Migrating users to new versions of applications or operating systems can be a complex, time-consuming and tedious process for systems administrators. And, from a security perspective, it is crucial that the migration of end-users and application settings is done properly in order to prevent vulnerabilities from creeping in.
Client Migration 3.0 from Symantec provides a well-thought-out solution to the problem, despite having a few limitations.
The first problem is the fact that while the software has been designed purely for a Windows environment – which shouldn't dent its appeal too much – it doesn't support migration to or from Windows XP Home or Windows ME.
On top of this, you need to use the software in conjunction with two of three other products in order to get a full migration solution. Two of the applications – Client Migration 3.01 and AutoInstall 8.0 – come with the software. The third, Ghost 8.0, which is essential for many migration tasks, must be purchased separately.
The problem is that, while administrators can re-establish users' settings – shortcuts, wallpapers, network printers, mapped network drives, and browser bookmarks and preferences, and so on – after performing a migration to a new operating system, they must either perform the migration itself manually, or use an application such as Ghost.
Another issue is the fact that, at present, Client Migration only supports a limited number of applications. A not-exhaustive list includes Adobe (Reader, Illustrator, Photoshop), AOL (Messenger), Cisco (VPN clients), Lotus (Notes, Organiser), Microsoft (the main client-side applications), Palm (Desktop), NAI (McAfee), Symantec (pcAny-where, Norton AV, Symantec AV), WinZip and Yahoo! Messenger.
Indeed, if Symantec faces any initial problems shipping this software, this could be why. There are, for example, rather more than two anti-virus vendors out there.
For now, the company advises users to keep checking updates and use the LiveUpdate feature in order to download support for newly-supported applications.
However, Client Migration does a very good job of aiding migration to the applications it does support. For example, a feature called AutoInstallit saves you time when upgrading applications by creating application packages that are quicker to apply than the original installation would be. And, having saved you time on the original application upgrade, Client Migration can then be used to restore all the users' settings.
Indeed, Client Migration's strengths outweigh its weaknesses. It is a useful tool and, as we have come to expect with Symantec's software, very simple to install, configure and use.
The software documentation is excellent, talking you through all the possible scenarios in which you might be using the software, how best to install it and for which environment.
The software itself usefully provides two methods for migrating end-users' settings and data. As administrator, you can opt to maintain full control over the process or permit users to perform the function themselves.
If the latter, you will have to use the web-based migration, which lets users decide on certain parameters such as application and file selection and the location of data storage. This method can also be fully automated and is a straight-forward, logical affair, based on Microsoft Internet Information Server (IIS) and SQL. Another method, which Symantec refers to as "AutoMigrate" can be run from the client computer from a command line or script.
We were also pleased, although not surprised, to see that Symantec had made sure the software was secure by including access authentication. Symantec has also allowed for the data being stored and transferred to be encrypted.
The installation CD includes the requisite Microsoft Data Access Components (MDAC), so this won't be a problem if you haven't already got it. Obviously, an SQL server is also a prerequisite. The software demands a minimum of a Pentium III processor and 512MB of Ram on the server.
There is absolutely no doubt that the labor-intensive, mind-numbing tedium of storing end-users settings is a major headache to administrators about to embark on a major migration project that can also turn into a major security problem.
Symantec Client Migration 3.0 successfully addresses many of these issues with this intuitive, robust and straight-forward solution. If you already use its Ghost software, or do not mind investing in that as well, you can't go far wrong with this package.
However, the fact that full functionality requires the purchase of a separate product, combined with the fact that the application support is not yet exhaustive, means that it might not be suitable for all enterprises.