UIU Case Studies


University College Extends IT Budget with the UIU Bookmark

University College, London

University College, London (UCL) is one of the top five universities in the UK. The university is made up of 72 academic departments with eight facilities based over multiple sites throughout London. The Information Systems department provides IT facilities for both staff and students throughout the university. With such a large and dispersed operation, managing the university’s IT needs from its Bloomsbury location is very challenging. Information Systems supports over 3,000 PCs under its ‘Managed PCs’ service and is required to maintain workstations that hold identical software and numerous types of drivers in a cost-effective and scalable manner.

We needed a solution that was simple, yet thorough.

Maria Darmon, Assistant Director

Simple Cloning was not the Answer

Software-based cloning was already in place at UCL. The cloning package UCL uses to update its computers is a proprietary program, developed by the technical team and based on PXE/Linux and NTFSclone. Even with that, UCL still had to create and maintain 15-20 master images to support the various brands of desktops at multiple sites within the organization. The technological limitations restricted the Information Systems team to using an increasingly limited range of hardware suppliers, as every hardware change could inherently require a new image to be created and/or deployed. Maria Darmon, Assistant Director of Information Systems, said, “Maintaining all of those separate images was a complex and time consuming task. We needed a solution that was simple yet thorough, which allowed us to create a single image that could be deployed across the university in a short span of time. We also needed to be much more accommodating in our ability to support these images across a range of different hardware from contracted suppliers.” She continued, “Another area for concern was an urgent need to deploy updates to our systems. Multiple images had to be updated in order for us to target critical client systems on a frequent basis.”

Hardware-Independent Images

The Universal Imaging Utility (UIU) was UCL’s solution. The UIU enables users to prepare a single, hardware-independent hard drive Image that can easily be deployed to any desktop or laptop regardless of manufacturer, thus greatly reducing the time and expense associated with image creation and maintenance. Using UIU, UCL is now able to maintain just a few master images to use throughout its environment of disparate Desktops.

We can now maintain a small number of images for an increasingly large range of hardware from different contracted suppliers.

Maria Darmon, Assistant Director

Explains Adam Murphy, President of Big Bang LLC, “Rolling-out software updates and setting up new desktops and laptops can be managed within a matter of minutes, and a previously complex and time consuming operation can be transformed into a simple, straightforward and fully automated task. This enables IT departments to drastically reduce the time and money spent on image creation, maintenance, and deployment by streamlining the cloning process. This allows IT resources to focus on more business-critical tasks.”

UIU Extends IT Budget

Simon Walsh, IT Purchasing Officer at Information Systems, UCL, said, “Before we started using UIU, our purchasing options for PCs were very limited. Maintaining core components over a protracted period of time was very difficult and not very cost effective. We discovered that we were unable to take full advantage of advancing trends in technology and advantageous price breaks. We often found ourselves locked into purchasing a particular model for a longer period of time than we would have hoped for in order to avoid having to create and maintain yet another Image.”

Maria Darmon concluded: “Following the introduction of UIU, we can now maintain a small number of images for an increasingly large range of hardware from different contracted suppliers. Images are now faster and easier to maintain and allow us to make much better use of our staff resources.

Toyota Achieves Consistency and Simplicity with the UIU Bookmark

Toyota New Zealand

For nearly three years, Toyota New Zealand had been searching for a way to improve the process by which they cloned their computers. Specifically, they needed to reduce the time and effort spent on creating and maintaining multiple hard-drive images for the wide variety of desktop and laptop configurations. They ultimately found a solution in the software program known as the Universal Imaging Utility (UIU) from Big Bang LLC, which has allowed them to deploy a single Master Image across all hardware configurations. Toyota’s discovery of UIU arrived just in time as the company was about to roll out 220 new machines as well as software upgrades.

There is no doubt that the UIU more than paid for itself during this rollout.

Dion Woisin, Team Leader

Logistical Challenge

With six locations and over 200 people on staff, Toyota New Zealand had begun using disk imaging software eight years ago as a means of deploying a consistent operating environment to all PCs in the organization. Although vastly more efficient than the manual process of deployment, disk imaging has one major drawback - Images created on one hardware platform cannot be easily deployed to another. This problem is particularly prevalent on laptops, where even essentially similar machines often contain different hardware and therefore require different images. Toyota NZ’s extensive hardware inventory resulted in the company creating and maintaining 25 separate images. Each image took three to four hours to create, and each one needed to be modified every time new upgrades and patches were released.

