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Saving Time, Money (and Your Sanity) with SVS

Created: 24 Jan 2007 • Updated: 29 Jul 2010 | 7 comments
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Editor's note: You can read the Dutch version of this article here.

Lets face it -- no matter where you work, what you do, or how you spend your time, sooner or later you're going to interact with a Windows PC. Your PC is where you work, where you play, where you shop, and even where you chat or hang out with your friends. And though we hate to admit it, your PC is also where you spend a lot of time fixing problems and repairing broken software.

The Time Vacuum

Computers have a habit of sucking up our time, or -- even worse -- forcing us to spend our precious computer time resolving software issues instead of doing what we really need to do. Sometimes I think they enjoy it.

I can see my computer taunting me every time something goes wrong, daring me to put my projects on hold to wade through a swamp of help menus and command screens trying to make it work again. I don't have that kind of time, computer! Most of us here on the Juice are pretty tech-savvy, but just because we CAN fix a problem doesn't mean we WANT to, or that we have four free hours to waste fixing every little thing that comes up.

Wouldn't it be nice if there was a way to make those problems go away?

Fix or Ignore?

Let me give you an example: several years ago, while I was working on some Web development software at home, several features stopped working. That's the only way to explain it. The program kept going fine, but those few features literally stopped working. The buttons even went inactive. They weren't especially useful features, so I could get by without them, and in the end, I decided that it just wasn't worth the hassle to go through and figure out what happened. Even uninstalling and reinstalling was too much of a pain -- all that time, saving what I needed, dumping what I didn't, switching out a half dozen disks to reinstall it, and then reconfiguring all my settings so the program worked the way I wanted it to. In the end, the time I would have spent fixing my software was not as valuable as the time I needed to spend actually using my software, so I did without those features and went on my way.

How SVS Can Help

That's where Software Virtual Solution (SVS) comes in. SVS, in brief, allows you to install your programs onto virtual layers instead of just putting them straight onto your hard drive. The amount of possibilities this opens up is pretty amazing. It makes it easier to share and manage programs, and it makes problem-solving so easy it's practically a magic "Fix it" button.

So lets look at my broken Web development program again. If I had been using SVS, I could have installed my Web program onto a layer, configured it the way I liked it, and then saved that layer in a certain state.

Click to view.

When those problems cropped up, all I would have had to do was save my project, deactivate the layer, reset it to that saved state, and then start it up again -- problem solved, software working perfectly, all in under a minute.

That's a far cry from the hours of investigative work, tech support, and lost time it would have taken without SVS.

SVS on a Grand(er) Scale

If SVS makes solving your own PC problems that easy, imagine what it can do for those people who call you for technology help -- you know who I'm talking about. People who are good with computers are always related to people who aren't, and if you're anything like me you're the go-to guy in your family for every little technology problem that pops up. Your mother calls you late at night and asks you to diagnose and fix a problem she can't even explain on a device you can't see that's two states away -- what do you do?

Next time you visit, hook her up with SVS; when she calls asking for help, all you have to say is "push that magic button I showed you," and the problem will go away. SVS is simple enough that they can even use it themselves without calling to bug you at all. It will walk them through, step by step, so that even people uncomfortable with computers will feel completely in control of this powerful technology.

SVS in the Enterprise

So SVS makes it easy to troubleshoot problems at home and on the phone with your relatives -- but what can it do in the office?

Because of the many things SVS lets you do with a saved layer, the office is where the program really shines: not only can you fix problems quickly, you can share programs with other users on the network. When you use SVS to install a program into a layer, that layer becomes an independent package that you can export to other computers -- any computer running SVS will be able to run your program without the need to install anything.

In a company where I used to work we had about 200 employees, and every time we hired someone new it would take some poor soul a full day to get their computer set up properly. They would have to install a full suite of software, configure everything, and make sure it all works the way it's supposed to. Which can take even longer if the new employee is going to work on design or coding -- that's a lot of big, big programs to painstakingly install. At least, that's how it used to be.

Now that we have SVS, that 6-hour process takes about 30 minutes: you just send out the layer package that person needs, patch them in to that person's SVS, and you're done. Altiris' Deployment Server makes this process even easier because everything is automated -- it can install, update, and manage all of the new employee's software layers in less time than it takes him to sign all of his papers in employee orientation. Think of it this way: would you rather haul around a bunch of heavy furniture and assemble it by hand, or sit back and sip lemonade while Scotty beams it right into your living room, already put together and ready to go? The choice seems pretty clear.

