Enterprise System Configuration Management

by on January 24, 2008

Q: I work at an agency that has ~600 users, and invariably at some point someone is upgraded to new hardware. Many times their current configuration includes some unknown, unremembered tweek that makes all their software work correctly. Is there a way to migrate the entire install to a new machine? I’d love to be able to take a ghost image of someone’s hard drive, and then restore it to a new machine and then fix it to make it boot on the new system.

A: For the method you describe, I suggest this fantastic guide from Ars Technica. It’s targeted at users that want to replace the motherboard on their home PC, but not go through with a reinstall of Windows. It’s saved me a lot of time upgrading home systems, but I wouldn’t suggest this method for a large office environment. The problem is you’ll be continually carrying over ‘little tweaks’ from system to system and introducing more variables into the troubleshooting process.

If you’re not doing so already you should consider some form of baseline disk image that all the systems can run with (though this can get tricky when each team is buying it’s own hardware), combined with a centralized deployment method. As for the little fixes, getting your IT staff to document any changes done to any specific machines in a knowledge base or troubleshooting ticket system can help immensely. However, if your baseline load is done right, and your users are keeping all their data on a network drive, those troubleshooting tickets should just read, “re-imaged drive, problem solved!”.