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Symantec Corp. has released its much anticipated Symantec Ghost Solution Suite, which combines Symantec Ghost Corporate Edition, the imaging component of the DeployCenter Library and Symantec Client Migration.

The IT suite concentrates the tools to roll out Windows and applications, migrate data and user settings, and retire PCs. Resellers are praising the notion of the combined product.

Between Ghost and DeployCenter Library, which Symantec picked up when it acquired PowerQuest in December 2003, IT managers can use Symantec Ghost Solution Suite to accomplish both file- and sector-based imaging as they quickly propagate content to PCs across an organization in both broad-brush and surgical modes.

“My understanding of what the product is supposed to be, and what I hope it will be, is the melding of the best of those two product groups,” said John Jabbusch, president and chief engineer of Carolina Advanced Digital Inc.

“Everybody knows Ghost and loves it,” said Jabbusch, adding, “Ghost is the industry standard,” and “The algorithms of DeployCenter Library are quite powerful.”

“If they succeeded in putting the assets of Symantec Ghost and DeployCenter Library together successfully under one hood, they’ll have a killer product,” said Jabbusch. “And our understanding is they did. Our belief, based on initial information in the merging of those two products, is that it’s going to be an outstanding solution.”

According to Stuart Sang, product manager for Symantec Ghost Solution Suite, “Ghost goes through and pulls out every file and stores it where it was located, and puts it into one ghost image,” including encryption and sharing. “There’s a directory structure, so you can find the files you need.”

You can add, modify and delete files from the image, except under NTFS, where you can only extract, according to Sang.

The fix is auto-install: “You just take a snapshot of incremental changes—including changes to the registry [but] excluding undesirable changes such as .tmp files—and push that snapshot out to multiple machines at once,” Sang said.

“Smart” sector-based images capture only the areas of the disk that contain data, according to Sang. Since Windows optimizes the disk, those optimizations are retained in smart image captures.

After a migration, “a lot of calls come to the help desk, saying, ‘You didn’t install my Excel’ or ‘You lost his desktop shortcut,’ because his shortcut wasn’t migrated over,” said Sang. “Sometimes they won’t have the paperclip in Word … or their settings from Lotus Notes or their Internet Explorer Favorites,” Sang continued.

User data was another category of concern. Sang said Ghost used to move user settings, but not user data or the Windows desktop, but now “Symantec Client Migration captures all three of those areas.”

Through a Web interface, users can initiate migration and select things they want to include on the journey. Administrators can exclude things, such as music files that they don’t want weighing down the target machine, according to Sang.

Some resellers’ interest has also been sparked by Ghost Solution Suite’s support of Linux EXT3, its remote control of the console via Microsoft Terminal Server and its support of a 32-bit version of Ghost certified to run on Win PE (Windows Preinstallation Environment).

“The opportunity to enhance system recovery by leveraging the 32-bit version of Ghost for Microsoft Win PE is significant,” said Rob Lowery, managing partner of Revolution Consulting.

“We serve clients who are challenged by the additional complexity of highly distributed and mobile/remote systems,” Lowery continued. “The remote management enhancements, central console and multicast file transfer support will directly benefit many of these clients.”

Pricing starts at $39.20 a seat.