Recommendations for routine baremetal restores with hardware independence

Hi Guys,
This is a slightly different sort of enquiry. I have historically supplied to customers most hardware with the OS that ships with it. I have for some time recognised that I need to be able to record the images of deployed machines and keep these as 'reset images' for DR but also for 'Standardisation'.

So I need to image every deployed machine (so no private data) and be able to restore that image (and here is the potential catch) to a replacement machine which is not necessarily the original or same brand/spec of machine.

Similarly I need to be able to create a standard workstation image for a customer and deploy that image on new machines which may vary in specification.

I'd like to also take server images for bare metal restores to replacement hardware, again not necessarily same spec. So we are looking for DR and increasing swap out abilities here.

Can anyone help me along the lines of:

1. Does the likes of Ghost etc, allow hardware independent images to be obtained and burnt and if so what are the restrictions (official and from your experiences)

2. How are licenced products managed (specifically Office and Windows)

3. Are there any papers outlining the procedures to follow and any back ground reading for someone setting this functionality up and running for their shop.

I need to get this sorted as we are spending large amounts of time recycling machines from scratch when what we really need to do is just pickout an appropriate image, burn it, finish and deploy. Is this too simplistic ????

Your thoughts very much appreciated.


Trevor White
TrevorWhiteIT ConsultantAsked:
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Mike TConnect With a Mentor Leading EngineerCommented:

1. Does the likes of Ghost etc, allow hardware independent images to be obtained and burnt and if so what are the restrictions (official and from your experiences)
Ghost can only create exact clones of machines which means it is hardware dependent. This reason is because it copies the sectors of the disk. It's good/great for mass deployment of identical kit, but for every model you need a new image and it quickly get's to be a headache. Also if your source image changes, you then need to update every single image you have.

For DR you could use Ghost to snapshot machines when they are built and save the image to a hidden partition. A restore would be simple enough. The problem is you then need a license for each copy of Ghost on each machine. (Ironically Ghost is licensed per times you use it, not per seat, but most people either don't know or ignore that).

The alternative to provide hardware indepent is MDT. It's free, versatile and supported by Microsoft.

2. How are licenced products managed (specifically Office and Windows)
Both Office and Windows are managed by license services, otherwise known as KMS.
See here for details:
The software is here:

Note, for less than 50 seats it could well be overkill.

3. Are there any papers outlining the procedures to follow and any back ground reading for someone setting this functionality up and running for their shop

A walkthrough of MDT is here:

Note Johan is a major expert in deployment. Believe what he says at the beginning. WDS is not a deployment solution. It's plumbing. It provides PXE booting and is best left there, i.e. don't configure it with boot images and answer files. That's what MDT excels at.

As for you later comment, for multiple Office licenses you could easily create mutliple task-sequences with a different Office key in each. You only need one image and have a choice of builds at the start. It's simple but effective.

PS: there's no burning involved. You have a single master source image, and a task-sequence that does all customisation on the fly so the whole process is dynamic and will handle most hardware without change. You will only need to add new drivers occasionally when you get brand new hardware come in.
Read up on driver management here:
I tend to use automated deployment tools such as WDS (Windows Deployment Services) and app only unattended, there is also the MDT (Microsoft Deployment Toolkit)

Images of configured servers are not worth keeping as they age too quickly, using backup software that has a bare metal restore process is a much better solution, as an example, Microsoft SBS using external disks for backup can be restored by booting from the install media and selecting the "repair" option use a backup from an external disk.
TrevorWhiteIT ConsultantAuthor Commented:
Hi ArneLovius
Thanks for your time with this.
I was not aware that MS had a solution here. So does WDS / MDS have a hardware independent element to them so that not only original deployments can be rolled out but repeat deployments to disimilar hardware.

I'll google the WDS and MDT but have you any references you can point me at.

Thanks again

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WDS out of the box will work on any computer that can PXE boot and not require any additional drivers to install Windows 7 from DVD.

You can add additional drivers to WDS for NICs and SAS/SATA controllers to expand the systems that can install using WDS
I have had problems with OEM license when going to dislike hardware or trying to make it virtual.  What I had to do with one client was purchase a new server license and install over the OEM.   Went from 2008 server OEM to 2008R2.   I then had no problems restoring to dislike hardware or virtual.  
   If you can talk you clients into virtualizing and snap shotting the servers that would make things alot easier but an expense for the client
Paul SolovyovskySenior IT AdvisorCommented:
Have you looked at Symantec System Recovery. This is the enterprise version of ghost and provides restore to different hardware.  Obviously the drivers may not be available for each new machine but it will get the OS working and you can slip stream drivers for a particular set of hardware.  Licensing is as it would be with any system, it doesn't change the Windows and Office requirements.
TrevorWhiteIT ConsultantAuthor Commented:
Hi Guys,
Thsi is all good stuff - stuck with another issue at present but will follow up on your comments shortly. BTW - my clients are all Small Business (up to 20 users) so extra expense is a nono.

The small rollouts have meant that I can get away with individual builds a lot fo the time but when it comesn to quick turnaround and consistency there is no other option than to image and burn. I need to get this technology under my belt ready for one customer who will be growing to maybe 50 users after an aquisition this year.

Licenced software - so if we purchase individual licences for Windows and office these can be entered per machine after the image deployment ???? Better still would be to be able to parameterise an answer file of some kind, is this possible or practical ????

Whats the cost of evaluating each of these  - are the MS, Symantec products available as evals ????

So many questions - thanks guys, I appreciate your time with this.

WDS is included in Windows Server

My customers usually use volume licences for Office, you need >25 for a KMS the licensing server to activate, you could however use msp files for each customer with their MAK key.

The exception is a couple of large companies that went with individual copies of Office Home and Business instead of a Volume licence, however they saved ~£40k across ~350 seats, so were happy to have a manual process for their IT staff to install Office rather than automating it, however for smaller companies where my time installing office per seat would be more than the cost saving, a volume licence makes a lot more sense, likewise for larger companies where they can push harder against Microsoft, and have a lower head count in IT against the number of seats, again automated installs win out.

In general I have found that the more you can automate, the better, and particularly with images, even if they are stored by the client, the storage requirement (since XP) can very quickly get out of hand.
TrevorWhiteIT ConsultantAuthor Commented:
Oh My, why can't all answers be as clear as this thanks.
Sorry for not staying engaged but we are really busy (possibly because we haven't got the above sorted out yet !!!)
Thanks DRmiket - I'll award poinst to yourself this is what I asked for.


TrevorWhiteIT ConsultantAuthor Commented:
See my last post - thanks again
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