Automate Imaging of XP Workstations

Need to image multiple XP workstations on a monthly schedule for disaster recovery purposes.  What's the best method (software & hardware) for scheduling automatic imagining of multiple systems that would allow for easy restore in the event of a HDD failure?  Each workstation has a 250 GB HDD  
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dapsychousConnect With a Mentor Commented:
Exactly how many stations are we talking about here?  If you're taking images of multiple stations with 250GB hard disk, even with a 50% compression ration you're looking at 125GB of storage needed for an image of a full drive.  You would need a massive storage medium.  Your best (and probably cheapest) bet would be to set up a raid system using the biggest hard disks you could get your paws on.  

Are you wanting to archive these images, or will there only be one backup of each station on file?  For the moment, I'm going to assume that you have ten stations, each at 50% of their capacity (each has 125GB taken on their hard disk)  That's 1.25 TB of data to save, without any form of archive.  If you can get a 50% compression ratio (depends on what is on each hard disk and how well it compresses), you will need 640 GB of space for the images.  More than likely, you won't get a compression ration that good.  

Now, the biggest internal hard disk that I know of (correct me if I'm wrong.  I'm a techie, not a salesman) is 500GB SATA, SCSI, or SASCSI.  If you put four of those on a raid 0 (striped) array, you end up with a 2 TB partition (and a small speed boost).  With the scenerio described above, you would have enough space to archive three copies of each workstation, with a little bit of space left over.  (10 Stations * 125GB each = 1.25 TB.  1.25TB * 50% compression = 640GB required per station. 2TB / 640GB = 3.2 archived copies per station)  Again, I'm assuming that each station is filled halfway.  You might be in better shape than that.

Lacie makes an external Hard disk.  I think there up to 1.5 TB now, but it might be higher.  That may be a potential answer.

As for software, I would recommend Symmantec Ghost.

Ghost can be set to run unattended.  If you put an item in the system scheduler to run Ghost with a set of options at a given time (say, 3AM), It will reboot the computer, creat an image file (I believe that it will increment filenames if told to), save that data on this drive to this image file, close the file, and reboot back into windows.  Offhand, I don't know what the options are, but you can see them if you read the manual, or check the settings page when in the actual GHOST program (dos based end)  You can even lock the image so that it can only be accessed with a password, or that it can only be installed on the computer it was created on (cuts down on industrial espionage, if that's something you worry about at your company).

Problem with all of this is that any kind of automated imaging system of this scale is going to be pricey.  Again, I'm a techie not a salesman, but last I checked, the 500GB drives were in the neighborhood of $300-500 each, and I'm not entirely sure what Ghost costs right now.

However, if your data is mission-critical for your company, it may be well worth the cost to have that extra peace of mind.

RIS, Remote Installation Services, available free from MS, and it will work with generic base install from CD images, or you can customize images for specific software.

see this link for more info.

Good Luck

BudAuthor Commented:
The solution needs to be automated (capable of being scheduled) so it will run without user intervention.  The end user needs to be able to manage changes to the solution and be able to restore a workstation if necessary.
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Just to clarify your objective, you’re not looking at Deployment of an OS, you're looking to have regular backups of the whole workstation HD?

Check out Symantec Ghost or CarbonCopy (is that still around?). You can store images of workstation hard drives on a network server for rapid recovery incase of hard dive failure. There are a lot of other features as well.
BudAuthor Commented:
Correct, OS deployment is not part of the solution objective.  

A storage for the images is also needed.  This is a peer network (no server present).  Looking for suggestions, or recommendations, for a low-cost storage solution also.
Sorry about all the typos in that.  Appearently, I have a proofreading deficiency :)
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