Ghost's efficient disk imaging and client management can give your customers peace of mind as they migrate to Windows Vista.
- By Joanne Cummings
- March 01, 2007
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
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and securely retiring outdated desktop systems.
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
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
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
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
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.)
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
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.
- 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
- Acronis True Image 9.1 Workstation
- VMware Workstation
- Microsoft Virtual PC
- 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
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.