Ghostcast, a Special IT Tool

What is Ghostcast and how will it help you with a multiple computer deployment?

It is a special feature of the Symantec-Ghost-Suite that will allow you to put an image on a single or multiple computers over a network, very handy.

Before you start you will need a network and a computer to act as the Ghostcast server.

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If you can afford it there is also a system called the "Octopus" that uses a network or a multiple drive cable attachment that will do this also. I have used one type of system like this and it is quite expensive, large computer manufactures use this type of system to put their "image" on hard drives prior to installation in the computers being built.

Two companies I worked for used Ghostcast to image multiple computers at one time, one was a rental company and the other was a major bank. The companies found out that imaging multiple computers use a lot of the available network bandwidth, that is if there is other network traffic on the network when the imaging process is ongoing the network will be very slow. To keep this from happening the companies had a separate network for the Ghostcast server and the client computers receiving the image.

A 100 MBPS network could service up to 40 computers at one time but it would be slow, we found that the max of 30 computers could be accommodated in a reasonable time. I wasn't there when 1 GBPS came out but I would think that there would be a large improvement in the speed that the image could be delivered to a computer and the number of computers being imaged at one time would be over 30.

With a separate network for the Ghostcast imaging process you will have better security for those that need increased security. Depending on your space you could have a KVM switch for multiple computers, one tech could do all the imaging by their self.

With the Symantec Ghost Suite you will find all the tools you need to make bootable devices for connection to the Ghostcast server. Once you have your boot devices tested you are ready for the next step.

Before you can deploy your new computers or reimage a set of computers you will need to make the image.

By now you should be able to create a Ghost image if not click here for a tutorial on Ghost.

To save yourself or your department some time these are the steps I use when creating an image before deployment:

All computers have to be the same make and model or the image will fail, if you are using different computers and make one image those that are not the same make and model as the computer the image was made from will BSOD...

Setting up the new test computer:

  • Install the Operating System.
  • Run all the updates.
  • If the computer has multiple drive partitions set your security per your company standards.
  • Optimize the Operating System.
  • If you network doesn't use DHCP for assigning IP addresses get a static IP that is outside the range of the current network address. (This will insure that when you load the image on a computer that is connected to the network it doesn't cause a duplicate IP error, older switches will crash when a duplicate IP is detected).
  • Install all the user programs.
  • Do any company standardization and customizing.
  • Put the test computer into your Domain and test the company GP's to insure there aren't any conflicts.
  • Test all the programs, better yet have a user use the computer for a while to insure there aren't any unforeseen problems, you are putting a lot of time in making the image, better to have a known good image than a mediocre image that needs to be fixed frequently.
  • Make your image.

You may want to make an ISO of the image also for techs in the field, having the ISO on a secure sever for download each tech can make their own CD/DVD for install in the field.

Once you have your network, Ghostcast server, and image all you need are the computers to send the image to, then deploy them to your users.

When you deploy the image to multiple computers you can use the tools in the Symantec Ghost Suite  to change the computer name and SID or you can find the SID Changer utility on Microsoft Tech Net. If you don't change the computer name then the SID you will have name and SID conflicts when you try to bring the new computer in to your Domain.

This is a lot faster than doing one or two computers at a time when you have a Ghostcast server to do 30 or more at one time. This makes deploying a new computer to your users faster with less headaches.

Question: Can you use this system on a small network for deploying or re-imaging of computers? Yes, indeed. You do have to consider the cost of the Symantec Ghost Suite, that is would it be cost effective to buy the suite and have a computer with the software installed to do a computer once in a while vs having a bootable device and the image on an external hard drive or CD/DVD?

Now where is that Ghostcast boot disk?

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