The largest community trust in Northern Ireland, Homefirst Community Health and Social Services Trust, has installed the Universal Imaging Utility (UIU) software distribution system from Big Bang LLC.

Homefirst, which covers 100 health and social care facilities, 300,000 people and employs 5000 staff, installed the software to make it easier to distribute patches and updates across their network of 3000 PCs. The trust cares for 8000 people in their own homes over seven local government areas.

When used in conjunction with hard drive imaging software, UIU creates a disk image that can be deployed to nearly any PC on the network, allowing easy installation of software, patches and device drivers.

Annette Dow, director of Binary Resource (UK) Ltd, which distributes UIU in the UK, told E-Health Insider: “The UIU resets your existing Windows installation to a similar state, allowing for correct detection of different hardware platforms upon image deployment without crashing the systems.

“A single universal image can now be deployed to desktops and laptops alike, regardless of HAL (Hardware Abstraction Layer) type, processor, PC make or model. Maintaining individual images for PCs is no longer required.”

As Homefirst have so many systems over such a wide area, distributing patches and desktop images proved problematic. The situation was complicated for informatics staff due to the number of device drivers in operation across different makes of machines.

Dow told EHI: “Homefirst were struggling with [Symantec] Ghost as they had to maintain multiple image files for all the different brands of computers in use and multiple models involved. Now with Big Bang they can have just one master file, which can be updated and sent out to all the machines.”

“Homefirst spent a huge amount of time updating all of its machines with the necessary images. Now with Big Bang we estimate that an average maintenance of image files takes between two and four hours. Updating just the one file compatible with all the machines will save the trust a lot more time.”

“The master machine will reconfigure images down to the different various standard formats, based on a database of drivers it has stored in its memory. Theoretically, it will work on any internal connection device and will be compatible to any Windows machine,” Dow added.

Homefirst approached Binary as their IT staff considered finding the time to update and deploy a range of different images across the organisation a major problem.

She added that Big Bang worked successfully in New Orleans after the Hurricane Katrina disaster last summer, helping to restore images within a matter of hours for the emergency hospitals in the region.

Geoff McIntosh, director of Binary said: “Running UIU on the selected ideal machine prior to an image being captured means error messages and ‘blue screen’ failures on the subsequent clone machines are virtually eliminated.

“This enables IT departments to drastically reduce the time and money spent on image creation and deployment by streamlining the cloning process.”