Hardware

Review: Acronis Snap Deploy 3 for PCs

Derek Schauland takes a look at Acronis Snap Deploy for PCs, an imaging solution for workstations. How does it hold up?

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.

Specifications

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. Wake on LAN deployment : Configure scheduled deployments to wake systems that are powered off (if supported) and push an image to the target.

Figure A

Acronis Snap Deploy management console

Figure B

Acronis Snap Deploy media creation wizard

What's wrong?

Snap Deploy has a great feature set and, with the Universal Deploy add-on, can push an image to targets with dissimilar hardware. The problem with this isn't in the software, but that it is not included in the base cost of licensing. Snap Deploy costs about 25$/target machine to license, but if you wish to push an image across machines with dissimilar hardware, you will need to license that as well at about $13/target. It isn't a huge cost, but can become expensive depending on the number of clients being targeted.

If your targets are all the same, this add-on isn't needed, but it seems that PC manufacturers change parts and requirements whenever the next version of a system is released. Universal Deploy solves the problem of constantly creating new images when new hardware is purchased.

Competitive products

Bottom line for business

With the speed of technology changes today and the constant growth of organizations being able to manage a variety of computers with minimal effort is a great asset to the often busy IT staff. Keeping the process of rolling out new (or refreshing old) workstations to a minimum after initial configuration is sure to be a great help. Simply scheduling a deployment when a new laptop is delivered, plugging it in to the network and booting to connect to the server is much more efficient than formatting and loading everything manually.

About

Derek Schauland has been tinkering with Windows systems since 1997. He has supported Windows NT 4, worked phone support for an ISP, and is currently the IT Manager for a manufacturing company in Wisconsin.

14 comments
jhevener
jhevener

I must be missing something if a MDT deployment is only two clicks more than Ghost. From how I read it, it takes a deployment server, a reference/master image PC, a Tech/WAIK PC to get MDT setup. With ghost, I created the image. Burn the image to a file. Boot a new PC with a CD or USB stick. Pull the image down. Done. I am interested in Storage Craft because of its price, but it is not a whole lot cheaper than Ghost. Ghost - simple, and just works.

butkus
butkus

And when can you get any PC or laptop older then 3 months that has identical hardware? Unless you buy and store a bunch, the hardware changes weekly !

mlm
mlm

Any of you ever used storagecraft Shadow Protect? They have imaging products for exchange, servers, and desktops. They have something called hardware independent restore that allows images to go to dissimilar hardware. Was thinking of trying this. We are a smaller shop and everything is on a single server including exchange. We tried the acronis had the trial it would not install properly we called support and we were told if we were not paying for it they could not help us. We paid for it trusting them that it would work. We got the base plus exchange plus universal restore. After several months working with support and our server crashing several time while working with support with the software. We uninstalled the software. After fighting with them for 8 months we recieved a refund. Please don't think we had a crappy server it was flawless for 2 years until a motherboard failure. Right after that and getting the server backup we got the software and the server has ran flawless for another year after we uninstalled the software. So i am not eager to try any more of their products.

ggonzales
ggonzales

I implimented Acronis Snap Deploy for our imaging solution when I started this new job. While it was a cost efficient solution over manually configuring pc's (which was the process prior to me starting), I quickly learned the biggest con was the need to have a separate image for different hardware and OS/App combinations...I didn't feel we should have to buy another add-on in order for it to work with different hardware so I went this route. Then I started testing and finally implemented MS Deployment Toolkit 2010. It is completely customizable. If I have dissimalar hardware, all I need to do is add the driver to the deployment share and the process does the rest. Users requiring different application packages are no longer an issue. Once I add the application to the deployment share, I can select any combination of software to install on any hardware configuration and 20 minutes later, the image is complete. And the best part....FREE!! George

ajogadeo2
ajogadeo2

this is great tool and i have been using it eversince i stepped ma feet in the IT door of career!, its very handy,dependable,user friendly,fast,time saving and headscratch free for starters. i completely recommended it for several comapanys IT administrators when i went analysing thier IT ind=frustracture and all my suggestions and analysis focussed on Imaging tools such as LANDESK,ACRONIS BOOT,GHOST,and many more. cheers fox, until next time, Deogracious ajoga senior IT Support analyst. 2010 technology updates professional.

onclejon
onclejon

Snap Deploy works well on similar systems but the Unversal Retore is more of a prayer than a hope in my experience.

ES-ES
ES-ES

If you are a Windows shop it is "free" you have to have the CAL's for the systems you are going to be imaging but you need them anyways. I have used it for going on three years and it works very well. I was a big Ghost shop before. Ghost can be done in two less clicks but compare the price and it was easy for me to make the move. We use it image all student laptops.

djmorrissey
djmorrissey

You missed two products that fill this need. The Stand aolone Ghost outside of Altiris 7, and the Kace Kbox solution.

david.asher
david.asher

I have used Storage Craft for SBS and it worked just fine. The one thing that did not work on the new HIR process was an application called Mercury. After the move none of the clients could connect to the new SBS server. There support did not find the problem so I had to follow MS's "Move SBS to different hardware". Now that took some time!!

Craig_B
Craig_B

Windows Deployment Services, quite nice and is in Windows Server 2008 and works very well.

bkourouma
bkourouma

What about "fog solution". It is entirely free and gets the job done quite smoothly.

gregeva
gregeva

Since seeing more and more Acronis tools pop-up in various companies around the world over the years, I became very curious and started checking them out seriously as a new set of I.T. productivity "must-have's" for the consultant/administrators toolbox. Since then, I've used their imaging software, however more importantly become familiar with their licensing; and thusly the motives and ethics behind the company. My take-away is less than positive, however I'm very glad that I was able to learn about them before getting customers to invest in them. Their licensing policy seems to be to bend people over as much as possible, and they even define certain software normal-use as being in breech of license. It would be one thing to do this if the purchaser was made aware of a restricted license, however they do not seem to mention these things, and leave it up to the customer to read the ToU themselves (which of course they normally deliver post purchase). I have a big problem with this as they are making honest law-abiding people into criminals. Over the past couple years they have really been hitting the enterprise space hard, but I would caution people as to their motives, and suggest that you read all the fine print VERY carefully! Technically; I was able to get TrueImage 2010 working, but this was after a lof of difficulty crashing, forcing me to have to remove bits and pieces of hardware in order to get a good verified image.

Klehakasha
Klehakasha

can't understand why this product wasn't listed as a " competitive product ", it's a 1st class product

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