Systems Administration

Miramar smooths migration path

Most standard desktops are built with disk-cloning tools, such as Symantec Ghost. These tools are excellent for replicating an OS and applications, but they won’t help you when you need to replicate individual applications or OS settings.

With Miramar’s Desktop DNA 1.0, you can selectively migrate system components, applications and personalized application settings from one machine to another without replicating the OS and applications. With no significant direct competition, Desktop DNA provides a different approach to replicating software between machines.

If you adopt Desktop DNA, you can expect a powerful replication tool with a wide range of features, from simple cloning of user settings to helping deploy application-specific components. Its ease of use and rich feature set let you quickly replicate a system or deploy settings to multiple machines, which can save you considerable time and replication costs. But because Desktop DNA supports a limited number of applications, it doesn’t yet merit a score of excellent.

Desktop DNA stores the settings and files required for an application in a DNA file, which is stored either locally or on a network drive. It has a wizard-centric interface that makes it extremely easy to use.

I created a new DNA file with the wizard, and the product scanned my computer for installed applications. Desktop DNA currently supports 30 of the most popular enterprise desktop applications, including the Microsoft Office Suite, Lotus Notes and Corel’s Office Suite. I would have also liked support for Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator in addition to development tools such as Microsoft Visual Basic and Visual InterDev.

I scanned my computer for installed applications and personalized user settings, and then I checked the configuration options and applications that I wanted to store. Desktop DNA prompted me to choose the applications and settings that I wanted to save, offering options only for the supported applications installed on my machine.

I then instructed the software to save the DNA file. Even though Desktop DNA compresses the data, estimate that one-third of the original file space will be needed. The creation of my DNA file was complete after only a few minutes.

I could then use the DNA file as a recovery tool, for example, as a reference for my settings and application information; as a replication tool to install applications with the same settings on another machine; or as a cloning tool, as long as the desktop’s OS was installed first.

Pleasingly, the steps required to create or recover an application or system settings from a DNA file were as simple as creating the file. Unlike with cloning software, I could choose which applications to replicate using a check-box selection scheme. I could also verify the information before completing the replication, which I appreciated.

Desktop DNA’s role as a support, recovery or application upgrade tool is bolstered by its capability of broadcasting DNA information to several clients from one machine. If Desktop DNA is installed on a machine, it can be used as a DNA system. Depending on the start-up selection, the DNA system can become a server or a slave machine. If you connect to another DNA system over the network, you can remotely update destination DNA slaves with information from a server DNA file. This process was both easy and fast to complete.

Desktop DNA lets you migrate settings and applications across a variety of Windows platforms. Unfortunately, Desktop DNA currently only supports Windows-based machines. I was able to save settings from my Windows 98 machine in a DNA file and replicate them to a Windows NT machine. This makes migrating personal user settings and custom information incredibly easy for users and administrators (as long as they are migrating from one Windows platform to another).

Desktop DNA provided me with several features that made replicating information from one machine to another an efficient and simple process. This tool could be used by organizations that need to migrate user information, applications or settings either by saving files to a network or using a server-slave approach.

Although its support for applications covers most business products, additional application support would extend the usefulness of the product. For recreating a machine after the OS is installed or for migrating a user from one machine to another, Desktop DNA succeeds.