Guide to virtual desktop management tools
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Managing user profiles in VDI or RDS environments is challenging, but user profile management tools are here to help.
Profile management packages from the major desktop virtualization vendors tend to be very robust and easy to use. Windows Active Directory comes with basic user profile management by default, and it is easy to use but not very functional. More advanced tools allow for a variety of settings, including multi-environment configurations, database back ends, intelligent profiling and much more.
But there are also lesser-known tools out there -- some of which are free -- that always seem to come through in a pinch. In the list below, I have included extra notes for ones that I've used personally or seen put to use, but please refer to each vendor's website for more information.
AppSense Environment Manager. This tool is at the top of the product food chain. I have seen it used at a lot of shops, but it's very complex and comes with some administrative overhead.
RES Software Workspace Manager. This tool's profile management piece is just a small part of a much larger product. It falls right in line with AppSense in terms of quality, administration and complexity for smaller shops. Workspace Manager is a widely used product with a large feature set.
TriCerat Inc.'s SimplyProfiles. It is sold as a standalone product or as a component in TriCerat's SimplifySuite. This application includes some cool technology called Profile Acceleration, which basically takes your profiles and virtualizes them.
Immidio Flex+. This tool is one of the better user profile management options I have used. It's easy to administrate, comes with good support, and it's lightweight and doesn't add a lot of complexity to the environment.
Citrix Systems Inc.'s User Profile Management (UPM). This is included with XenApp and was previously called Sepago Profiler. It uses shared file locations and ADM files (as do many others), but it is basic and pretty much focused on XenApp and XenDesktop.
More on user profile management
How to delete user profiles
Challenges with VDI user personas
Why user profiles are a VDI annoyance
Liquidware Labs Inc.'s ProfileUnity FlexApp. Many administrators say this is the most scalable user profile management tool. It manages more than 10,000 profiles in a single interface and includes application and patch management features.
ForensiT Ltd.'s User Profile Manager. Simple and lightweight, this tool is geared more toward the small and medium-sized businesses market and has a basic feature set that will get most small shops by.
Scense Live Profiles. I have not seen this tool in the wild yet, but it looks promising with low admin overhead and appears quite easy to use.
VMware Inc.'s View Persona Management. Persona Management came with View 5 and is only for use with VMware View.
Additional profile management utilities
There are some smaller user profile management tools that can be used in conjunction with the more complete software packages listed above. Here is a sampling of options that can complement those packages:
DelProf2 by Helge Klien. This free tool is a de facto standard for user profile management with older Windows XP-based clients. (It does not work with Windows 7 or later.) DelProf2 deletes inactive user profiles, with additional filtering if necessary, and is usually set as a scheduled task on the server.
Microsoft's User Profile Hive Cleaner. If you're still running remote or virtual desktops on Windows Server 2003 (or, God forbid, Server 2000), you need this tool. It installs as a service to clean up leftover profile matter after a user logs off. Server 2008 and later versions have it built in.
ForensiT User Profile Wizard. This free profile migration tool quickly and easily migrates thousands of profiles from one domain to another.
Sepago GmbH's Profile Migrator. This is a trial offering with almost the same features as the ForensiT User Profile Wizard, but Sepago's has a cost. The company also has another free tool, Profile Nurse, which performs registry and file operations across multiple or all profiles at one time. An example would be to add a registry key to a select group of profiles for one purpose, while adding a different key to others for the same purpose.
TZWorks LLC "Yaru". The product's name stands for Yet Another Registry Utility (yaru). With this little utility, you can open profile registry hives and perform a multitude of tasks on them including reporting, export and forensics. It's a staple in my admin toolbox.
RegShot. A free, open source project, this tool allows you to take before and after snapshots of a user profile registry to see what the differences are.
Scooter Software Inc.'s Beyond Compare. This is an awesome application that does more than just registry and file comparisons. I have used it a hundred different ways. Not only does it compare files, but it also compares complete directories, including users' profile directories.