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Tech Support Cracks the Case: Making the Most of Ghost Solution Suite

Created: 14 Apr 2009 • Updated: 04 Aug 2009
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Overnight, instead of an hour A customer at an entertainment company was having unexpected trouble with Ghost Solution Suite. He was using the application to “clone” computers—install the same configuration to several machines. Most of these operations worked fine, but with certain computers, it was taking 8 to 14 hours, and had to be left overnight, instead of installing in the usual time of less than one hour.

He called Symantec tech support, and Geoff, a support engineer who specializes in Ghost Solution Suite responded to the call. Geoff began by asking the customer a series of detailed questions about exactly what was and wasn’t working. “He mentioned he had a USB flash drive he was using to boot some of the computers,” Geoff says. “If he booted from that drive, and then cloned the machine through the network, the operation would complete in the usual amount of time—an hour or less.”
Booting from the flash drive, however, meant going to each machine to boot it instead of doing it over the network, so the customer was eager to find another solution. Because the operation worked correctly when booted from a flash drive, Geoff suspected a network card driver might be the culprit.
“We double checked to see what drivers he had,” Geoff says. “He had installed the most current drivers on the flash drive, but Ghost was still using the drivers it shipped with, so they were an older set.” To solve the problem, Geoff instructed the customer on how to download the updated drivers and copy them directly to the Ghost console so that machines could be cloned via the network without the delay. Even though the version of Ghost was the most up to date, as were the drivers it shipped with, Geoff knew from past experience that the manufacturers of this particular network card were constantly building new drivers to improve network performance.
The customer also asked Geoff for assistance in some other areas. “He had some questions about whether his SATA [serial ATA] hard drive was compatible with Ghost,” Geoff says. “We have seen some interaction issues with these SATA hard drives and the DOS environment. So I sent him information and documentation on how to fine-tune the Ghost executable to run at peak efficiency in this environment.”
Increasing functionality
With the problems out of the way, the customer then asked Geoff to help him increase the functionality of Ghost. For instance, he wanted to create flash drives that could install a Windows Preinstallation Environment (PE) as a 32-bit as well as a 16-bit environment. “It was good timing,” Geoff says. “One of my colleagues had just finished creating a document that went through that exact scenario, so I sent it to him, fresh from the printer.”
Geoff also helped the customer take advantage of the AutoInstall feature of Ghost. “Basically, you create a system, take a snapshot of the system, install some piece of software and take another snapshot,” he says. “And then in many cases, you can install that software or software update to other computers over the network, using the Ghost console.”
In the end, the customer got much more than he expected. Not only did Geoff solve his initial problem, but he also explained how to make his hardware and software work more efficiently together. This customer will now be able to harness Ghost to improve efficiency across more than one aspect of his job—in ways he had never known about before. And, he reported, Geoff is the kind of support technician, “customer service managers dream about.”