In addition, there was the logistical problem of deployment. As a new image was rolled out, Administrators had to ensure that they were installing the correct image for each machine. If they chose the wrong one, the error message wouldn’t appear for around 20 minutes, when the program reached the point of installing drivers. At that point, the technician would have to start the whole process over again. A final challenge was ensuring consistency across all images. With so many separate images, it was not uncommon that simple settings differed from one machine to another (for example, the way the operating system processes deleted files). While these inconsistencies may not have been critical, they were definitely noticed by users and reflected poorly on the IT department.

Keep it Single

When Toyota New Zealand learned about the hardware-independent hard drive imaging tool, the Universal Imaging Utility, Team Leader Dion Woisin was ecstatic. All of the issues they were experiencing with disk imaging could be effectively resolved by using the UIU to help prepare a single Master Image. “Maintaining all of those separate images was starting to become a nightmare,” he says. “We needed a solution that was simple yet thorough, and we were thrilled to finally find one just before a major rollout.”

The rollout in question was a complete upgrade of all PCs at Toyota NZ, a process accomplished around once every three or four years. Fully aware of the challenges presented by multiple Images, Toyota NZ management was quick to sign off on Woisin’s purchase of the UIU licenses.

Looking back, I don’t know how we coped prior to getting the UIU.

Dion Woisin, Team Leader

Immediate ROI

The UIU is a utility that prepares the master machine so that the image created with existing cloning software can then be easily deployed to any laptop or desktop regardless of manufacturer. In this case, Woisin and his team used UIU in conjunction with Altiris to deploy core applications such as Windows XP, Office 2003, WinZip and Acrobat Reader to all of their disparate PCs.

“There is no doubt that UIU more than paid for itself during this rollout,” he says. “We were able to deploy an identical image to all staff with a minimum of effort.” IT staff found UIU simple to use right out of the box. While the rollout took five months, Woisin says the pre-work would have been substantially longer without the benefit of UIU. They were also impressed with UIU’s extensive driver database. In fact, Woisin says UIU fulfilled all of TNZ’s needs perfectly. “When we were maintaining all of those separate images, we would do a Rollout and within two or three months, everything would be out of date,” he says. “Looking back, I don’t know how we coped prior to getting UIU.” The application allows Toyota NZ to continually improve its processes for machine upgrades. For example, time saved on maintaining multiple images can now be better spent developing an automated system for the installation of non-core applications.

Law Firm uses the UIU for Driver Management in ConfigMgr Bookmark

Reinhart, Boerner, Van Deuren s.c.

The law firm of Reinhart, Boerner, Van Deuren s.c., has offered a wide variety of services to small and large businesses, individuals, and non-profit organizations around the world for over 120 years. They have six locations in Wisconsin, Illinois and Phoenix with over 200 attorneys and 250 support staff providing first-class legal services ranging from Business Law to Intellectual Property to Litigation and much more.

To manage their IT system operations and OS deployment in their mixed environment, which includes a substantial Virtual Desktop Infrastructure, Reinhart relies on the powerful systems management platform from Microsoft, System Center Configuration Manager (SCCM). Leading the Reinhart IT Team is IT Director, Justin McLaughlin, an experienced administrator with over 10 years managing SCCM.

You don’t have to deal with driver image models ever again. The UIU plug-in for SCCM is a no-brainer.

Justin McLaughlin, IT Director

The Challenge with Drivers in SCCM

Because of Justin’s experience with SCCM, he is intimately familiar with the capabilities of Microsoft’s robust platform. As much as SCCM made systems management far more comprehensive at Reinhart, his team continued to experience significant challenges with driver management. As with many organizations, Reinhart’s hardware disparity, consisting of a mix of legacy and new machines from different manufacturers, caused challenges with OS deployment. SCCM’s cumbersome driver management requirements further compounded this challenge forcing the IT team to manually search for install files for production drivers or physically create them, inject proper driver models, and then ensure proper configuration. In addition, there were unknown limits on the number of driver .cabs per package. This resulted in, as Justin put it, “a disproportionate number of spec’d out jobs to image each machine to ensure each PC has received the correct driver set.”

The Reinhart IT Team wanted to find a more efficient way to handle drivers, but the best they could do with the existing capabilities of SCCM was to be as diligent and organized as possible for each driver and .cab file. The additional time required for initial setup aside, each time there was an update or new driver to add, the re-organization process took up a considerable amount of time and resources.

