Real Field Review: Brian Wherry tells his SmartDeploy Story (Sponsored)

Posted on November 16, 2017 by Brian Wherry in Windows with 13 Comments

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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Comments (13)

13 responses to “Real Field Review: Brian Wherry tells his SmartDeploy Story (Sponsored)”

  1. MattHewitt

    Is there a way to hide all sponsored posts / advertorial if you're a premium member? I think SmartDeploy is an interesting product. I attended the webinar and have tried out the product. (But I feel like eventually someone will sponsor that I'm not the least bit interested in.)


    I like paying to subscribe to Thurrott.com and really value the content you guys write and all of the work you put into it. I know that it's hard to make money and the site is a business. Maybe there needs to be another tier above premium, I'm willing to pay it.


    This advertising / advertorial / monitization is a slippery slope.


    I can't help but think of this article:


    https://www.thurrott.com/windows/windows-10/106761/ads-windows-10-premium

    • Brad Sams

      In reply to MattHewitt:

      Appreciate the feedback, this is one of the first we have done and I'll bring this topic up with the team on our weekly meeting.

    • Paul Thurrott

      In reply to MattHewitt:

      We talked about this in today's meeting and will see if we can add a way for Premium members to hide sponsored content. No promises, as we're not sure yet how hard this is. But we are looking at it.


      Thanks for the reasonable feedback. Seriously.

      • MattHewitt

        In reply to paul-thurrott:

        I appreciate the reply from both you and Brad and the discussion. Truth be told sponsored posts don't both me personally that much. I just felt a need to put on my premium member advocate hat for a bit.


        I access the site using an RSS reader typically, (probably a unique use case) so it's just one more thing I have to mark as read. It's like of like getting solicited junk email... not the end of the world, but it's one more thing I have to flip through. And if it's once a month or something, no worries. I'll probably actually read it. But I've seen this happen on other sites where it starts as once in a while, and eventually it grows to multiple posts a week. If it becomes a regular thing, I'm sure you guys will find a tasteful balance.


        I even think putting a heads-up post in the premium forums or something prior to trying out a new monitization method like this might get some of the complaints out of the way prior to it going live. I don't expect you guys to change the way you run your business off of a couple of complaints but at least you'd hear them beforehand and if there are good suggestions that are easy to implement you could do so prior to launching something.


        Keep up the good work. And on a side note, hiring Mehedi for general news was a great decision.

      • Wolf

        In reply to paul-thurrott:

        It's kind of sad that you've gotten to the point where you need to bump up the sponsorship in this way, but I totally get it. It seems to me that giving us a way to hide these posts would be unnecessary work on your part. The post is clearly labelled as sponsored, and even has a big red tag on the picture. As long as you continue to flag these clearly, I can opt to not click on it. There is no problem here, in my opinion.

  2. Pbike908

    Nice article, although not applicable to me. I hope Paul, Brad, and others figure out a way to earn a living off Thurrott.com

  3. joeparis

    I'll second @VancouverNinja with the caveat that sponsored posts need always be clearly labeled as such
  4. Kurt Harold Marvin

    We are looking into Smart Deploy as a replacement to imaging in System Center Configuration Manager (SCCM). My colleagues and I dislike SCCM because of its complexity, fat client, and unintuitive interface, however that being said I know the ins and outs of the application. I know for sure that it can maintain a single image for multiple different systems.


    The third paragraph it says that System Center Configuration Manager could not maintain a single image for multiple different systems, which is not true. I have one master image, that based on what is selected, will install different applications, and will auto detect the laptop model and install the appropriate drivers.


    There is a lot of flexibility behind SCCM, however it is complex, which is why we want a replacement.

  5. JCerna

    i have not tried this software but I've used all others mentioned. I still make one image per model, 10 total for 3000+ clients, mainly laptops. I actually find that mote reliable and easier to maintain. Yes creating an images does take a long time, for me about 40 hours for all my machines. That time it also includes deployment testing. So after trying everything the faster way to image is... USB flash drive with WinPE, dism, and a deployment script. Usually 20 minutes on standard drive and 8 minutes per machine with ssd. So I,ve purchased a usb cloner and have 20 flash drives each holding a custom winpe auto deploy.


    Most laptops still have to be plugged in and turned on manually so the flash drives are more convenient. For about 7 years now I also made my own manager with simple scripts. It allows me to remotely deploy apps, inventory, track, and support users. One of those script task shrinks the main partition by 16gb. Then it copies my deployment image for that model from using torrent protocol slowly over time. If I need to image that machine, I can put in flash drive, boot, remove flash drive and walk away. I can also send a image command remote via managing script. Total image time per machine ~30 minutes. I can and I have imaged 500+ at the same time in ~45 minutes.


    I also highly recommend ninite.com.


    Will look at this but I don't think it would be so good to pay for it since right now its free for me.

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