Time is money. So says fellow ZDNet blogger George Ou who wrote:
...one reader even compared my method of system recovery to hiding in the basement. The problem with this attitude is that it's based on ignorance and misguided ego that wiping a hard drive is giving up when nothing could be further from the truth...every once in a while I'll get arrogant and attempt an OS repair and end up wasting half a day and be no better off than I started.....PC repair isn't about ego that "I can beat this thing by repairing the damage", it's about what takes the least time with the least pain that gets the best results and it's needs to be a simple calculation of ROI.
I agree with George Ou. Not only is loading a new image is the best way to go, but keeping user data (documents, etc.) separate from the OS makes the most sense. But, if time is truly money, then the ultimate goal should be to get end users to service themselves. But how many can with the sort of re-imaging that Ou is talking about? With virtualization, not only is re-imaging easier, it's faster and end-users get to keep their data on a separate partition. In terms of keeping data separate from the OS, distinctly separate virtual machines within one physical computer can share an isolated data directory the same way your system and someone else's can share files on a network drive.
Because virtual machines are based in plain old files (just like a Word or Excel document), the art of re-imaging requires the same skills that end users already have. The ability to copy files from one directory to another. That's it. Select. Click. Drag. The end user simply needs to know where a pristine image can be found (I keep one on my hard drive but it can be kept on a CD as well) and what directory to copy it to. Do you have some users that can handle that? OK. Write a little DOS script and hide it behind a double-clickable icon.
Even better is the cost. Not only can your IT people focus on other mission critical tasks, with a little planning, you can get away with buying only one full-blown copy of VMware Workstation for creating images for your entire company. Once images are created, all that's needed to actually run them is VMware's runtime, otherwise known as a "player." These days, that's free. In other words, on the machine that you're using to create your images, you have a $150 copy of VMware. On the rest of your client systems, all you need to make those images work is the free runtime.
150 smackeroos. Are there additional costs? Maybe. Depending on which host operating system you choose to run on the bare metal (Linux or Windows), some systems may not have the horsepower to run virtual machines at speeds that end-users are used to. For most systems, a little extra memory should do the trick. If the system is still too slow, then it might make sense to replace the system with something newer and more powerful. But the pay back doesn't take long. How many end-user initiated clicks could it really take?