For the last 9 years I have been the IT Director at American Academy Charter Schools. I have been involved in Information Technology in various organizations for over 18 years. Over that time, I have experimented with several PC imaging solutions that would make both my job and my colleague’s job easier and more time efficient.
Up until 4 years ago, I used such applications as Symantec Ghost, Logicube, and Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager. Each of these applications was adequate at being able to clone an image and create a desirable finished product.
However, each also had the same limitations: Neither could be used to create a single image that would work on the many different computers we had at the school. And imaging process was far too slow.
These limitations got more frustrating as we added computers to our inventory. Early on, our school had approximately 500 computers, but we quickly grew to over 1000. Because of the technical limitations of our imaging solutions, I had to create a different image for each model of computer. So we had 12 different images and spent hours finding the appropriate drivers for each. This obviously became time-consuming.
After about 4 years of headaches, I made it my number one priority to find a solution that would make the imaging process faster, easier, and more efficient. Throwing caution to the wind, I did a simple search on Google. Up popped SmartDeploy.
After playing with the free trial software for a bit, I saw that I could drop the total images I created from 12 to three just by using SmartDeploy. I also appreciated the fact that I could image 40 computers in less than 2 hours. And that I could do all of this through our network. I simply plugged a computer into our network and pressed a couple of buttons and off the image went.
By comparison, using Logicube (which involves removing the hard drive from every computer and using a cloning machine) or Symantec Ghost, this process took us 5 to 6 hours to complete with 40 computers. After going through a short trial period to experiment with the software, we were so impressed that we moved forward quickly.
At the time, we were imaging about 1000 computers over two schools. Fast forward to this past summer and we imaged over 2600 computers using SmartDeploy that spanned across three school campuses. We were able to image all of our computers in just a few weeks.
By using SmartDeploy, what had been a challenge is now straightforward and simple. Reimaging is simpler, too: We often have to reimage a computer during the school year because it has some type of software issue that is usually a pain to repair. We simply plug the computer into our network, pull up the necessary image, and, after a short time, we have a newly imaged computer.
I was also impressed by the support that the team at SmartDeploy provided. During the trial process, I asked for assistance a few times, just so I understood the process completely. They were quick, detailed and very helpful. I never had to wait for a response and the customer service was professional. Once our trial period was over and we committed to SmartDeploy, the level of support did not change. I have had to deal with poor support from many vendors over the years, even for some otherwise excellent products. But as a customer for over 3 years now, we have always seen consistent and excellent support by the team at SmartDeploy.
When Microsoft released Windows 10 and Office 2016 a couple of years ago, our school faced a new challenge: How could we upgrade all our computers from Windows 7 to Windows 10—and upgrade from Office 2013 to Office 2016—without going to each computer and doing a manual upgrade?
In most situations, this would involve creating another image from scratch installing Windows 10 and Office 2016. However, since we already had a SmartDeploy image of Windows 7 with Office 2013 created, we simply upgraded the SmartDeploy image to Windows 10 and Office 2016—once—within SmartDeploy. After that it was a matter of simply deploying the new image to all our computers.
What was really cool about using SmartDeploy in this scenario was our employees at the three schools had no idea we had upgraded their computers other than the fact that we “borrowed” them each for an hour. The staff was very impressed, and again our time and effort were both greatly reduced.
After using SmartDeploy for over three years, the bottom line is that it’s everything it’s promised to be. It makes your imaging process uncomplicated and faster no matter what type of hardware you have. And at the end of the day, it saves me a lot of time.
This Real Field Review (TM) is brought to you by SmartDeploy
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