With the variety of desktop management solutions available today, choosing a new imaging software can seem overwhelming. There are five main considerations you need to focus on when choosing an imaging solution. Focusing on these elements will ensure that you’ve covered your bases and won’t be disappointed by your choice later. While all of these factors go hand-in-hand, you must prioritize what’s most important for your organization.
Here’s our take on what is most important and also some questions to help guide your strategy to determine what’s most important to you.
1. Image strategy
How does your imaging software affect your image creation strategy? Do you have a closet full of reference computers to dig through every time you need to make an update? Or does your software of choice allow you to use a Virtual Machine that is portable, flexible, and easy to access? We suggest, as a best practice, using a virtual machine as your reference computer for these very reasons. Additionally, VMs give you a clean and controlled environment that can be better collaborated on across teams, often times with greater efficiency and less cost.
Updates & sysprep
How do updates work with your imaging software? Are you Sysprepping your machine to commit those changes? Meaning, once you’ve updated and Sysprepped that image three times, (at least with Windows 7) you now have to start all over and re-build your image from scratch. Where Sysprep occurs in the imaging process is probably not at the top of your mind when selecting an imaging software, but it actually can affect your time management forever. If you’re having to re-build that image every three updates, how much time does that take you? Using a VM for your reference computer means you can save an extra copy to make updates to it without having to rebuild. You can also look for an imaging solution that handles Sysprep for you.
2. Driver management
How does your imaging software allow you to handle drivers? Do you have to go to each manufacturer’s website to download and package those drivers? Are you embedding them in the image with hardware specific images, using disk cloning techniques? Or, do you use a blob method, let Plug and Play do its thing and hope for the best? Find an imaging solution that works for your environment now and can also handle changes in the future. Manufacturers change models so often, it’s nearly impossible to keep everyone on the same hardware.
What file format does your imaging software use? Products like Symantec Ghost and Acronis Snap Deploy use proprietary formats, .GHO and .TIB respectively. Whereas imaging software like SmartDeploy and Microsoft Deployment Toolkit, use the industry standard .WIM file type. Using a .WIM file makes your image that much more flexible. Giving you the ability to use it with plenty of other products, including Microsoft SCCM and WDS. Furthermore, you can service and manipulate .WIM files. Other proprietary formats are locked down and you are beholden to that vendor to make any updates.
4. Deployment time
How much time does it actually take you to deploy your image? Take a step back, and consider all the other time you’ve put in to creating and updating your image, how much time did all that take you? If it’s more than an hour, you’re probably wasting valuable time that you could be spending on something much more productive and valuable than imaging and deployment.
5. Ease of use and support
Is your imaging software easy to use? Do you end up going through multiple tiers of support just to get an answer to your question? If so, maybe it’s time to consider something else. Imaging and deployment should be simple, fast, and reliable. If it takes an hour to create and update your image, and another half hour to deploy the image, and then another hour or day to resolve a technical support issue that arose during deployment – you’ve now spent a whole day, or more, just trying to image a computer.
Before you spend hours trying to configure an imaging software to work the way you need it to, take a step back and evaluate your options. Spending a couple hours trying a few solutions may save you hours of pain down the road. More importantly, having an imaging process will ultimately keep devices performing at their best and reducing potential security vulnerabilities since you’ll be consistently deploying the most up to date images across the organization.