Symantec adds substance to Ghost

Despite previous issues with the product, Symantec Corp. on Monday released version 8.0 of its Ghost PC management software, which the company said will save IT administrators a load of time and bandwidth.

To do so, Ghost 8.0 features inventory and local cloning enhancements as well as a new hardware and software inventory capability. The offering also features a new central management console, that enables IT administrators to push out software images and activate different tasks from one location rather than having to manually install data on individual machines.

In addition, the software comes with what Symantec calls the client staging area, which reduces local network bandwidth usage via local back-up and recovery images, thereby eliminating the need to repeatedly push images over the network, the company said.

Problems with bandwidth consumption have previously plagued the Ghost software line, but according to Stuart Sang, senior product specialist with Symantec in Aukland, N.Z., the client staging area lessens the burden.

“We know that pushing out images to networks is always going to take up bandwidth,” Stuart explained. “The reason being is that typical IOS deployment now with XP, Microsoft Office and all the other little applications that come with an image can be up to 5GB or 6GB…When you push that over a network it will take a hit on the network.

Sang said the Ghost client staging area in the central console allows IT administrators to specify a folder on a client machine that can be used to store things like ghost images, user profiles and key patches. He noted that the contents of the folder are preserved during cloning or restore processes.

“It means that if down the trek you have problems with your system and it needs to be restored or refreshed, we can use the image from your hard drive and push out again,” he said. “That means the bandwidth is only used once and we can push out the image at any time.”

To compliment the recent move by Microsoft Corp., which is releasing critical patches to its Windows operating system on a monthly basis, Symantec Ghost 8.0’s hardware and software inventory feature enables simultaneous patch deployment to networked PCs.

“We have had a lot of feedback from customers saying that they need something that would take care of basic patch installation on the client machines because of things like the Blaster worm and the Sobig virus,” Sang said. “What the (hardware and software inventory feature) allows us to do is identify all the hardware and software pieces on any PC on the network. It can then run a query to find all the PCs that haven’t got the latest Microsoft hot fix.”

All the results of the query will appear in what is called the dynamic folder, he continued. IT administrators then can run a task on the dynamic folder whereby the patch is pushed out to all the PCs in that folder at once.

In addition to the Ghost enhancements, the Cupertino, Calif.-based company also announced Monday that it has purchased Emeryville, Calif.-based SafeWeb Inc., a maker of secure remote access products.

As part of the US$26-million acquisition, Symantec will add SafeWeb’s Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) virtual private network (VPN) product to its own line of network security and management tools.

SafeWeb makes SEA (Secure Extranet Appliance) Tsunami, a rack-mounted security hardware appliance that allows network administrators to extend access to network resources such as e-mail and file servers without installing a separate VPN client program on the users’ computers.

The device gives administrators the ability to manage SSL VPN access from a single location, which can translate into significant support cost savings over older dial-in VPN products or those requiring both server and client software components, according to Zeus Kerravala, vice-president of enterprise infrastructure at Yankee Group.

Symantec previously lacked an SSL VPN product and the addition of SafeWeb’s technology permits it to tap into a hot market for such products, Kerravala said.

Symantec Ghost 8.0 is available worldwide immediately. For more information, visit

– With files from IDG News Service