If they were able to locate the existing appropriate package, and the new driver file was configured correctly, they could inject it into the package. If not, they were forced to create a new package to correspond to the new hardware collection. Then the only way to test the accuracy of the package was on deployment. If drivers were missing or configured incorrectly, or an incorrect package was added to a particular Task Sequence, the process became quite time-consuming. A Better Way to Manage Drivers in SCCM When Reinhart learned about the Universal Imaging Utility System Deploy Plug-in (UIU plug-in for SCCM) Justin and his team were eager to test it. What they found was that the UIU plug-in for SCCM completely eliminated all of the driver headaches they experienced in the past. After a quick installation, the UIU plug-in for SCCM inserted itself seamlessly into their SCCM framework. Then, instead of manually organizing and packaging each individual .cab file, they needed only to run a Task Sequence including the UIU plug-in for SCCM Machine Configuration Step. The only thing left was to Advertise their new Task Sequence to any Collection of PCs regardless of manufacturer or model, and the deployment would be successful. Not only were existing drivers automatically handled, but new driver updates automatically updated within the UIU plug-in for SCCM Package for future Task Sequence assignment.

I can’t emphasize enough how nice it is to explore hardware that is the most beneficial for our organization - whatever the brand.

Justin McLaughlin, IT Director

No More Driver Headaches

The UIU plug-in for SCCM is a fully integrated plug-in specifically designed for Microsoft SCCM. The UIU plug-in for SCCM contains a vetted and updated driver database of over 40,000 business class Plug-and-Play IDs. A real-time Discovery Tool ascertains the on-board hardware of every PC in an environment and assigns only the best driver for each component during Mini-Setup. The UIU plug-in for SCCM completely eliminates the need to locate and inject driver .cab files, organize, and package them.

Justin concluded by stating, “Management of drivers in SCCM is messy. Even if we could keep up with separate .cabs and separate packages for separate classes of machines, let alone updates and newer driver releases, maintaining all of this is a nightmare. We are really thrilled with the UIU plug-in for SCCM. Anything that I ever envisioned in a perfect world for driver management in SCCM, the UIU plug-in for SCCM completely exceeded.”

Kansas Schools Reduce Imaging Time with the UIU Bookmark

Lansing Unified School District

As Technology Director of Lansing Unified School District, Bill Eckles manages a large and diverse number of computers and peripherals for students and staff.

The facilities for this northwest Kansas District include three school buildings and the district office. As Lansing’s only full-time IT employee, Eckles, who was brought on-board in 2009, oversees a Windows 2008 Server network of nearly 2,000 computers, 1,200 peripheral devices, as well as 300 faculty and staff machines.

The Current Situation

Lansing uses Symantec Ghost cloning software to handle the deployment, rollouts and migration of its desktops and laptops. They maintain a wide variety of systems, utilizing a hand-me-down approach. When a new PC is acquired, the old one is re-deployed to another area in the District where it replaces an older or less powerful computer. As is common with school districts, the majority of supported machines ultimately end up in student computer labs.

This swapping process continues until the end of the line is reached and a system is retired.

The Challenge

While making fiscal sense, this process requires Eckles to maintain computers that are up to ten years old. The combination of minimal human resources, varying ages of computers, and heavy student use leaves Eckles with a very long To-Do list.

Helping chip away at the backlog is pre-cloning preparation tool, the Universal Imaging Utility from Big Bang LLC. In a previous job with a Federal Defense agency, Eckles used the Universal Imaging Utility to help support their PCs.

The Universal Imaging Utility works alongside hard drive imaging tools and enables the imaging tool (Ghost, Altiris, Acronis, SCCM, etc.) to create and use a single hardware-independent hard drive image that can easily be deployed to any laptop or desktop regardless of manufacturer.

I call the UIU the ‘Stress Reliever’

Bill Eckles, Technology Director

Why It Works

Eckles cited four main benefits to using the UIU while cloning computers:

  • Ease of use – the UIU requires no special training; load the program and follow the wizard as it walks you through the process.

  • Scalability to different systems – the UIU is hardware agnostic, so it works on virtually every business-class PC.

  • Maintaining multiple images with one base – the UIU enables adding, removing, or udpating software and OS updates to one base image and using that new UIU image to deploy to a different set of hardware.

  • Updates to driver database – the UIU includes a comprehensive library of updated device drivers.

Prior to utilizing the Universal Imaging Utility, routine system refreshes were not done regularly at Lansing. Performing them was far down the list of priorities. In the most recent school year, Eckles’ department fielded 1,500 tech requests which left little time for much else.

