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ManageSoft Refresh

ManageSoft Refresh is for large organizations that have ongoing projects to replace users’ desktop computers. It automates key steps in the computer replacement process, including

  • ordering in compliance with corporate standards
  • capturing a computer’s existing software inventory and personality (i.e., a user’s software settings and data)
  • migrating the appropriate software and settings to the replacement computer

ManageSoft Refresh saves money by reducing the IT staff’s involvement in the migration process. A ManageSoft Refresh license follows the computer, which means you can use ManageSoft Refresh to apply multiple updates and redeployments during the life of the computer.

Although ManageSoft Refresh is marketed as a standalone product, it includes the ManageSoft core product, an enterprise-class software management and maintenance system. The ManageSoft core product, known simply as ManageSoft, provides Active Directory (AD) Group Policy–based software deployment for Windows computers and UNIX-variant computers modeled after AD. The core product provides management of digital assets (including flat files, applications, updates, and drivers) from implementation through obsolescence. The highly scalable core product is implemented using warehouse components (which house and catalog any application you supply) and distribution components (which distribute software across any network) installed on one or more machines.

ManageSoft Refresh works on servers or workstations running Windows NT or later. Specific requirements depend on the warehouse and distribution components a machine will be hosting. Microsoft SQL Server is required, although the company spoke of plans for a trimmed-down version of ManageSoft Refresh for small and midsize organizations. The trimmed-down version would use the Microsoft SQL Server Desktop Engine (MSDE) in place of SQL Server. ManageSoft Refresh also requires Microsoft IIS to support its management console.

ManageSoft engineers typically provide implementation assistance for tailoring ManageSoft Refresh to a company’s particular environment, which is helpful considering the many implementation models the product supports. For this review, a ManageSoft engineer installed ManageSoft 7.2 on a Windows 2000 server configured with SQL Server 2000, IIS, and several other required features. The installation procedure checks for the presence of required prerequisites and assists with their installation if necessary before installing the core product. ManageSoft Refresh installs as a separate step following the core product’s installation.

The ManageSoft Refresh Guide instructs you on how to configure ManageSoft Refresh for personality capture and system inventory. The personality capture is based on Tranxition’s Personality Transport Professional (PT Pro), a rules-based migration tool. You then create rules to guide the configuration of new computers. For example, you might configure ManageSoft Refresh to run the inventory-capture program on the target computers just prior to ordering replacement hardware and to run the personality-capture program on the target computers just prior to configuring the replacement computers.

Configuring a replacement computer begins by installing a base OS image created with a product such as Symantec’s Norton Ghost or Microsoft’s Automated Deployment Services (ADS). This image needs to contain the ManageSoft Refresh software that initiates the automated build process. Using one of several methods to link a new computer to the inventory and personality captured from the old computer, the ManageSoft Refresh automated deployment process installs new software and restores the personality.

The inventory-capture and personality-capture programs need to run on the desktop computer being replaced but can be initiated remotely in a variety of ways. In one test, ManageSoft Refresh took just over 8 minutes to complete a system inventory that recognized 179 installed applications. Another test that inventoried a far simpler system completed in less than 2 minutes. In any event, this aspect of the migration process is hardly onerous.

More complete testing of ManageSoft Refresh was beyond the scope of this modest review. However, my sense is that once you move beyond the learning curve that products of this scope require, you’ll find a sleek migration tool that delivers the promised savings to organizations that have ongoing computer replacement projects.

ManageSoft Refresh
Contact: ManageSoft * 617-532-1600, 800-441-4330
Price: Starts at $29,000 for 1000 PCs; volume discounts available
Pros: Provides an easy-to-use process for migrating users to new computers and for later reconfiguring those computers; integrates with existing administrative support systems
Cons: Includes the ManageSoft core product, which increases the cost; high learning curve because of all the implementation options
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Reviewer: John Green
Recommendation: Highly recommended for large organizations with ongoing computer replacement projects
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