Choosing the Best Windows 2000 Deployment Method - Page 2

By Jerry Honeycutt | Posted Dec 4, 2000
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This flexibility is a network installation point's primary advantage . Also, the setup program runs on every client computer, ensuring that it properly detects the hardware on a diverse collection of hardware. It also preserves users' settings during an in-place upgrade, something that other techniques do not allow. All this isn't without its faults, though. Network installation points use a horrendous amount of network bandwidth, particularly if you don't roll out the operating system a few computers at a time. Last, you can't distribute most applications along with Windows 2000.

Deploying Windows 2000 from network installation points is a viable method, even for enterprises with 50,000 desktops. Many well-known companies still use this method over more complex disk imaging techniques because of its simplicity. The fewer moving parts the better. They also build custom solutions such as computer-name databases that generate answer files for each user and automatically start the installation process. Ideas abound in this space.

Disk Imaging Techniques

Numerous hardware and software disk-imaging solutions are available. Their essence is the ability to take snapshots of disks. The difference between each is the distribution tools. The most popular solution, and in my opinion the best, is Symantec Ghost with Microsoft Sysprep. Here's how the process works:

  1. Install Windows 2000 on a lab computer.

  2. Prepare the disk for imaging using a tool such as Sysprep.

  3. Create a snapshot of the disk using a solution such as Ghost.

  4. Distribute that snapshot to each computer.

Disk imaging has just about everything going for it. It's fastultrafast when you compare it to installing Windows 2000 from a network installation point. The addition of multicast allows you to distribute Windows 2000 to 100 computers for the bandwidth of one. It also has the flexibility of including third-party applications in the image, extending the operating system to suit your requirements. Depending on the disk-imaging solution you choose, the process is also completely automated and can be initiated remotely. For example, a common scenario is a help desk call that exceeds its time limit; the support person can reconfigure the computer with a new image without actually visiting the desktop.

This technique does have a few problems, though. First, it isn't as flexible when you have a large collection of diverse hardware. Disk imaging requires you to deploy an image to similar hardware. You usually end up with a large number of images, each for a different configuration, and these images become unwieldy. Second, when you install a new image, users lose their existing documents and settings. This doesn't have to be a problem, though, as you'll learn in the upcoming installments.

Remote Installation Service

Remote Installation Service (RIS) is Microsoft's Windows 2000 deployment solution. This isn't a separate product; it comes with Windows 2000 Server. You don't have to pay a separate license fee, either; it's already covered in each CAL.

RIS is a bit torturedit's an odd combination of network installation points and disk imaging techniques that shares the best of both but adds its own problems. It carries with it some heavy-duty infrastructure requirements, for example. It's slow when compared to disk-imaging techniques, because RIS actually copies each file from the server to the client computer and then runs the setup program. Still, RIS has promise and, if you can work within its requirements, might be a good solution for your enterprise. The differences between RIS and other deployment technique are best illustrated by walking you through the process:

  1. The user restarts the computer and boots from the network.

  2. The PXE-enabled network adapter gets an IP address from the DHCP server and then downloads the Client Installation Wizard (CIW).

  3. The user logs on to CIW with his name, password, and domain.

  4. The user chooses the image he wants to install, walks away while CIW copies the files to the computer, and then restarts the computer to continue the setup process.

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