Incorporating the UIU into their imaging process has yielded quantifiable results. For instance, to Ghost-cast an image to a computer lab consisting of 40 PCs without using the UIU took a full 5 days due to different platforms and driver requirements.

With the Universal Imaging Utility, that same computer lab is fully cloned in less than one day–which yields a full 80% savings on time and labor expense.

Eckles gets the same benefit when imaging the district’s laptops too, since the same image is used to clone them as well. It is for this reason that he refers to the UIU as “The Stress Reliever.”

By handling the routine, mundane tasks so efficiently, large scale improvements have been enacted by Lansing USD without requesting a larger budget or additional personnel. Examples include implementing a new Help Desk Support Ticket system and moving forward with a plan to perform off-site back-ups.

The Universal Imaging Utility affords Lansing USD the opportunity not only be more proactive in its management of computers, thereby keeping the software more current and properly patched, but also allows them to make genuine progress on other initiatives that benefit the students, teachers and staff.

Alaska DOT Simplifies Imaging with the UIU Bookmark

Alaska DOT

The Anchorage International Airport served more than five million passengers in 2005, is a major contributor to the local Anchorage economy, and is one of its top employers. It is ranked as the top U.S. airport for landed weight of cargo aircraft and third in the world in the category of cargo throughput. On a weekly basis, more than 650 widebody cargo flights land at the airport.

The Situation

The Anchorage International Airport Department of Transportation employs approximately 500 people. Rodney Watson, micro computer network technician, is responsible for setting up and maintaining approximately 250 computers and more than 30 servers spread throughout the facility. In an organization that is physically spread over the entire airport, this means at times travelling to the other side of the facility to physically update a computer for a user. With so many computers, this proves to be a time consuming task.

I estimate it has saved our fairly small organization about $50,000 per year

Rodney Watson, Network Technician

The Challenge

In order to keep the 250 machines in the organization up to date, the operating system for each computer is periodically refreshed. This ensures that the latest OS fixes and security patches are in place. Due to limitations in their Ghost cloning software, Watson maintained 25 to 30 different Master Image files. He had to maintain one image for each computer platform (or type of computer) in his network. “Updating each of the images from scratch would take at least an hour,” Watson explained. “Pulling down patches from various web sites takes a lot of time. If you’re loading a brand new machine from scratch, it would take a minimum of three hours. We had to find a way to accomplish this more efficiently and save time.”

The Solution

Watson worked for a different company several years ago when he was introduced to Big Bang LLC’s Universal Imaging Utility (UIU). After testing it, he immediately purchased it for his department.When he joined the Alaska International Airport’s Department of Transportation, he again found that the process in use for updating machines was so tedious and time consuming that he didn’t hesitate to bring in the UIU to help. With the UIU, Watson now maintains only two image files, one image for Windows XP and one for Windows 2000. They are easy to keep updated, and he knows they are always current. This is a significant reduction from the 25 to 30 images formerly maintained. “Now, I touch just one machine, which saves a tremendous amount of time and network space, as the typical image size using the UIU is much smaller,” explains Watson. “It simplifies the imaging process greatly.” Watson uses it across the organization. “The hours saved by using UIU are immeasurable. Any product like this, I’m behind 100 percent. It frees up my time so that I can focus on other tasks that really need to be done, instead of working on mindless administrative tasks.”

We’ve cut the time spent by 66 percent.

Rodney Watson, Network Technician

Financial Impact

“To update an image from scratch, it took a minimum of an hour or more,” says Watson. “With 25 to 30 images to update, that equated to more than 30 hours. By reducing our image count to two, we were able to cut two-thirds of our man hours on this task by using the UIU. What used to take about 1,500 total hours per year now takes less than 500 hours, so we’ve cut the time spent by 66 percent. I estimate it has saved our fairly small organization about $50,000 per year, including salary and server space costs, so you can imagine what the savings might be for a larger organization. The positive impact of having the ability for our organization to re-invest those 1000 labor hours into more productive projects throughout the year is difficult to Measure.” Watson continued, “The UIU has not only allowed us to be more efficient in our image management but to also put our IT staff on more critical projects.”

The Future

As for the future, Watson hopes to expand the use of UIU to other types of systems in the organization. “We’re always trying to think of ways to increase usage of the UIU,” says Watson. “I’ve used this product across three organizations in two different states and feel that it’s very simple to use and relatively inexpensive compared to other software costs these days. Purchasing the UIU should be an easy decision for most IT managers.”

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