Smooth Move

Ghost's efficient disk imaging and client management can give your customers peace of mind as they migrate to Windows Vista.

Although Microsoft's Vista operating system is a huge leap forward in terms of features, functions and security, it also presents some significant challenges. Besides requiring your customers to upgrade or replace hardware in most cases to be able to run Windows Vista, the new operating system promises a spate of new challenges on the support, training and management sides.

Assuming most of your customers' environments are based on some combination of Windows XP or 2000, just making the transition to Vista can be a daunting task. Manually backing up each PC, doing a clean install of the operating system and restoring each individual user's data, settings and profiles is potentially error-prone and can take hours per system.

And that's just with the systems migrating to Vista. Most of your customers are likely to maintain a mixed environment for the foreseeable future. That brings up additional issues of application and file compatibility, not to mention simultaneously supporting two versions of Windows.

These challenges can be your opportunities, though. Symantec Ghost Solution Suite 2.0, released last December, automates all those imaging and migration processes. Adding a solution like Ghost to your customer presentation as a tool to ease the pain of migration makes for a compelling sell.

Ghost's usefulness goes beyond the migration process -- it can ease ongoing management in environments with multiple versions of Windows, including Vista, XP, 2000, 98 and 95, and even some versions of Linux. Besides its imaging, deployment and operating system migration capabilities, Ghost can also handle software distribution, hardware and software inventory and securely retiring outdated desktop systems.

Symantec Ghost
Solution Suite 2.0

Release Date: December 2006
Pricing: Ranges from $39.20 for 10 to 24 seats to $19.30 for more than 250 seats
www.symantec.com

Like its predecessor, Symantec Ghost Solution Suite 2.0 lets your customers create a customized standard PC image and then automatically deploy it to hundreds of networked PCs simultaneously. It also supports what Symantec calls "PC personality" migration. This preserves each individual user's data, settings and profiles as you move them through the migration to Vista.

The Ghost suite is aimed at small and midsize companies that may have little or no IT staff onsite. At organizations of this size, your customers can take advantage of the suite's wizards to automatically create a backup image of each PC, capture the user data and settings, deploy a new operating system, perform post-clone configuration and restore user data and settings -- all without being an IT expert.

For your customers in larger organizations, the suite integrates with key management frameworks, such as IBM Tivoli or HP Openview. This helps your customers take advantage of the suite's desktop client-based management services.

More Than Migration
Perhaps a key selling point is that the Ghost Solution Suite 2.0 is still quite useful even after the migration to Vista is complete. Ghost includes a centralized management console that lets your customers configure and schedule a variety of PC management tasks, including distributing new software packages, deploying patches and taking inventory of specific PC hardware and software.

Once a desktop system reaches the end of its life, the suite also eases data disposal tasks. It ensures that all data, especially confidential corporate or personal information, is completely wiped off the system. Ghost's data deletion routines meet standards that conform to stringent Department of Defense security requirements.

Symantec claims all of the features combined reduce the time it takes to deploy new software and migrate to new operating systems like Vista by as much as 90 percent over manual methods. It does all this while easing ongoing client PC management and providing significant savings in overall total cost of ownership for any size company. This can be a key selling point when presenting Ghost as a tool to ease the move to Vista for customers of any size.

It's no accident that version 2.0 of the Ghost suite is tailored specifically for your customers looking to move to Vista. The primary new features are support for Vista and other 64-bit operating systems. The suite also boasts some added functions that are aimed at making the move to Vista less of a hassle. For example, the previous version supported the ability to edit FAT and EXT2/3 images. Version 2.0 also adds the ability to edit NTFS images. This means your customers can add, remove and modify files and folders within Ghost images, regardless of the underlying file system.

It also supports imaging hard drives as large as 2TB. It does this using something Symantec calls SmartSector Technology, which copies only the sectors with data. This reduces creation and restoration times and ensures that disk space is not wasted.

The new version also introduces GUID partition table (GPT) support, which lets your customers create images of larger partitions. This is another factor that promises to ease the migration to Vista, since some newer hardware systems use GPT, such as those based on Intel's Itanium processors.

Finally, the Ghost suite now lets your customers create and deploy hardware images of RAID arrays under Windows Pre-Installation Environment (WinPE). This gives your IT customers a little extra flexibility for their systems management tasks.

The hardware requirements may be significant, especially for older systems soon to be retired. If the systems upon which your customers are running Ghost have already been equipped for Vista or plan to be soon, then having the necessary processor power shouldn't be a problem.

