UIU Case Studies


University College Extends IT Budget with the UIU Bookmark

University College, London

University College, London (UCL) is one of the top five universities in the UK. The university is made up of 72 academic departments with eight facilities based over multiple sites throughout London. The Information Systems department provides IT facilities for both staff and students throughout the university. With such a large and dispersed operation, managing the university’s IT needs from its Bloomsbury location is very challenging. Information Systems supports over 3,000 PCs under its ‘Managed PCs’ service and is required to maintain workstations that hold identical software and numerous types of drivers in a cost-effective and scalable manner.

We needed a solution that was simple, yet thorough.

Maria Darmon, Assistant Director

Simple Cloning was not the Answer

Software-based cloning was already in place at UCL. The cloning package UCL uses to update its computers is a proprietary program, developed by the technical team and based on PXE/Linux and NTFSclone. Even with that, UCL still had to create and maintain 15-20 master images to support the various brands of desktops at multiple sites within the organization. The technological limitations restricted the Information Systems team to using an increasingly limited range of hardware suppliers, as every hardware change could inherently require a new image to be created and/or deployed. Maria Darmon, Assistant Director of Information Systems, said, “Maintaining all of those separate images was a complex and time consuming task. We needed a solution that was simple yet thorough, which allowed us to create a single image that could be deployed across the university in a short span of time. We also needed to be much more accommodating in our ability to support these images across a range of different hardware from contracted suppliers.” She continued, “Another area for concern was an urgent need to deploy updates to our systems. Multiple images had to be updated in order for us to target critical client systems on a frequent basis.”

Hardware-Independent Images

The Universal Imaging Utility (UIU) was UCL’s solution. The UIU enables users to prepare a single, hardware-independent hard drive Image that can easily be deployed to any desktop or laptop regardless of manufacturer, thus greatly reducing the time and expense associated with image creation and maintenance. Using UIU, UCL is now able to maintain just a few master images to use throughout its environment of disparate Desktops.

We can now maintain a small number of images for an increasingly large range of hardware from different contracted suppliers.

Maria Darmon, Assistant Director

Explains Adam Murphy, President of Big Bang LLC, “Rolling-out software updates and setting up new desktops and laptops can be managed within a matter of minutes, and a previously complex and time consuming operation can be transformed into a simple, straightforward and fully automated task. This enables IT departments to drastically reduce the time and money spent on image creation, maintenance, and deployment by streamlining the cloning process. This allows IT resources to focus on more business-critical tasks.”

UIU Extends IT Budget

Simon Walsh, IT Purchasing Officer at Information Systems, UCL, said, “Before we started using UIU, our purchasing options for PCs were very limited. Maintaining core components over a protracted period of time was very difficult and not very cost effective. We discovered that we were unable to take full advantage of advancing trends in technology and advantageous price breaks. We often found ourselves locked into purchasing a particular model for a longer period of time than we would have hoped for in order to avoid having to create and maintain yet another Image.”

Maria Darmon concluded: “Following the introduction of UIU, we can now maintain a small number of images for an increasingly large range of hardware from different contracted suppliers. Images are now faster and easier to maintain and allow us to make much better use of our staff resources.

New York Chiropractic College and the UIU Bookmark

Organization Overview

The New York Chiropractic College in upstate New York offers both undergraduate and Master’s degree programs in a variety of disciplines related to chiropractic medicine. The college’s mission is to provide leadership and academic excellence in all its degree-granting programs through a commitment to quality education and patient care, research excellence and professional service.

The process now takes a third of the time it took using the previous process.

John Vincent, Information Technology Administrator

The Situation

John Vincent, the New York Chiropractic College Information Technology Administrator, is responsible for maintaining and updating the student computer labs as well as the faculty and staff machines at the college – 500 machines in total.

The Challenge

Because Vincent had eight to 10 different models to update for each of the three areas for which he was responsible, he had to maintain nearly 30 separate master Images. He kept a model of each type of computer in his office for updating, which proved difficult to manage. Physically storing the images posed additional challenges. “It took a lot of time, at least a day or two just getting the images ready to go and then another half a day to push them out,” Vincent said. “The whole process took about three days to install, test and roll out. This meant we had to close the lab for about nine days each year. Another issue for Vincent was that he spent a significant amount of time keeping track of new hardware drivers. It is common for identical models of computers to not have the same hardware components such as processor, hard drive, controller, and network, sound and graphics cards.

