Norton ghost changes shape

Symantec next week will transform the New Zealand-developed Norton Ghost, a utility for cloning the contents of a PC's hard disk, into a Swiss Army Knife that handles software distribution and restoration chores.

Symantec next week will transform Norton Ghost, a utility for cloning the contents of a PC’s hard disk, into a Swiss Army Knife that handles software distribution and restoration chores.

Symantec last year bought the basic disk-cloning software from Binary Research in New Zealand. Version 6.0 adds features that venture into other desktop management areas.

Multicasting capabilities morph it into a software distribution tool. With features such as Ghost Console and Console Client, Ghost 6.0 gains remote management and postcloning configuration abilities.

It even edges into backup and disaster recovery. "The big advantage of Ghost is you can copy programs and data in minutes, whereas a tape backup would take much longer," said beta-tester Paul Riemerman, co-owner of Flying Frog Consulting, custom database designers in Philadelphia.

But Ghost 6.0 is still a tool, not a full-featured desktop-management suite. "The problem is that you’re returning the PC to the state it was in when it was first installed," said Philip Mendoza, an analyst at IDC.

More advanced software distribution packages would probably be a better bet, Mendoza said.

Ghost 6.0 is unwieldy for mass backups, but administrators can use it to make weekly snapshots of PCs. "It's about five mouse clicks," Riemerman said, touting the software's ease of use.

If the CEO's laptop crashes on the road, the administrator can use Ghost 6.0 to restore it in minutes over the Web. "We could use that in a big, bad way," said Karole Johns, director of desktop services at Thomson Financial Services in Rockville, Maryland.

Ghost 6.0 also features "the DOD wipe," so-called because it makes files unrecoverable and meets U.S. Department of Defense standards. The price of the enterprise version of Ghost 6.0 would be about $US32,000 for 2,000 seats.

One analyst said the need for Ghost may fade away. With tools such as Data Focus's Terminal Saver and Microsoft’s IntelliMirror and Systems Management Server 2.0 coming out, "I'm having trouble seeing why an IT manager will need any of these tools in a few years," said Rob Enderle, an analyst at Giga Information Group Inc. in Santa Clara, California.

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