Windows 7 rollouts without the pain

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Prowess, Symantec, Acronis offer strong alternatives to Microsoft's Deployment Toolkit

Migrating to the next version of Windows can be a painful exercise for enterprise IT departments. That said, with support for Windows XP ending and with hardware refresh cycles kicking in, the move to Win 7 is unavoidable for most enterprises.

The good news is that there are specific tools built to help with Windows 7 deployments. We tested Acronis Snap Deploy 3 With Universal Deploy 3, Microsoft Deployment Toolkit 2010, Prowess SmartDeploy Enterprise, and Symantec Ghost Solution Suite 2.5.

There are two basic approaches to a Windows OS upgrade. Disk imaging has been around since before Windows XP and works well if all your target computers are the same. For example, you've standardized on Dell Latitude E6420s with the NVIDIA 4200M graphics option. This technique, used by Symantec and Acronis, makes a sector-by-sector copy of the reference machine's hard disk structure at a point in time. This also means it's difficult to service the image later when you need to apply, say, security patches.

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