The Solution

Once Vincent tried Big Bang LLC’s Universal Imaging Utility (UIU), the process became much easier. Vincent now has one dedicated machine for each department in his office containing one master image to update. He no longer needs to wheel the master machines to the lab in order to perform the updates. “I maintain one image for the student lab, one for the faculty machines and one for the staff,” explains Vincent. “The process now takes half a day to get each image ready and to roll it out, a third of the time it took using the previous process.”

The UIU also significantly frees up server storage space. He now has three Images, compared to the 30 he used to maintain. “It cut down on storage quite a bit,” Vincent continued. “We were considering purchasing another storage device for back up because of the amount of space all those images were taking up, but now we don’t have to do that. We can use storage we already have because the size and number of images we need to keep is so much smaller, thanks to the UIU.”

Another benefit Vincent has seen is that keeping drivers current is now much easier with the UIU. “Driver issues were a concern previously. Trying to keep current drivers for all the models we had here was a challenge. Now we just use the UIU and it keeps track of that information for us. We don’t have to worry about having the right drivers or storing them all for all the equipment and peripherals we have. I now rely solely on the UIU to complete this task.

Vincent is now thinking about conducting regularly scheduled updates to the faculty and staff machines because of the success he’s experienced using the UIU for the student computer labs. “UIU makes it so much easier that I’m considering proactively updating the other machines to keep them fresh and clean. Because they run faster when freshly imaged, this might also cut down on support calls, saving even more time.”

We don’t have to worry about having the right drivers...I now rely solely on the UIU.

John Vincent, Information Technology Administrator

The UIU has been so beneficial to the college that Vincent was able to abandon his plans to hire a new position within his department. “We were ready to hire a person just to take care of the desktop administration,” explained Vincent. “It had become such a burden and took a back seat to the more critical work that had to be done. It was hard for me to keep up with the administrative duties, because of my network and server responsibilities. Now that I’ve seen how easy UIU is to use, I don’t feel I need to hire another person, which really pleases management because we’re saving money.” “UIU has been a great product for us,” Vincent says. “It definitely meets all my needs. It’s been fantastic.”

MPL Reduces Image Maintenance time with the UIU Bookmark

The Milwaukee Public Library

The Milwaukee Public Library has a storied history dating back to 1878. The original historic downtown location has, over the course of several years, added twelve additional physical locations throughout the city. The library’s vision is to be every person’s gateway to an expanding world of information, and to guide Milwaukeeans in their pursuit of knowledge, enjoyment of lifelong learning.

As such, technology services play a significant role in achieving such a mission. With the ever-increasing availability of digital information, online resources and media, maintaining a solid infrastructure of PCs is integral to their success.

The Situation

Spread amongst the twelve physical locations, the library has approximately 850 desktops, and an increasing number of laptops - currently 350. MIS Manager, Corey Megal, leads a team of three people who are responsible for maintenance, imaging and deployment, and configuration of the library’s PCs. In an effort to standardize imaging, the Library purchases predominantly Dell desktops and HP laptops. Of the 350 laptops, approximately 240 of them are for public use. Of the 850 desktops, the split between staff and public use is almost exactly 50/50.

The Challenge

Even though the library had standardization in mind with their primarily Dell desktops and HP laptops, they found themselves with at least five different models of each. In addition to the 10 unique models, that the MIS team maintained a unique image for both the staff machines and the machines used by the public. This meant that Corey and his team were managing fifteen or more images at one time. Each of the public image configurations was required to be considerably more restrictive for daily public usage, and contained completely unique software and configuration from the staff machines. The stark disparity of image configuration between staff and public PCs meant there was nothing they could do to reduce the number of images on hand. Aside from the obvious physical space requirements to house that many images, the primary issue was definitely the time required to make sure that each image contained the latest Microsoft updates, drivers and configuration needed, and then successfully deploy each image to the corresponding hardware.

The only thing I regret is not buying the UIU sooner.

Corey Megal, MIS Manager

The Solution

Back in 2002, Corey attended a Symantec Ghost training session given by software developer and Ghost training specialists, Big Bang LLC. It was at the end of this class that he was first introduced to a solution that could address his imaging issues and help the library reduce the number of images and the time required to maintain them by over 80% -Big Bang LLC’s Universal Imaging Utility (UIU).

