Imaging from A to Z: Which is the Right Choice for Me?

During this JNUC session, Nick Koval, CTO of élan Technologies, walked the crowd through four methods of imaging and explained the pros and cons of each. 

October 14 2015 by

Imaging from A to Z: Which is the Right Choice for Me?

The imaging process is one of the core responsibilities of IT professionals. The right image provides a great work environment for users and gets them off on the right foot. The wrong image can lead to late nights and weekends spent in the office resolving one roadblock after another. That was the premise as Nick Koval, CTO of élan Technologies, took the stage at the 2015 JAMF Nation User Conference (JNUC). 

As Koval explained, imaging—even with the Casper Suite—is a continuously changing landscape. He walked the crowd through four methods of imaging and examined each. 

Monolithic imaging
This form starts with a completely blank hard drive and then the IT admin installs the OS, updates, settings, software, and accounts. This initial image becomes the “Gold Master” and then IT can make copies and deploy them to user devices. 

Pros: quick to deploy
Cons: takes a lot of time to make the image, takes up a lot space, requires post-deployment work, not easily modifiable

Modular imaging
Instead of starting with a blank hard drive, IT takes their packages and deploys to users. 

Pros: easy to modify, not very time consuming since there is no need to create a master image
Cons: takes up space, requires better management tools

Thin imaging
In this scenario, you do not put an operating system on the device. For this, IT trusts that the system on the computer is valid and working. There is no OS, only updates done. 

Pros: easy to change packages, saves space since there is no OS to store
Cons: use current OS (can be great unless something happens and then you’ll need to work with the existing image to update devices), requires better tools

Enrollment only
Through Apple’s Device Enrollment Program and Setup Assistant, IT can image devices through some pre-work and device enrollment, and by going to the MDM server and telling it how to set up the device. 

“This is by far the quickest thing to deploy on the planet,” said Koval.

Perceived cons, he says, could potentially be that everything is considered management and potentially more work for end users. 

Moving to management
He says the goal should be to "take stuff out of the imaging stack and move it to the management stack.” With the end result being a stable known-good starting point, a unified user experience, and reduced IT support times. All things that can be managed. 

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