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City U of Seattle Shifts Disk Imaging After Year-Long Test

City University of Seattle has recently adopted a new computer imaging application, which is being deployed across its multiple campuses in the United States, Canada, and Mexico. The college, which has its main campus in the Washington city, adopted SmartDeploy Enterprise from Prowess after more than a year of testing. An imaging application provides a way to distribute software--whether operating systems, applications, or updates--en masse to multiple computers to expedite deployment, migration, or maintenance.

The university sought a replacement for the multi-step process its technicians followed with Symantec Ghost, its previous desktop imaging program. "The steps required to deploy updated images are drastically reduced. I would estimate that we can update and deploy images 25 percent faster than before," said Kirk Shattuck, desktop services manager of City U.

"You have to know what you're doing [with Ghost]," added Greg Little, desktop support lead. "With SmartDeploy, you don't have to think about it. Life is easier for the tech guys and for me--it just works. It is the simplest thing to use. It does its thing and you don't have to think about it."

One challenge with the previous program was that only a single person on the IT staff knew how to create a boot disk. "We found that the tools included in the solution we had been using were not particularly user friendly," Shattuck explained. For example, if the master image were missing a driver, the imaging application wouldn't communicate with the server, a problem that would require trial and error testing to debug.

To simplify creation of a master disk, SmartDeploy provides downloads on its Web site for "Platform Packs," template files containing all the components of an installation for the target computer, including device drivers and other platform-specific software. The IT administrator specifies the manufacturer, the model of machine, and the Windows operating system.

Another problem the City U team had was that the previous set-up wouldn't work in a virtual environment. "We would have preferred to make our updates in a virtual environment, but that wasn't supported with the tools we were using," Shattuck said. SmartDeploy Enterprise supports deployment of images from and to both physical and virtual machines.

He estimates that the move to the new application has cut imaging work by 60 percent at the 20,000-student university and reduced the process from four steps to one or two steps.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a writer who covers technology and business for a number of publications. Contact her at dian@dischaffhauser.com.

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