The UIU is the only software application able to work in conjunction with an Windows OS deployment solution such as Ghost, Altiris, Acronis, SCCM, ImageX, etc., to deliver a hardware independent image to any PC regardless of manufacturer. Because of this, Corey and his team were able to reduce the number of images they had to maintain from 15 down to two - one for the PCs used by the public and one for the staff. The images are now easy to keep updated, and he knows that he always has a current image ready for deployment. This is particularly important because the library uses re-imaging not only for troubleshooting and new hardware, but also to push out essential updates.

The Future

Going forward, the MIS team will continue to utilize a simple set of best practices recommended by Big Bang. After preparing a master PC (including OS, software and applicable configuration), they capture an image of that machine, prior to running the UIU. This pre-UIU capture is recommended due to Microsoft’s limitations on the number of times you can Sysprep an image, and retaining a pre-Sysprep master allows the MIS team to return to this image for updates. Once that pre-Sysprep image is put aside for future use, the MIS team runs the UIU on the master PC. The UIU prepares the operating system for hardware independent imaging, loads a driver database of over 40,000 Plug-and-Play IDs, invokes Sysprep and shuts the master PC down. In approximately ten minutes, the master PC will be readied for image capture and deployment to the hardware of their choice.

When the time comes to update their two images, one configured for the public and the other for the staff PCs, they will simply put the original image back down, run the necessary updates, capture a pre-Sysprep image to save for next time, run the UIU on the master PC and capture and deploy. Just a couple of hours a month, including the time to pull down the updates, allows the Milwaukee Public Library MIS team to have an updated and completely hardware independent PC image on hand at all times.

Tennessee Schools Manage Drivers with the UIU Bookmark

Maryville City Schools

Maryville City Schools is a K-12 school district located about twenty miles south of Knoxville in Maryville, Tennessee. The district educates over 5,000 students throughout seven schools, including a high school with over 1,000 students enrolled. In addition to the student bodies, Maryville City Schools employs around 700 staff members, including both teachers and support staff, all tasked with preparing students for a lifetime of learning and responsible citizenship. To help facilitate that goal, the Maryville IT department maintains approximately 1,500 PCs for use by students and faculty.

Both the size of the district and the multiple locations involved require a high level of expertise in IT operations and support. Leading the IT efforts for Maryville City Schools is District Technology Coordinator, Andrew Raulston. Andrew’s varied experience in IT operations and support allows Maryville City Schools to utilize the powerful systems management platform from Microsoft, System Center Configuration Manager (SCCM).

Driver Management Challenges

Prior to the adoption of SCCM, Andrew managed his images with Zenworks. While the implementation of SCCM throughout the district allowed for a more comprehensive approach to systems management, Andrew continued to experience significant challenges with driver management. As is the case with many organizations, Maryville found it both costly and nearly impossible to maintain a homogenous fleet of PCs. The hardware disparity extended beyond an already challenging environment mixed with both desktops and laptops to an environment with multiple models from several different manufacturers.

To manage his diverse environment, Andrew was forced to manually search for the necessary .cab or driver files for each make and model machine. Once he was able to locate the necessary files, they still needed to be packaged and distributed before including them in the OSD Task Sequence. Advertising the Task Sequence to a PC collection posed another set of challenges, as the collection had to be hardware specific and limited only to the drivers in the Task Sequence. Once a change was made to his PC inventory, or there was a new driver or update, the process started all over again.

The amount of time I saved was more than worth the cost of the software.

Andrew Raulston, District Technology Coordinator

An SCCM Integrated Solution for Drivers

The frustrations of managing drivers in a diverse hardware environment were great enough that Andrew started looking for a better way. A quick Google search led him to the Universal Imaging Utility System Deploy Plug-in (UIU plug-in for SCCM). The UIU plug-in for SCCM is a fully integrated plug-in specifically designed for Microsoft SCCM and contains a fully-vetted and continuously updated driver database of over 40,000 Plug-and-Play IDs. The UIU plug-in for SCCM discovers the onboard hardware of each PC in an environment and assigns only the best driver for each component. This automated process completely eliminates the need to locate, organize, manage and create driver packages.

After finding the UIU plug-in for SCCM website, Andrew requested a trial and soon discovered that it completely eliminated all the driver hassles he had experienced in the past. Instead of manually organizing and packaging each individual .cab file, he needed only to build a Task Sequence including the UIU plug-in for SCCM Machine Configuration Step. That single Task Sequence could then be advertised to any Collection of PCs, regardless of manufacturer or model. Shortly after Andrew started working with the trial, he found that the drivers he needed were included and became confident that the UIU plug-in for SCCM could resolve his driver management headaches.

