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What is the best way to "ghost" a desktop pc?

Hello - - In my finance department, we have about 7 computers . They are all similiar units HP deskpro business class series.  All of these pc run programs locally that are mission critical.

Typically there will be a program that is operated by one individual on one pc that they do all the time and if that person is out sick, vacation, etc. I have the identical program installed on a second pc where another individual can perform the same task.

While the majority of the pcs in my finance department are set up in this manner, it is not always possible to do so.  Also - - none of the pcs are identical in the number or type of programs installed - and again, this is not really an option.

So..... my question is this - - if I wanted to create some kind immediate diaster recovery when any one of the pcs fail, what would you recommend?  Since all the pcs are of the same type, I was thinkin that I could just keep a spare computer at the ready and then lay down some type of "ghosted" image on that replacement pc in the event that one of the working pcs fail.

I'd appreciate some ideas and guidence from the group on this.



4 Solutions
your idea about the spare pc is great, but this will cost you, you can image all the system to (DVD, External hard drive, spare hard disk).
I preferred the external hard drive, then you can image all the systems to it, and you can do it every week or month (depending in your data type), if you are using Norton ghost 10 then you can use full and incremental backup and it is very useful for your situation, so you can full backup you system every month, with incremental backup every day or two days...
if any system failed then just boot your failed system with the Norton Ghost CD and restore the full backup and the incremental backup.

kpdonahueAuthor Commented:
Mnf - - I am familiar with Norton Ghost (enough to be dangerous) - - I've been told that Ghost is not reliable and sometimes has problems with hardware drivers.

Is Norton Ghost the defacto imaging software, of is there something "better" out there?


hi kpdonahue , nice to hear that
I'm using the Norton since 2000 without any problem, the ghost do exact image for your system.
it is the best imaging in the markets and it is stable with windows as windows recommend it in many occasions.
Don't forget that it is common used, so the support will be available every where.

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Acronis has some very good software for this application. The "Acronis True Image" is definately a contender and is easier to use than Norton ghost in my opinion.
I would vote with Acronis also,  good interface for users.  To be fair I have not used the latest Ghost which has quite similar features now.

I get the feeling that a hardware failure is not all you may need to worry about.  Are you doing any kind of backup plan for the data on these systems now?

I would get another system to act as a backup 'server'.  I does not need to be a actual server,  a decent workstation will do.  Just make sure you have at least a RAID 1 array or mirrored drives.  Set thinigs up so that each station can dump its image backup onto this 'backup server'.  Then from there you can run backups onto some form of removable media or hard drives that are set up in a rotation.  Exactly what would would be best would depend on the sheer volume of data we are dealing with.

I suggest using an extra system as a server to save the trouble of actually hooking up to each machine and running backups.  This way the users can do it or you can just automate it with a schedule.  Also leaves you free to burn/copy to tape or whatever during the day from the server machine without interfering with anybody.  

The best backup plans are the ones that actually get done all the time (heh and actually work - never hurts to verify and test),  and the less painful it is the better.  You don't need to get a super expensive machine either,  probably get something that would be a upgrade for existing systems just make sure it has the RAID array and get enterprise class drives with 5 year warranties - Seagates or Western Digitals,  not consumer models.

Outside of the images you may also want to look into something to backup just the data from these systems.  Again it depends on the format/programs but if this stuff is easily portable  you may want to do a daily backup scheme for the data alone with periodic image backups of entire systems.

The latest Acronis True Image does do file backups as well as image backups now.  It can chunk the archives up to fit any media.

Check out the Storage group here,  we get asked what is the 'best' solution almost daily and there is a lot of good information there.  Best is often what works, is within budget and is comfortable for users - and reliable of course.

Oh here's a pretty handy program for doing direct data backup's and version backups,  poor mans solution but it works well.
good info above, but i feel something is missing :
if you use your "images" to restore to the SAME hardware - ok no problems, like in the case of a disk crash; you replace the disk, put the image on it, and done with it.
However this is not so if you change the hardware (motherboard, video card etc . .) since you need then other drivers.
The Acronis True Image corporate version has a number of extra features one of which is a 'universal restore'.  Basically this will allow image restoration even with different hardware.  Certainly an option and about as close to a magic bullet as it gets.

You can also mount any image as a drive on any station,  so everything is there and accessible.  Also outside of a disk controller that must have its own drivers redoing the hardware is not the end of the world,  just slows things down a bit.  Even a disk controller change is doable.  

I've not tried it but some of the new features of Acronis allow for restoral of application settings alone.  It may be possible to restore to a freshly setup OS.

For exactly the reason nobus suggests I do prefer to seperate data from apps/os.  Also allows for things like rolling back data in the event of a user error etc. AND makes it easier to setup a fresh machine if you have to.  It also can save a ton of space in backups since data alone is often far smaller than whole image backups.

Ultimately the exact approach would be tailored by the needs of the mission critical apps in this case.
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