IT departments across the country are under increasing pressure to deliver consistent results with decreasing available resources and manpower. However, according to Annette Dow, director of Binary Resource, IT departments cannot expect to do this effectively unless they actively seek ways to cut down on the amount of hours they currently spend on one of tech support’s most time-consuming tasks?software-based cloning.

With research by Quocirca claiming that UK companies will waste around 80% of an IT budget on simply maintaining an existing infrastructure and dealing with problems as and when they arise, very little time is now spent on projects that add real value to the business.

Cloning is one of the biggest culprits. A common duty performed by nearly every IT department that manages more than a handful of computers, it has become one of the most tedious tasks undertaken by IT staff, who simply cannot afford to spend such a large amount of time on juggling numerous images and fighting fires.

Originally developed to assist IT staff with rolling out new applications and patches, the cloning process has become increasingly problematic as the IT landscape has become more diverse, meaning that cloning solutions don’t work as effectively as they once did. Now IT staff are having to create and manage multiple images to cater to a melting pot of hardware and software driver specifications across a network of assorted desktops and laptops?and when it comes to cloning, the larger the organisation, the heavier the burden.

A multitude of drivers exist for various DVD and CD readers and writers, USB devices, video and sound cards and so on. Subsequently, it has become extremely difficult for any organisation to keep up with driver developments and most software-based cloning packages are not built to cope either.

By employing a universal imaging solution, an IT department eliminates the need to create, maintain and store a separate image file for each type of desktop or laptop they support. This solves part of the problem and, although effective at delivering significant business and economic benefits, this is by no means a panacea, since searching for (and actively maintaining) a library of newly released drivers is critical to the success of such a product.

A more viable and effective solution is a hardware independent imaging (HII) tool. Such software runs alongside cloning packages and prepares an ideal desktop or laptop so that, once an image file is created, all of the drivers that will be needed on all of the target machines are already in place.

This enables the IT team to create a ‘one-shoe-fits-all’ image so that any recent Windows computer targeted for cloning will have all the drivers it requires to operate. The software will ensure that the model PC is correctly optimised for deployment and that all target machines can be imaged successfully without worrying about missing drivers, incorrect HALs or rolling re-boots. The result is that the cloning process can now operate at its full potential, making rollouts pain-free once again.

With IT staff and cloning solutions both becoming victims of the fast pace at which hardware technology is evolving, hardware independent imaging tools are fast becoming critical for the enterprise environment. Anything that allows IT teams to become more efficient and to concentrate on projects that add real value to the business is a no-brainer, especially in these harsh economic times.