systeMacs, the Mac enterprise computing folks, have released boxIT, a software product that lets Macs have system software and applications instantly installed from a remote computer. It also offers backup and restore functionality.
With boxIT, a disk image of a customized Mac with a properly configured operating system and applications is copied to an external FireWire, USB or SCSI device. This image can be deployed to an unlimited number of user computers simultaneously. When problems occur, the user or IT support person can restore this image in less than one hour, according to Ken Easterby, president and co-founder of systeMacs.
“boxIT adds a functionality to Mac-based networks that previously was only available in the PC world. It not only cuts total cost of ownership (TCO), but it will help our clients maintain their mission-critical applications,” he said.
Using boxIT, system software and applications can be installed on a Mac or multiple Macs, in under an hour. Under normal conditions, this process can take from three to five hours per computer, Easterby added.
“It is expected that boxIT will initially be used by many companies to deploy Mac OS X,” said Easterby. “systeMacs clients expect significant cost savings from boxIT not only due to a drastic decrease in time spent installing new users and upgrading existing ones, but also due to a much faster disaster recovery process.”
The disc image “freezes” an image in time of a Mac’s operating system, applications, and preferences. It doesn’t “freeze” data such as word processing files because such info is “dynamic and constantly changing,” Easterby said. However, with boxIT, anti-virus software and a backup solution you have a “100 percent, bulletproof system,” he said.
“The idea is to make one machine ‘look’ like another and do it more quickly than you can normally do,” Easterby said. “It’s also useful when problems arise on a machine. There’s no troubleshooting at all; boxIT simply restores the computer to a previous state. It also makes a perfect Mac OS X migration tool.”
Instead of trying to diagnose software problems the working image replaces the damaged state of the computer. In other words, it’s “proactive” rather than “reactive” support, Easterby said. What’s more, the image can be updated, tested and deployed to one or hundreds or computers with consistent results.
boxIT isn’t an inexpensive solution, as it’s completely custom built When it’s first implemented, SysteMac does a systems analysis database in FileMaker Pro. After that, they can give an estimate on what it will cost to deploy. However, Easterby claims that the solution can save a company up to 60 percent in time and money. Though it’s hard to peg a “typical customer” for the product, he said that boxIT is well suited to enterprises that have over 100 Macs.