To support Ghost 2.0, client PCs need to have at least a 133MHz Pentium processor with at least 32MB of RAM and 6MB of disk space. To ensure adequate space for images, systems running Ghost need enough room for at least twice the size of the largest file to be migrated on the C: drive. The Ghost suite supports older versions of Windows all the way back to Windows 95B, Windows 98 SE and Windows NT 4.0 (SP4). It also supports Windows 2000 Professional (SP1), Windows XP Professional Edition, Windows XP Tablet PC Edition and of course, Windows Vista. (It doesn't support Windows Me and Windows XP Home Edition.)

Competitive Landscape
In terms of Vista support, the competition for Symantec Ghost Solution Suite 2.0 is fairly sparse. Just one other popular enterprise-level disk-imaging package, Acronis True Image 9.1 Workstation, boasts support for Vista and other 64-bit operating systems.

Like Symantec Ghost Solution Suite 2.0, Acronis True Image 9.1 Workstation lets users create images of their networked PCs, including the operating system, applications and files, in addition to individual user data, settings and profiles. Designed primarily for small office sites, the Acronis package provides for remote deployment, backup and restore of files, folders, partitions or the entire hard drive of any computer on the corporate network. It can save backups to an existing hard drive, to a virtual machine or to FTP.

Using Acronis Snap Restore, customers can boot directly from an image. This decreases downtime by letting people use their systems during a recovery. It lets users save backups directly to DVDs without using third-party DVD burning software. It can also restore data and files to different hardware via an add-on product called Universal Restore. It's a bit more expensive, though. Acronis True Image 9.1 Workstation costs $70.39 each for up to 49 licenses.

Another solution to the desktop system imaging/restore and OS deployment problem could be to use VMware's VMware Workstation or Microsoft's Virtual PC. Although these products are designed primarily to enable users to run more than one instance of an operating system on a single desktop system, users have been known to use them to create and store PC images for easy mass deployment as well as backup/restore.

Still, they aren't quite as elegant as Symantec Ghost Solutions Suite or Acronis True Image 9.1 Workstation in that they don't provide for single file restore, FAT or NTSF image editing or any of the security features. And a big knock against them is that they don't yet offer official Vista support. Both VMware and Microsoft offer beta or "experimental" support. True Vista support is expected later this year.

Spotlight Highlights

Key Features

  • Vista and 64-bit Windows support
  • Ability to edit NTFS images
  • GPT support lets customers image larger partitions
  • Creates and deploys images of hardware RAID arrays under WinPE

Competition

  • Acronis True Image 9.1 Workstation
  • VMware Workstation
  • Microsoft Virtual PC

Opportunities

  • Present with Vista upgrade to ease migration efforts
  • Improved client management helps in mixed environments
  • Emphasize reduction in TCO

Sales and Marketing
As with its other products, Symantec provides a wealth of information, sales guides and marketing materials within its PartnerNet site. The materials include marketing kits, sales kits and partner enablement tool kits, as well as launch kits designed to help partners quickly get up to speed on new products like Symantec Ghost Solution Suite 2.0.

Knowing more about the products and their capabilities makes them easier to promote and sell. You can find the Symantec Partner Program guide online at the Symantec Web site.

For its part, Microsoft also offers some helpful tools at its Partner Program Web site, especially for getting up to speed on Vista and carving out new Vista-specific business opportunities. For example, you can take an online tutorial on Vista, though you must be registered as a partner to access this site.

On the Microsoft Web site you can also try out the new Windows Vista Business Value Discussion Tool, which is designed to help advance two-way sales discussions with your customers, and develop business cases for deploying Windows Vista in the most cost-effective, easy-to-manage way.

The Final Word
Even when your customers see Vista in action and realize all of its productivity, security and other benefits, they may hesitate to make the move. It's daunting to consider the downtime and lost productivity they may incur as a result of a large-scale operating system migration. It's that concern that is likely to result in most organizations slowly introducing Vista, all the while maintaining a mixed environment.

A tool like Symantec Ghost Solution Suite 2.0 can get your customers past these hurdles. By automating the time consuming, error-prone process of configuring and deploying Vista across an organization, you can help get your customers up and running quickly and minimize upgrade interruptions.

And since many of your customers may opt to upgrade some users to Vista while leaving others alone, the suite makes managing the inevitable mixed Windows environment far easier via its software and hardware inventorying capabilities as well as its software distribution features.

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