UIU Case Studies


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.”

Schoharie Optimizes Imaging with the UIU Bookmark

Schoharie Central School District

The Schoharie history is long and storied with roots back to 1710 and some of the first settlers to the New York area. As the largely uneducated immigrants moved to the region, the founders set about immediately to establish ways for the children to learn. The Education system was founded in 1839, and since the formalization of the district in 1930 has continued to grow and thrive over the last 180+ years. With almost 900 students and growing, the district’s technology has had to keep up with ever-changing demands.

Logistical Challenges

With over 500 PCs for staff and students, the IT infrastructure falls squarely on the shoulders of one man, Dave Holmes. He is responsible for quite literally every aspect of technology, including support, purchasing and imaging. The primary challenge for Schoharie is the diverse collection of PCs spread out across their environment. In spite of the fact that the district utilizes primarily Dell machines, Dave still has to manage 15 different models. With so many models, the time required to deploy an updated operating system to the entire district used to take him almost a month. Consequently, Dave was hesitant to push out an updated image unless absolutely necessary, and dreaded the acquisition of new hardware because it took him away from effectively managing the rest of the IT program in the district.

UIU Support has been great. The very few times we have needed a driver, we have received them right away.

Dave Holmes, Senior Computer Support Specialist

In an attempt to effectively deploy images to disparate hardware, Schoharie tried a home-grown solution, but driver management was inconsistent and there was a great deal of time required.

The Driver Management Solution

At some point another school district recommended that Dave sign up for a mailing list for technology geared to education. It was through that mailing list that he originally heard about the Universal Imaging Utility (UIU) from developer Big Bang LLC. The UIU incorporates a fully vetted and continously updated driver database of over 40,000 Plug-n-Play IDs to deliver a hardware independent PC image to any laptop or desktop regardless of manufacturer or model.

I can’t imagine my job without the UIU.

Dave Holmes, Senior Computer Support Specialist

With the UIU, Schoharie was able to accomplish several cost and time-saving tasks that were previously impossible:

  • Reduction in Images
    Prior to the UIU, Dave was maintaining 20-25 images through an entirely manual configuration process. Even though a primarily Dell organization, disparate models required unique images. And because of this, images were only being updated once per year. The number of images after the UIU was implemented was reduced down to two XP and two Windows 7 - one each for students and one each for staff machines.

  • Virtual Builds
    Previously, each PC image build was being done manually on the physical machine. This was not only time-consuming, but created a large opportunity for error in keeping all the machine builds organized. Now, all image builds are done in a virtual environment (which is a UIU best-practice). The images were then easily deployed with Ghost.

  • Open Acquisition of Hardware
    Schoharie is often approached by people wanting to donate machines for the students. Before, they were unable to accept these gifts because of how much extra time would be required to image and maintain them. Now, Schoharie will gladly accept any donated machine because the UIU allows Dave to deploy his existing Windows XP or 7 image to any of them.

“The ability to go from 25 or so images down to two images for XP and two for 7 has been huge. That and the ability to build everything in VM as opposed to each piece of hardware saves amazing amounts of time. A process that formerly required an entire month to build each specific image now only takes one day."

UConn and PC Drivers in MDT with the UIU Bookmark

Founded in 1941, the UConn School of Business has evolved into one of the most comprehensive business schools in the nation, offering academic programs at the bachelors, masters, doctorate and advanced certificate levels, in five Connecticut locations – Storrs, Hartford, Stamford, Torrington and Waterbury. The School of Business has established a strong reputation for high quality research and academic programs, spanning a wide array of functional disciplines – Accounting, Finance, Management, Marketing, and Operations and Information Management.

The Information & Communications Technology team at the UConn School of Business directly supports the faculty, staff, and students of the school. Their mission is to facilitate the teaching, research, and outreach mission of the School of Business through strategic and innovative implementation of information technology.

UConn Imaging Process

As the Services Systems Administrator, Glenn Ortiz has been integral in developing a cohesive, efficient imaging program across all five campus locations. Eight years ago, the UConn School of Business faced an imaging dilemma supporting disparate student laptops at their Storrs location as well as many desktop and laptop models amongst the faculty. Current Director, Jeremy Pollack, selected the Universal Imaging Utility (UIU) to maintain one hardware-independent image that could be deployed to any laptop or desktop regardless of make or model.

I’m very excited that we have this in place. It takes the amazing infrastructure Glenn has developed, connects to the great tools from Microsoft, and ties it all together with the Universal Imaging Utility.

Jeremy Pollack, IT Director

Since those initial days, Glenn has developed a robust Microsoft Deployment Toolkit (MDT) infrastructure to handle their image deployments. They chose MDT as a solution already bundled with their Microsoft Enterprise Agreements, and unlike other deployment tools which operate statically, MDT allows them to dynamically modify the OS image throughout the deployment process. MDT also integrates well for them with other technologies like Windows Deployment Services (WDS) to further simplify the deployment process. 

Glenn and the ICT team appreciate the way MDT is able to inject drivers during the imaging process, which means they no longer have to maintain a master image containing all the necessary drivers. As a result, the image they do maintain can be much smaller which equates to faster deployment times. This also gives them the flexibility to streamline management of the various different platforms, applications, and software needed across faculty, staff, and student PCs. “The migration to MDT has been valuable to our overall imaging process, and has streamlined the entire process”, said Glenn. “In particular, it has addressed a major challenge we still had, which was consistency across all of our campuses.”

I can now install driver updates directly to the server so that when we do deployments the clients will automatically get the latest drivers.

Glenn Ortiz, Services Systems Administrator

Driver Management Challenges

As capable as MDT is, the issue of cross-platform deployment always comes down to disparate hardware and driver management. Even though MDT offers a medium by which to organize and package drivers to correspond with each recipient PC, each driver must be located and manually packaged. 

But manual driver management hasn’t been an issue at the UConn School of Business. Instead of worrying about locating, organizing, and packaging the drivers inherently necessary for the recipient PCs in their MDT environment, they chose to utilized the new UIU to automate driver management. The UIU plug-in for MDT allows administrators to create a driver repository location within the MDT server environment for availability during any deployment. Then, when a Standard Client Task Sequence is deployed, the UIU Machine Configuration Step can be added from a drop-down menu within MDT. Once the Task Sequence is deployed, the UIU ascertains the onboard hardware of the recipient PC during WinPE setup and injects only the most appropriate driver from the UIU Driver Repository.

The UIU is a great tool; it saves us a lot of time. To integrate so well with MDT makes it even more valuable.

Glenn Ortiz, Services Systems Administrator

The UIU Driver Database is continuously updated and vetted, consists of over 40,000 Plug-and-Play IDs, and contains only the latest, most appropriate drivers. Once the UIU Repository location is selected by the MDT admin, it can be set to automatically update when new drivers are released. 

This feature in particular appeals to Glenn, “I can now install updates directly to the server. When we do deployments the clients will automatically get the latest drivers.”

Going forward, Glenn will be utilizing an additional feature from the UIU, the WinPE builder which contains the PE drivers necessary to enable them to create an MDT LiteTouch bootable ISO. 

“UIU/Big Bang have been a great partner over the years. This new solution is another example of how focused they are in increasing the value of our existing investments,” says Jeremy. “I’m very excited that we have this in place. It takes the amazing infrastructure Glenn has developed, connects to the great tools from Microsoft, and ties it all together with the Universal Imaging Utility.”

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