Product Reviews

One-Image Network

Universal Imaging Utility's single master image can streamline your imaging process.

The concept of computer imaging is a godsend for anyone who's endured the Setup program for Windows more than 20 times in their lives. You can create a single system image and send it out across your network to keep all your workstations uniform and up-to-date -- at least in theory.

There are two principal concerns when dealing with imaging software. First, you have to consider the number of images you're going to actively maintain. The more different platforms you support, the more image files you'll need to manage.

Second, you'll have to consider the frequency of your updates. If you're religious about maintaining current, up-to-the-minute images, you'll be setting yourself and your staff up for a lot of recurring work.

Imagine One Image
Binary Research's Universal Image Utility (UIU) addresses the first issue, which then also directly affects the second. UIU reduces the number of images you have to actively maintain.

UIU creates a single “master image” you can apply to all the different platforms and configurations that you have throughout your network. Patching and prepping a single image is much more palatable.

Obey your master.
[Click on image for larger view.]
Figure 1. UIU creates a master image you can apply across platforms and configurations

The power of UIU comes from the manner in which it incorporates a comprehensive driver library -- which incidentally consumes about 300MB of disk space -- into the master image. Once UIU adds the driver library to the template machine, it kicks off Sysprep and prepares the image for duplication. From there, you can use whichever cloning and deployment utility (such as Ghost, DeployCenter or Altiris) you choose to roll out your images to the target machines.

With so many drivers available from the UIU driver library, Plug and Play's chances of auto-detecting your hardware are greatly improved. If you're worried about how current those drivers may be, UIU lets you download the latest driver database to use in your master image.

Documentation 20%
Installation 20%
Feature Set 20%
Performance 20%
Management 20%
Overall Rating:

1: Virtually inoperable or nonexistent
5: Average, performs adequately
10: Exceptional

Because UIU strips the image to its bare bones, you could potentially take an image built on an IDE-based machine and port it directly to a SCSI or SATA platform. It also incorporates other Hardware Abstraction Layer (HAL) configurations into the base image and resets the original HAL, so you don't even have to confine your image to similarly configured machines (the HAL acts as the interface between hardware and software). During the UIU master image installation process, you can specify these as additional options. You can also use your own .INF file.

Almost as important as the software itself, when you license UIU, you get the driver database, which Binary Research updates on a regular basis. These regular updates are most helpful if you frequently refresh your images. If you have a great diversity of workstations, desktops and laptops on your network, UIU can save you tons of time in terms of keeping your images up-to-date. It's definitely worth a look.

About the Author

Rick A. Butler, MCSE+I, is the Director of Information Services for the United States Hang Gliding Association.


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