Introduction to Profiles


We have long known about issues in education where profiles are a regular headache; Microsoft primarily make networks for businesses where, the majority of the time, a user logs on to a PC at 9am, works on it and logs off at 5pm. In very few businesses do the users log on at 9am, log off at 10am and go to another PC and log onto that, to log off at 11am, and the cycle goes on.

Microsoft have created some solutions, but we have to be realistic and appreciate that their business isn’t propped up by schools, so their priority list doesn’t really feature roaming students in schools as a business critical issue to address. So we are always in the field of making an imperfect solution work for us. When you accept that some schools work differently than others (some use fixed PCs, some prefer laptops, you have teachers who move between fixed PCs in some schools, and some with laptops in another, schools with 121 devices, some not), you also accept that one solution isn’t right for everyone. So you have to take your pick and make the best choice for your own school.

Types of profile

Type one – a roaming profile: an area on the network where settings are stored that are copied down as the user logs in, then copied back when the user logs out, that the user can edit and customise.

Advantages: the entire user experience is recorded and presented at every machine they log on to.

Disadvantages: the profiles can become large, especially if people start saving large files to their desktops and can impact on log-on performance (slow log-ons) and log-off (slow log-offs).

Type three – folder redirection: Group Policy Management is set up to redirect important areas of the user profile to the network (Home Directory, Application Data etc.).

Advantages: greater performance, no copying of settings up and down.

Disadvantages: some settings are not saved when moving between machines.

Type two – mandatory profiles using profile redirection: an area on the network where settings are stored that are copied down as the user logs in, then copied back when the user logs out, that is the same for all users of that profile, that the user cannot edit or customise.

Advantages: greater performance, less to go wrong.

Disadvantages: a pre-determined experience which is not customisable on an individual basis
(the same desktop for everyone).

The configuration of type two – mandatory profiles using profile redirection is a complicated process as it involves registry changes, permissions and GPO edits, but CSE offer a one-day on-site service to get you going and walk you through the process.

Type four – User Experience Virtualisation (UE-V): similar to type one – roaming profiles but allowing granularity between setting and apps.

Advantages: allows the Network Manager to choose which settings are saved, and settings are saved whilst logged in rather than on log-off.

Disadvantages: the same issue will apply to large profile bloat, i.e. if the desktop is being saved and the user saves large files on it, they will still take time to save.

Type five – third party (often costed): as always, when Microsoft doesn’t do something perfectly, third parties create their own version, of which there are many. An example of one is the Citrix Profile Management solution, which was created to offer an alternative to the native Microsoft offering for their XenDesktop product. It’s free, but XenDesktop isn’t!

Speed (fastest to slowest)

  1. Mandatory profile (type two)
  2. Folder redirection (type three)
  3. Third party (type five)
  4. User Experience Virtualisation (type four)
  5. Roaming profile (type one)

Flexibility for the end user (most to least)

  1. Roaming profile (type one)
  2. User Experience Virtualisation (type four)
  3. Third party (type five)
  4. Folder redirection (type three)
  5. Mandatory profile (type two)
If you need an alternative to your current profile management (roaming) and want to consider switching to Mandatory profiles using profile redirection, then please get in touch.

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