy’s modern imaging solution. Virtual reference machines with a single golden image were created and deployed to any computer. Instead of updating the device drivers on each physical reference computer, the team leveraged SmartDeploy’s extensive library of Platform Packs, created and maintained in-house. Platform Packs contain all the drivers needed for a specific device make, model, and operating system version, and can be easily deployed along with the golden image in the same operation.  

This streamlined approach to Windows imaging eventually saved Cal Poly a huge amount of time, money, and effort.   

2. Install core applications into your Windows image

To shorten the deployment process, you can install core or common applications that apply to all user devices, in the Windows image on your reference VM. Examples include Microsoft Office, Adobe Reader, and VPN clients.  

This is a convenient approach that helps to streamline the deployment process. It also saves time by making it easier to manage and maintain your corporate image to meet organizational requirements.  

3. Reduce the number of images you need

So how many images should you have? The answer usually depends on your environment. Even if you support a hardware-diverse environment , you don’t have to end up with a large number of images in your library.  

Instead of building images based on the types of hardware, it’s much more efficient to use VMs and build your images based on required software for specific use cases or groups (e.g. HR, Engineering, Finance). This will reduce the overall number of images you have to maintain.   

You also don’t have to create one image for each type of hardware. Simply create and maintain one single golden image on your VM that can be deployed to any PC in your organization, regardless of make or model. 

If you’re interested in learning more, check out how SmartDeploy provides a simple, easy-to-use computer imaging solution for PC provisioning and lifecycle management for hybrid onsite and remote environments.