Symantec aims to make desktop management less taxing

By Denise Dubie, Network World |  Networking

Symantec next week will roll out an upgraded management package designed to reduce time spent manually administering to end users' desktops.

The latest version of Symantec's Ghost offering lets net administrators use a single console to:

Capture individual user profiles for migration from one desktop to another.
Automate software and upgrade distribution across local and mobile environments.
Create incremental snapshots of PC data for up-to-date remote backups.
Ghost 7.0 also includes a feature for "waking up" PCs connected to a LAN, but not in use, to perform system upgrades or backups.

Ghost competes with products such as PowerQuest's DriveImage, Altiris' RapiDeploy and Innovative Software's Imagecast IC3.

Ghost's enterprise console software is installed on a dedicated server and can push an executable out to PCs that need to be managed. Net managers select the drive or drive partition they want to create a disk image for, and Ghost creates an image file of the system and saves it on the console server. With that information available at one console, net managers can remotely administer PCs.

Andrew Batson has been using Ghost on Clarkson University's 5,000-node network since Version 3.0. As a senior support specialist, he says Ghost helps his department more easily upgrade and move users. Ghost also lets him replicate 10G-byte images into Clarkson's computer labs without having to go from workstation to workstation.

"We do a lot of work with end users moving from one system to another, and Ghost gives us the ability to create user packages and easily upgrade those end users," Batson says.

He's been tinkering with the beta-test version of Ghost 7.0, but has yet to use it across Clarkson's network. Symantec's new feature for creating a centralized "personality migration" strikes him as particularly interesting because of the many changes his end users request. The incremental back-up features will also make his life "a whole lot easier," Batson says.

He says Ghost is a big time saver for him, although he'd like to see Symantec improve the package's reporting features by adding a type of graphical representation of all the information the program captures. Batson says that data could show his managers where and how the system could be improved.

"Pictures and numbers could help with management who don't completely understand the technology," he says.

Ghost 7.0 costs $15 per node for a 100-node network.

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