Inherent SVS Efficiencies

There's a reason why I've mentioned Web development and design several times in this article, and if you've ever tried to code a website for different versions of the same browser then you probably know where I'm going with this. CSS, JavaScript, and other things can all work differently from browser to browser, and even from version to version, which can make it really hard to test. Most computers can't have two different versions of the same program at once, because one will simply overwrite the other. In my job, I used to have to run back and forth between two computers ten feet away from each other, tweaking a page and checking to see if it rendered correctly, over and over, and back and forth. Now, imagine that you had both those versions of Internet Explorer virtualized and running on the same machine -- it's tricky, and as with all Juice tips it's not officially supported by Altiris, but you can do it (see Virtualizing Internet Explorer).

Instead of running back and forth from machine to machine to look at different versions, all you'd have to do is bounce back and forth from layer to layer; as long as you deactivate one layer before opening the other, the two versions will never "see" each other and won't come into conflict, so you can run them both on the same machine.

Application Sharing

And it's not just IE -- you could run multiple versions of any program you like. Let's say you're working in an older version of Adobe Creative Suite 2 (CS2), because your office only has one license for the new version and can't get one for everyone. You and the other designers in the office can use the older versions for the majority of your work, and then pass around a layer with the newer version whenever you need one of the newer features. Many offices do this already, with the newer software installed on one computer that the designers have to share, but that has never been a good solution, just a temporary one. Allowing designers to stay at their own desks and share the software without moving around or interrupting each other can be a huge boost to productivity.

Freeing Up Resources

The ability to activate and deactivate layers has a lot of other uses as well, beyond fixing and moving software. Have a vital program that you don't want to get rid of, but steals a lot of your machine's resources? Turn it off when you don't need it! This is great for something like Acrobat Reader, which is an absolute must-have program but one that uses up a ton of processor speed and memory even when you're not using it. Word and other basic "office tool" programs are in a similar situation-most computers would be significantly faster if they got rid of those programs, but they're so vital that most people can't afford to get rid of them. Installing them into a layer with SVS means that you can simply deactivate those layers when you don't want them -- and when you do that, it's like the program never existed. The computer doesn't know about the programs, doesn't remember the programs, and doesn't allocate any system resources to them. Your computer runs smoothly and quickly, and when you need a deactivated program you just click it back, and it's like it was never gone.

Parting Thoughts

Altiris' Software Virtualization Solution is a simple program that's saves you time, money, and lots of headache. The ability to reset a program to a default setting, export and import layer packages, and deactivate non-essential programs makes it fast and simple to manage software on your computer. Remember, your computer is there to make your life easier, not harder -- and with SVS, it's never been easier.

Comments 7 CommentsJump to latest comment

Jordan's picture

Hey all,
If anyone has any specific requests for articles, like guides, how too, est. let me know (by posting here or any of my articles) and I'll see what I can do.

If a forum post solves your problem please flag is as the solution

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erikw's picture

Jordan,

I was reading this article not once, not twice, but three times, and you are giving a very good explanation why people and IT management should consider using SVS.

I'm really thinking of translating this in Dutch, and use it on the Dutch SVS user group.

If you agree to this.

Regards
erik
www.svs4u.nl

Regards Erik www.DinamiQs.com Dinamiqs is the home of VirtualStorm (www.virtualstorm.org)

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Jordan's picture

No, please feel free to! I'm glad you enjoyed this article and it's even better to hear it can be of use to people. Once you get it translated if you could post a link I'd appreciate it and I've got another article coming, hopefully, this week so you'll have to let me know if you like it as well.

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erikw's picture

@jordan.

My translation will be placed on the svs users group website in the Netherlands

The URL is www.svs4u.nl

Regards
Erik

Regards Erik www.DinamiQs.com Dinamiqs is the home of VirtualStorm (www.virtualstorm.org)

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erikw's picture

The translation is done by one of my collegues. He is much better in Translating.

The translation is placed on the front page of www.svs4u.nl

Feel free to read it (if you understand Dutch).

If you appreciate it, I will put your real name as the writer.

regards
Erik

Regards Erik www.DinamiQs.com Dinamiqs is the home of VirtualStorm (www.virtualstorm.org)

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Jordan's picture

I took some German, which has a few similarities, back in high school but unfortunately forgot most of it when I learned Japanese.

You are more then welcome to use my full name, Jordan Sanderson -- if you wish -- and you're always welcome to translate anything I write at the Juice for your site or for the Juice like Scott suggested.

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erikw's picture

Jordan, SVS is a very good tool for virtualisation, and has a lot of adopters in the Netherlands.

To make it more known, I started the svs4u community.

All the articles placed over there are only written in Dutch.

Thanks for your contributions and you're approval to place them in Dutch.

I submitted the translation also to the juice.

Regards

Erik

Regards Erik www.DinamiQs.com Dinamiqs is the home of VirtualStorm (www.virtualstorm.org)

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