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My company has been using Symantec Ghost 8.2 Corporate Edition for many years as our tool for making an exact copy of the hard drive before we rebuild them for the customer. We manage around 7,000 machines on our campus and not everyone chooses to backup their own data or pay the extra money to buy an additional hard drive and let us do it for them. We also use this to multi-cast a single image to a dozen computer labs on the campus.

The program has gotten pretty old so we're looking for another solution.

Requirements:

  • Full backup of the hard drive that can be used to re-image back onto the hard drive if needed.
  • Multicast capabilities.
  • Ability to verify the integrity of the backed up image.
  • Envocable from Windows PE (which could mean it is just a stand alone exe).
  • The ability to backup a hard drive that contains bad sectors.
  • The ability to browse the backed up image and extract individual files.
  • Scriptable backups and verifications

Niceties:

  • Compress the backed up image.

After trying ImageX for a few months, we decided to go back to the Ghost programs. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

Why we didn't like ImageX:

  • Requires Administrator to mount the wim
  • Different Versions don't play well together
    • If you backed up a disk with one version, you weren't guaranteed another version would open or properly see the files inside.
    • There was an ImageX revision change where you couldn't open older wims with the new version of ImageX
  • If you want to have multiple versions of ImageX on a machine, you can't just copy the ImageX.exe, there are many additional files needed for it to work.
  • Mounting a wim can take over an hour and unmounting a wim can take over half an hour.
  • If you mount a wim as rw, and then remove files from the wim, when you unmount and commit the wim, it is now the same size or larger than the previous size.
  • It does not backup hard drives that have bad sectors (which is very important to us)

Edit: Added ImageX reasoning

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It might be helpful at this point to explain why you didn't stick with ImageX - that would have been my first suggestion (we use it just fine), and it only wastes time if someone suggests a product that has the same issues that caused you to walk away from ImageX. –  RobM Dec 18 '10 at 9:42
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You have a lot of requirements. While a product MAY exist, in general, one builds their routine around the first product they use. If you want the same features and more, you have to upgrade OR you have to develop it yourself since you have very specific requirements. Perhaps a better way to put this, what is ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY, what is a really like to have, and what is icing on the cake. Then find the best product that covers your necessities and and as many of the optional components you can get. Put another way, seems to me, there are too many requirements and not enough niceties. –  Multiverse IT Dec 18 '10 at 20:12
    
Is there a reason you don't just upgrade ghost? It can run from PE and it's on version ... 15 now, I think. –  Daniel Ball Jun 21 '11 at 14:31
    
@Daniel Ball because the new versions of ghost don't do near as much as it used to. Which, unfortunately, is what we need. –  Jason Iverson Jun 24 '11 at 2:41

1 Answer 1

It seems like you've designed a solution that is working around issues. If you're responsible for maintaining a backup (having worked at a university myself) why not use a product that centrally manages desktop backups and then you won't have to worry about that when imaging time comes around? There are products that allow you to backup with deltas and also deduplicate which would really narrow the amount of needed space. I know this is likely an expensive solution, but if you have users with data on their hard drives... ugh. It sounds like a legal nightmare (in the legal discovery sense.) In my experience with universities you have lots of grant writers attempting to bring money in and also a crazy amount of tie-ins with corporations. Losing that data could mean losing big dollars. I've been tasked with try to recover from that very scenario. If spun correctly, you could sell a centralized backup system to the C-level and get the best of both words for yourself: full backup of user workstations and then develop deployment infrastructure how you want to... without worrying about the user's data as much. Just deploy your gold image and then you can restore what data is needed from the user's centralized backup.

Ghost is a perfectly acceptable imaging tool, I've used it plenty and in similarly sized environments as yours (near 10k workstations.) ImageX does work too though and I find it to be less time intensive if its used with MDT. It has to be built out and planned correctly, but so does anything else. Our problem with Ghost was managing the individual license requirement. It seemed like our license people always forgot to keep up the licenses when we continued to grow our workstation count.

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