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Saturday, June 23, 2012

Acronis Snap Deploy for PCs

TechRepublic web site
Imaging is common practice in many IT shops today and has been around for quite some time. The concept of creating a master system and using an image of that system to quickly get other systems to your organization’s standard configuration (or a custom configuration) is a great help to the IT staff in charge of desktop systems.
The concept is the same regardless of the size of organization or the application you choose to manage your images. Recently I started down the path of imaging in my current organization and came across Snap Deploy from Acronis and found it to be very user friendly and straight forward. In this spotlight I am going to look at Acronis Snap Deploy for PCs which is used solely to image workstations.
To use Acronis Snap Deploy for PCs you will need to create a master image of a system. This computer should contain all of the standard applications used by your organization to create a “golden image” for use company-wide.
Creating an image for mass deployment is very simple. The Snap Deploy management console (or bootable media) allows you to create images online and offline when the master system is configured as needed. Using offline mode, when booted to Acronis media, simply select the location to store your image and the application handles the rest.
Supported operating systems:
  • Windows 98
  • Windows 2000
  • Windows ME
  • Windows XP
  • Windows Vista
  • Windows 7
Who’s it for?
Acronis Snap Deploy is for busy systems administrators or IT departments who need to get new workstations provisioned quickly for new staff or refresh older PCs with minimal effort. The Snap Deploy deployment process greatly reduces repeat system deployments and can be configured to image multiple systems all at the same time or work through a list of waiting PCs one at a time.
What problem does it solve?
Repetitive installations are very tedious and time-consuming to complete. Consider the following example:  the sales department in an organization brings on three new field representatives who will be starting in a week. When they come in for orientation they will need laptops configured with the organization’s sales application and email. For an IT department with multiple staff or nothing going on, it would be no problem to individually build these systems, but with constant support and questions, the workday of the IT department is rarely so calm.
Snap Deploy alleviates this by allowing a master image to be built containing all the applications needed by the sales team. When the image is ready, the workstations can be targeted by booting from media or a PXE server (which ships with the application). Once booted ,the PC will connect to a host system which handles the deployment; the administrator simply creates a template for sales, which tells the server where the master image is and includes any storage drivers needed. Once the deployment begins, the IT staff is free to move on to other tasks.
Standout features
Snap Deploy allows templates to be saved on the deployment server. These templates contain the information needed to get the deployment finished. The following are specified in a template:
  • Image location
  • Storage drivers
  • Additional files to copy to the target system
  • Network credentials for joining the domain
  • Multicast/Unicast deployment: Allows the deployment to use all available switch bandwidth to speed up deployment when in multicast mode. Unicast mode allows the deployment to communicate directly with the target system at rate determined by the administrator.
Note: Be very careful when using Multicast mode. If you are imaging across a production network, using this method may cause other nodes within your environment to drop.
Additional File Copy: This setting allows you to specify additional files that should be copied to the target system as part of the imaging process. When a file is pulled from the network, it is copied following the application of the image to a directory you specify.
Scheduled or event driven image deployment: In addition to the “do it right now” manual deployment option, you can configure Snap Deploy to push images out on a set schedule, so a system can be imaged overnight and ready for login the next morning. You can also use event driven image deployment so an image can be pushed to the target system following an event, in which case a system would connect to deployment server and wait. Once a preconfigured number of systems connect (or the time out value is reached) the deployment begins.

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