Symantec's latest version of the Ghost computer cloning and restoration product now deploys software patches and reduces the network bandwidth.
Ghost 8.0 Corporate Edition has evolved from a backup and recovery product into a configuration and patch management platform.
Features include remote management, which enables administrators to clone Microsoft, Windows NT, 2000 or XP machines and send out software hot fixes or operating system configuration changes to multiple workstations at once.
The latest version also makes it easier to migrate user settings such as Windows "My Documents" folders, desktop shortcuts and configurations between computers.
To simplify file deployment, a file transfer multicasting feature allows the same file to be pushed out and run on multiple workstations at the same time. Bandwidth throttling features enable companies to use the multicast feature without taking up too much of the network's available resources.
Ghost customers can still "unicast", copying a desktop image to a single machine, or deploy a single image to all machines on a network subnet.
Symantec also included features to limit the impact of system cloning and restoration on corporate networks. Unlike earlier versions of Ghost, version 8.0 Corporate Edition has the ability to create staging areas on local machines.
Those enable administrators to store local copies of user profiles, software fixes or even entire "images" of the computer operating environment, Symantec said.
Unlike other disc contents, the staging area is not overwritten when Ghost restores files to the machine and the files in it can be used to install key software components quickly.
Earlier versions of Ghost required all the information captured during the cloning process or used in a restoration to be sent back and forth over the corporate network.
Symantec has also introduced improved asset tracking features. IT administrators can now track what hardware and software is running on remote machines from the Ghost 8.0 management console and use filters to see which machines qualify for software patches or other updates, the company said.
Finally, a "ghost boot" feature simplifies deployment of the Ghost product by allowing administrators to browse for network machines and remotely install the Ghost client.
Symantec Ghost 8.0 is available immediately through Symantec distributors and resellers.
Paul Roberts writes for IDG News Service