Review: Binary Research International's Universal Imaging Utility allows admins to reduce the number of images they maintain.
The imminent release of Microsofts Windows Vista notwithstanding, Windows XP deployment will continue to be the main practical concern of desktop system managers for some time to come. With Universal Imaging Utility 3.0 from Binary Research International, IT managers will be able to maintain significantly fewer images, possibly even just one, while supporting a vast array of heterogeneous hardware.
UIU 3.0 works with disk imaging software. During tests, eWEEK Labs used the product with Symantecs Ghost and Altiris Deployment Solution to create a master image. We then deployed that image to a variety of desktop and laptop systems.
UIU 3.0 comprises a cache of approximately 250MB of common drivers, along with a utility that helps configure Microsofts Sysprep. UIU 3.0, which was updated in August, costs $20 per seat, with significant discounts based on volume.
We created a model system using an Intel Pentium 4-based desktop system running Windows XP Service Pack 2. After installing all the application software and configuring the system with all our customary modifications, such as changing the Start menu properties to the Windows Classic view, we installed UIU 3.0.
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UIU 3.0 basically walks IT managers through all the steps needed to prepare a machine for deployment in a production environment.
The product made it easy for us to access Microsofts Sysprep utility, although we used the files we already had on hand from our volume license disk. It was also easy to access all the files and images, which made using UIU 3.0 a snap.
The UIU 3.0 interface is quite simple: We started the image preparation process by clicking an on-screen button. It should take only a matter of several hours for even the most junior system manager to master the product.
As with any image management tool, its essential to make backups of the reference PC in case something goes wrong during the image creation process.
UIU 3.0 issued a rather stern warning message, telling us to make a backup of our system, but the product has no tools to assist administrators in doing so. UIU 3.0 is, after all, a utility for making images, not an image tool itself. We used Deployment Solution to make a backup image of our reference system prior to installing UIU 3.0.
New in this version of UIU is the ability to automatically access the Big Bang Web site to download the most current set of drivers. (Binary Research is the worldwide distributor of Big Bangs UIU software.) It took us only about 10 minutes to go through the driver download and update process. During tests, UIU 3.0 automatically checked to see which .exe and driver updates we needed for our reference system.
We also were able to speed installation and master image setup routines by saving UIU 3.0 configuration information in a file on the reference system. System managers can use this feature to help ensure that UIU 3.0 configurations at distributed locations are consistent.
There is, however, no central management functionality for UIU 3.0. System managers will need to manually check to ensure that distributed copies of the utility are set up in a way that is consistent with central office guidelines.
Even without a central management feature, though, UIU 3.0s overall ease of use and driver database make the product suitable even in large organizations with distributed PC management operations.
Using UIU 3.0-prepared images usually doubled the amount of time needed to deploy an image compared with using Ghost or Deployment Solution alone. Images to which we added SCSI support, new in this version of UIU, took up to 3 to 5 minutes more to deploy. Indeed, SCSI support is the main reason to maintain at least two images for deployment. For most organizations, two images will still be a vast improvement over the number currently needed to support desktop and laptop systems.
UIU 3.0 uses Sysprep to deploy workable images onto target systems. We directed UIU 3.0 to give each of the machines deployed with our master image a unique computer name. We also were able to put machines into specific workgroups or domains.
We could add volume-license-key information into UIU 3.0. Those organizations without a volume license key will be forced to add an individual key during installation when the image is deployed.
After UIU 3.0 completed the image preparation and closed the reference system, we used our disk imaging tools to create a deployment image that we could distribute to a variety of desktop and laptop systems.
Technical Director Cameron Sturdevant can be reached at email@example.com.
Altiris Deployment Solution
Creates operating system images (www.altiris.com
LANDesk Softwares LANDesk Management Suite
Deploys operating systems and provides remote control capabilities (www.landesk.com
Provides a range of image tools and utilities (www.symantec.com
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