The trial was easy to install and run, and technical support was there to help with questions along the way.

Andrew Raulston, District Technology Coordinator

In less than ten days, Andrew went from testing the UIU plug-in for SCCM to implementing the live version in his environment. He was in contact with UIU plug-in for SCCM Support throughout his trial period and reported them to be both responsive and thorough in answering his questions. “The trial was easy to install and run, and technical support was there to help with questions along the way.”

Time Savings and No Driver Headaches

With the UIU plug-in for SCCM, Andrew can now go from bare metal to a fully functional PC in 30 minutes. His first project with the help of the UIU plug-in for SCCM involved setting up 52 new ThinkPads and 60 white boxes, and he deployed one imaging Task Sequence for all of them. He estimates that the UIU plug-in for SCCM saved him several weeks of time in initial setup, and the savings will continue as his environment grows and changes. “With the UIU plug-in for SCCM, driver management has become a non-issue for me,” reported Andrew. “The amount of time I saved was more than worth the cost of the software, especially given the varying hardware I deal with.”

Kansas Schools Reduce Imaging Time with the UIU Bookmark

Lansing Unified School District

As Technology Director of Lansing Unified School District, Bill Eckles manages a large and diverse number of computers and peripherals for students and staff.

The facilities for this northwest Kansas District include three school buildings and the district office. As Lansing’s only full-time IT employee, Eckles, who was brought on-board in 2009, oversees a Windows 2008 Server network of nearly 2,000 computers, 1,200 peripheral devices, as well as 300 faculty and staff machines.

The Current Situation

Lansing uses Symantec Ghost cloning software to handle the deployment, rollouts and migration of its desktops and laptops. They maintain a wide variety of systems, utilizing a hand-me-down approach. When a new PC is acquired, the old one is re-deployed to another area in the District where it replaces an older or less powerful computer. As is common with school districts, the majority of supported machines ultimately end up in student computer labs.

This swapping process continues until the end of the line is reached and a system is retired.

The Challenge

While making fiscal sense, this process requires Eckles to maintain computers that are up to ten years old. The combination of minimal human resources, varying ages of computers, and heavy student use leaves Eckles with a very long To-Do list.

Helping chip away at the backlog is pre-cloning preparation tool, the Universal Imaging Utility from Big Bang LLC. In a previous job with a Federal Defense agency, Eckles used the Universal Imaging Utility to help support their PCs.

The Universal Imaging Utility works alongside hard drive imaging tools and enables the imaging tool (Ghost, Altiris, Acronis, SCCM, etc.) to create and use a single hardware-independent hard drive image that can easily be deployed to any laptop or desktop regardless of manufacturer.

I call the UIU the ‘Stress Reliever’

Bill Eckles, Technology Director

Why It Works

Eckles cited four main benefits to using the UIU while cloning computers:

  • Ease of use – the UIU requires no special training; load the program and follow the wizard as it walks you through the process.

  • Scalability to different systems – the UIU is hardware agnostic, so it works on virtually every business-class PC.

  • Maintaining multiple images with one base – the UIU enables adding, removing, or udpating software and OS updates to one base image and using that new UIU image to deploy to a different set of hardware.

  • Updates to driver database – the UIU includes a comprehensive library of updated device drivers.

Prior to utilizing the Universal Imaging Utility, routine system refreshes were not done regularly at Lansing. Performing them was far down the list of priorities. In the most recent school year, Eckles’ department fielded 1,500 tech requests which left little time for much else.

Incorporating the UIU into their imaging process has yielded quantifiable results. For instance, to Ghost-cast an image to a computer lab consisting of 40 PCs without using the UIU took a full 5 days due to different platforms and driver requirements.

With the Universal Imaging Utility, that same computer lab is fully cloned in less than one day–which yields a full 80% savings on time and labor expense.

Eckles gets the same benefit when imaging the district’s laptops too, since the same image is used to clone them as well. It is for this reason that he refers to the UIU as “The Stress Reliever.”

By handling the routine, mundane tasks so efficiently, large scale improvements have been enacted by Lansing USD without requesting a larger budget or additional personnel. Examples include implementing a new Help Desk Support Ticket system and moving forward with a plan to perform off-site back-ups.

The Universal Imaging Utility affords Lansing USD the opportunity not only be more proactive in its management of computers, thereby keeping the software more current and properly patched, but also allows them to make genuine progress on other initiatives that benefit the students, teachers and staff.

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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