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Check my thinking - how many hours does it take to build a 9 PC workgroup?

Posted on 2004-10-29
Medium Priority
Last Modified: 2010-03-18
Anyone care to offer some advice / check my thinking?  

We are trying to figure how many man hours it will take to build a 9 PC workgroup.  The cabling infrastructure is in.  It's a matter of:

Unbox each PC & monitor, set each one up on the desk, connect the data cable to the PC and wall, boot the PC, walk through the new PC XP setup (these are Dell PCs), register the Office suite, set up outlook with a single email account, one PC is going to be acting as a server, so we'll set up some shares on that machine and install a batch on each of the other machines to map to those shared drives, change the my docs on each machine to point to the share on the server (is there an easier way in a workgroup other than manually changing it from each PC?), install Norton Antivirus, activate that, download the updates, etc. (for 9 users, which do you think is better - NAV 2005 or Corporate edition 9.0!?  They are both about the same price. oh, and map a couple network printers on each PC.  The network printers need to be unboxed, toner loaded, etc.. and the boxes need to be brought down from 2nd floor to 1st floor by the dumpster.  I came up with a number, but not sure if it's too high or too low.....

and if yo uhve any thoughts about this, I am welcome to hear them!
Question by:whyd_it_do_that
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Author Comment

ID: 12446061
Oh, some other things (yeah, I haven't said my answer yet...) - label all the CDs with the dell service tag for the machine so you know which goes with which (although all are identical, except the server that is a precision machine rather than dimension).  and on the desktops, I like installing flash, shockwave, opening a PDF so I get the acrobat licensing screen rather than the user having to get it, etc..

one hint - I've timed setting up 1 machine with similar things and it seemed like it took 2+ hours - unbox, gather all the CDs and docs, labeling, untie the twist ties, : ) gather up the trash, etc.  sure there are economies of scale in some things - 8 in a row all rebooting at same time, etc... but then the question - is it better to set all up in one place to do that and then move them to the cubicle they are going to or bounce between cubes?!  (we dont have an 8 position KVM...)

LVL 104

Accepted Solution

Sembee earned 480 total points
ID: 12449642
9 PCs all identical?
Get a copy of Ghost Enterprise and do it using images.

3.5 hours to take one machine. Wipe the build from Dell and reinstall fresh. Install updates, office, other applications etc.
Depending on speed of network, 45 minutes to an hour to image that master machine, copy to server. Use Sysprep to trigger the mini wizard to make each machine unique after they have been imaged back to the other machines - another ten minutes or so?

Then copy the image back from each machine. Again depending on the speed of the network, maybe 20 minutes or less. Another 10 minutes configuring it.

While waiting for the build and imaging to finish, the other stuff can be unpacked and setup in the room.

5 minutes to write a small batch file to map the network drives and printers.

I would do it in less than six hours, from scratch, but would probably allow the entire eight hour day to make things nice and tidy.

Oh and I would use a different AV software than Symantec's bloatware. AV is supposed to sit in the background not take half the diskspace. Get something like AVG 7 or similar. At least you will be able to get updates in the event of a major outage.

I would also consider a domain. It would let you use a login script for all users so they are setup identically, you can make settings identical etc etc. A Precision would take Windows 2003 server quite happily.

And that is a tried and tested process - I used it just this summer to build a training room with 48 hours notice.


Author Comment

ID: 12449820
Interesting!  yes, 8 of the machines are identical...but there's a unique user for each PC.   I used ghost with win 98 all the time.  But never stuck with it with NT or 2K.  activation and the uniqueness issues aren't an issue?

consider a domain - that means moving to 2K3 server, right?  any idea what that does to the cost?  server and 10 licenses vs. XP Pro is substantially more costly?  or just my ignorance showing through?

5 min to write the batch - how would you get it to each PC?  I am learning in workgroups to make the batch in the startup folder simply go to a batch on the server - that way there's only one batch to change going forward?  Make sense?


Author Comment

ID: 12449879
I'm looking at the symantec website.  I don't see ghost enterprise, but I see ghost corporate.  walking through their store, it came in at $363 for 10 licenses of corporate v8.0  sound right?

I can be penny wise and pound foolish sometimes.  But I am learning...

You sound like you know what you are doing!  Mind me asking too - what would you do to a new machine after you take it out of the box and before turning it over to the user?  You have a list?

What about things like configuring outlook?  turn on spell check, make sure it checks for mail every 2 minutes, don't send immediately, etc.  you have to activate it before using it?  (or do you get 50 uses?). would you ghost it and then configure each one or set up, don't activate and then ghost it?  then configure the specific user's email account?
LVL 104

Expert Comment

ID: 12451748
Batch on to each pc? Easiest way is a floppy disk or memory stick. The batch file would be very small.
The best way would be to use a domain and then you can set the batch file as the login script.

A domain does mean Windows 2003 Server. However take a look at the low end Dell servers. Some of their entry level kit will be fine. Windows 2003 Server comes with 5 CALS, so you will need a few more. There is a cost difference, I am in the UK and a copy of Windows XP retail costs about UKP150 whereas Win2k3 Svr costs around UKP600.

Ghost - that looks correct. I couldn't remember what Symantec are calling it now.
You don't just build the machine then Ghost it. There is a tool from Microsoft called "sysprep". This is how the PC manufacturers create their mini-setup wizard which lets you personalise the machine. Sysprep is part of the deployment tools on the Windows XP CD.
Take a look at the Windows XP Deployment white papers on Microsoft's web site for more information.

As for activation etc...
Windows XP - use the installer disk from Dell and you don't need to activate.
Office - you need to purchase enough licences that allow you to get on to a licensing scheme. There purchases licenses and media, not retail. The licensing media doesn't require activation.
By going to a domain, you can set most of the required settings in Outlook etc using Group Policy. You will need the Office resource kit from Microsoft, it is a free download. This adds the Office options to GP.
You can also build a central install point for Office and other applications. Office will need service packs applied. Therefore create an admin install point, add the service packs and updates to it (the office reskit web site tells you how to do this) then install Office from there, even if you are going to Ghost it. As long as the share that Office is installed on is available to everyone then should they need a component in Office that wasn't installed, they can get it from the admin install point.

The point I am trying to make is that instead of doing each machine indvidually, do one machine once, make a good job of it (3 hours on one machine instead of a hour on each of the 8 machines) and the users will be a lot happier.
Spend a bit of time setting up the domain and the other parts that the users need and the management of the network becomes so much easier. If the network grows then you already have the base components in place and adding machines is very simple. Even if you cannot use the Ghost image, you can build by hand and then have the bits you need on the network ready to go.

A list for a new machine out of the box before handing it over to the user?
Real rough...
1. Take machine out of box
2. Insert Windows XP CD, boot from CD.
3. Wipe the hard disk.
4. Install Windows XP. Add to domain etc as part of the install.
5. Install drivers and updates downloaded from the manufacturers web site. I never use the CD. With Dell, check the BIOS as well to see if there is a update.
6. Enable auto updates. I do not visit Windows Update web site, just allow the Automatic updates to push what I need.
7. Install applications. This includes Office, Adobe Acrobat Reader, Antivirus, Winzip (if client has licenses) plus any other bits and pieces required.
8. Defrag - it will need it.
9. Login as user and configure user settings.
10. Hand over machine.

For most builds I do, I can turn a machine round in less than 3 hours. That includes all applications, data etc. The machine is hand built (no automatic systems) so that each stage is checked. I have a "build form" that allows me to keep track of what has been done. It also allows my assistant to help, by seeing what stage the machine is up to if it is sat there waiting.


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