Product Reviews

Mapping the PC Genome

Desktop DNA delivers enterprise-wide system migrations.

Anyone responsible for desktop administration will eventually be asked to perform the much-dreaded upgrade. Whether your company wants to move to the newest version of Windows or to the latest and greatest hardware platform, these changes are difficult enough to plan without worrying about users’ settings. Sure, you could just tell users to save what they need to a network share somewhere, but how many users really know what they need or even how to go about saving that information to a share? Thanks to Miramar Systems’ Desktop DNA Enterprise Edition, you’ll no longer have to spend late nights and long weekends trying to upgrade 3,000 users. Now all you have to do is copy the user’s DNA.

So just what is user DNA? Well, it’s much more than just Mighty Mouse wallpaper and an “I Love Ballroom Dancing” screensaver. Printer, network, application and desktop settings, along with files and folders, make up a computer’s DNA. Desktop DNA is a product that allows for the migration of this information from one computer to another.

When you start Desktop DNA, you’re presented with a wizard to configure the settings for the migration (see screenshot). There are two options for migrations: Real-time and deferred. With real-time, you have both the old and the new computers up and running at the same time. You first configure the old computer as the source and then point the new computer back at the old one. The migration process then proceeds to pull the pieces of DNA you specify over to the new machine.

In deferred migrations, you package the settings and data into a DNA file and place the file on a network share or some form of removable media. You can then later extract the DNA file to the target machine. Desktop DNA even supports Disk Spanning, so you could break out 1,396 floppy disks and spend the next 10 years sticking them in the drive and clicking OK. (Personally, I’d stick with the network or CD-R media method.) There are two options for loading the DNA file onto a new system: You can fire up Desktop DNA and run through the wizard to unpack the file or create the DNA file as a self-extracting executable. The deferred migration is also a great tool to back up user settings, just in case a computer experiences a catastrophic crash and you have to rebuild.

Miramar Systems Desktop DNA
The Wizard is used to configure all aspects of a migration, including which applications and settings to migrate. (Click image to view larger version.)

With a simple interface and powerful tool kit, Desktop DNA Enterprise Edition is bound to make the life of any administrator a lot easier. Now that you have the map of the PC genome at your fingertips, you can spend a little more time out on the golf course and a lot less time running through cubicle mazes. Your users will thank you, and your social life will improve.

About the Author

Eric Johnson, SQL Server MVP, is the owner of Consortio Services in Colorado Springs providing IT systems management and technology consulting. He is also the President of the Colorado Springs SQL Server User Group. He can be contacted at www.consortioservices.com.

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Reader Comments:

Wed, Nov 13, 2002 Gov't Aerospace IT shop Florida

I wish this article was written a year ago when we were looking for a migration cure. Desktop DNA wound up as our choice truly because of it's scalbility and customization capability. The wide range of Apps that it supported and the Muscle migration feature were key in our decision. Their tools make it simple to create new scripts for applications that we created in house. Also the ability to do either a direct or deferred migration really matched our requirements for our remote sites as well as our depot oriented IT shop. To date we have migrated over 6000 PC's and were able to accomplish it in less than 3 weeks!

Wed, Nov 13, 2002 Alon Winton Los Angeles, CA

Just clearing up the review header. Again Great article and product!

Wed, Nov 13, 2002 Alon Winton

Great article and so true about migration! I have been an IT specialist for a large insurance company for over 10 years and the task of migrating PC's was certainly our largest headache. We looked at both Miramar's Desktop DNA and Altiris's PCTransplant to speed up and improve the reliability of migration from win 9x to Win 2K and XP. After evaluating both products Desktop DNA was the CLEAR choice with it's incredible flexibility, performance , reliability and automation tools. The latest functionality we have gained from Desktop DNA is the ability to perform Disaster Recovery and Backup from the packaged DNA file. We have users that wipe out Desktop, Network, App settings all the time and with Desktop DNA we are able to recover these settings almost instantaneously without resorting to backup apps that would overwrite critical information created in between the backup intervals. It's amazing just how far you can stretch Desktop DNA's migration technology to help minimize resources and dollars spent on maintaining Windows based PC's and do a more effective job!

Wed, Nov 13, 2002 Peter Walilko Troy, Michigan

I've used Desktop DNA for three years now, and have been very pleased with the people and product. The features I found most useful include: 1)Customization - if an application isn't on the menu, you can let it take it's 'best guess' or you can write a script for yourself. But your app will probably be on the list. 2) Automation - you can run a very sophisticated process without any input from the user if you need to, either through scripts or scheduled tasks. 3) Robustness - when you are reformatting drives to load new operating systems, you have to be sure you got ALL of the user's files in a good DNA file. Miramar has all kinds of logs and checks to verify the transfer. 4) Intelligence - If you are moving a user from Windows 98 SE and Office 97 SR1 with Netscape to Windows XP with Office 2000 SP2 and Internet Explorer 6, Desktop DNA can handle it and anything in between.

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