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This article is part of our Buyer's Guide: Understand and evaluate the user profile management system

Find the right user profile management software

Determine the right profile management platform for your company and take a close look at personalization, recovery, cloud, UEM and migration features.

The notable user profile management software tools on the market have multilayered capabilities, making for a complicated buying process. Narrowing down what you are looking for in a profile management tool and exploring the available options from there can make the process considerably easier.

Basic capabilities vs. cross-platform

The first, and possibly most important, factor to consider is whether you are looking to perform basic profile management or persist user settings across multiple operating systems (OSes) or profile types. Some organizations have multiple Windows OSes in use -- for instance, when users have desktop machines running client OSes and access to XenApp or Remote Desktop Session Host systems running server OSes -- and there may be a requirement to maintain user settings across both of these platforms.

There is also the question of Windows 10 and the tendency of Microsoft to update the profile version between Windows 10 releases, which makes user settings incompatible between Windows 10 versions like 1511 and 1607. If users log on to multiple OSes or multiple Windows 10 versions, and you wish to persist user profile settings across these platforms, you will need to look for a profile management system that provides abstraction.

Most of the vendors, such as Ivanti Software, AppiXoft, VMware, Tricerat Inc., Liquidware Labs Inc. and Microsoft, can achieve this using various methods of abstraction.

If you're looking for more basic profile management where users roam between devices with the same OS, as well as one that is more comprehensive than a standard roaming profile, then Citrix User Profile Management and FSLogix Inc.'s Profile Containers are good options.

Personalization and policy

When user profile management software manages policy, it effectively extends the capabilities and granularity of the profile management deployment. It is important to decide whether extending user and device policy management beyond Group Policy Objects (GPO) provides any real tangible benefits for your organization.

For many, it is handy to be able to target and filter policies down to a more specific level, often creating complex loops and dependencies to fulfill extremely precise user or departmental requirements. On the other hand, maintaining and handling these more complicated routines can be a drain on resources.

Editor's note

With extensive research into profile management software, TechTarget editors have focused this series of articles on vendors that offer profile management as a native platform. Our research included Gartner, Forrester and TechTarget surveys.

Ivanti, AppiXoft, VMware, Tricerat and Liquidware can all provide varying degrees of policy customization, although all of them cover the most basic requirements. Microsoft's User Experience Virtualization (UE-V) does not provide any policy components, as it is designed to run alongside GPOs. Citrix's User Profile Management (UPM) currently has no policy components either, but Platinum customers can use Citrix's Workspace Environment Management product to achieve this. FSLogix Profile Containers also has no policy capability, so either standard GPOs or a third-party tool is required to fulfill this capability.

Rollback and recovery

The capability to rapidly recover from profile corruption or a device failure is often a business case for a profile management platform, so it is also an important buying factor.

All of the user profile management software featured here stores the user data away from the device, either in a database, a file share or sometimes both. Mobile devices obviously maintain a local copy, but in the event of a device failure, a solid user profile management system should be able to easily restore the user data.

Ivanti, VMware, AppiXoft and Liquidware have the ability to roll back to previous profile versions, and even to reset application settings. This feature enables a user with a corrupt profile to restore their settings to a known good configuration, avoiding any potential downtime from profile issues. Although useful, it is worth doing some research on just how necessary this feature is for an environment.

Citrix, FSLogix and Tricerat products have no native rollback process, so achieving this functionality would require configuration using third-party tools or scripts.

Logon times and KPIs

User profile management software can improve KPIs, such as logon times, particularly in deployments with large roaming profiles and vast volumes of policy objects.

Where there are large numbers of policy objects, Ivanti, AppiXoft, VMware, Tricerat and Liquidware, the tools mentioned in the policy and personalization section, can help by offloading the processing of these objects to a just-in-time method, loading them only when it is required. Instead of loading policy objects at logon time, the tools perform these processes when they are required -- such as at application launch.

For large amounts of profile data, FSLogix Profile Containers and Citrix User Profile Management do a particularly good job improving logon times out of the box, mainly because of how they handle the data volumes. However, you can configure most profile management tools to minimize KPIs, such as logon time.

Maintenance and complexity

When considering user profile management software, it is important that the necessary maintenance of the platform does not outweigh the benefits.

Ivanti, Liquidware, AppiXoft, VMware, Microsoft and Tricerat all introduce a degree of complexity because they come with a lot of capabilities. These tools may also need infrastructure components, like file shares, SQL databases and web services, that not only require maintenance, but resilience as well.

Citrix User Profile Management and FSLogix Profile Containers are both considerably easier to deploy and maintain given that they have no dependence on separate infrastructure components and simply use GPOs to configure themselves.

Migration

If you are using an existing user profile management platform, it is also worth considering how easy -- or not -- it is to migrate into -- and out of -- the user profile management software you are looking to adopt.

Microsoft UE-V and Tricerat have no migration capabilities from existing roaming profiles. FSLogix, Ivanti, Citrix, VMware, Liquidware and AppiXoft all provide tools that can enable migration into their platform. Additionally, some of them provide scripts and tools that can migrate away from competing products.

Migration off of the platform is also doable with all the products except Microsoft and Tricerat, giving you the option to return to a local or roaming profile if required.

Cloud capabilities

You can install each of these platforms into a cloud system, although you will need to install them in the cloud environment in their entirety, along with the supporting infrastructure services as required.

It is possible to use FSLogix Profile Containers to store user profile data in Azure Storage Accounts or AWS to support a hybrid cloud method.

Application virtualization support

If you are using application virtualization technology or application layering, it is important to choose a platform that can capture settings from within the virtualization or layering technology.

All of these platforms should be able to integrate with modern app virtualization technologies, although there are some notable exceptions. Citrix UPM and Microsoft UE-V cannot capture ThinApp settings, for instance, and Turbo.net does not work well with Ivanti, AppiXoft, Citrix UPM or Microsoft UE-V.

Community and support

With profile management tools, community and support are vital. Often there are differences in configurations between environments, meaning that administrators have to handle a lot of settings themselves. Having community support, documentation and templates easily accessible can be the key to admins getting this done.

Ivanti, VMware, Citrix, Liquidware and FSLogix have the best community support for their products, whereas AppiXoft and Tricerat are somewhat smaller and have a lesser presence. Microsoft's UE-V product does not have a strong support community or documentation.

UEM capabilities

Some of these products have capabilities that extend far beyond the simple profile management function. For instance, Ivanti can perform application management, resource management and data provisioning. Liquidware has application layering technologies, and FSLogix provides the Application Masking feature. The exceptions here are Microsoft UE-V and Citrix UPM, which handle profile management and nothing else.

It is worth looking at the further capabilities of these tools and assessing whether you need them in your environment. Ivanti and Liquidware have the richest product suites available, whereas Tricerat, FSLogix and AppiXoft all provide specialized features that may offer added value for specific problems or challenges in your enterprise.

This was last published in May 2018

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