ProfileUnity – Defining User Experience

ProfileUnity has been around for a number of years in the Liquidware portfolio. It delivers user environment management, including user profiles, secure policies, and access to user authored data. Sounds simple right?  After all, there are other one-off tools in the market that handle these individual things.  What sets ProfileUnity apart?  Why use it when you may already have “free” single use case tools or a solution provided by another vendor?  Read on my friends…

Profiles

First off, the Liquidware portfolio (ProfileUnity, FlexApp, and Stratusphere UX) is completely agnostic by not favoring a particular desktop delivery platform.  Really, what we are managing is Windows. That’s it.  We have no requirements for a particular broker, hypervisor, cloud, anything. In fact, with all three products, you can manage Windows across physical, virtual and cloud.  Are your desktops completely physical today and you are looking at moving some or all of them to virtual or full cloud. Or are you even going back to physical desktops?  Liquidware has you covered the entire way.

In the vein of being agnostic, ProfileUnity also supports native, object-based cloud storage across all three major cloud vendors:  Azure, AWS and Google. Supported started back in April 2018 with the release of 6.7.5 and AWS support.  6.7.6, also released in April 2018 saw support for Azure and Google Cloud added.  At the time of this writing, we have supported all three clouds for over five months.  Why is this important?  Traditionally, to save user profile information you would require access to a file share.  This is fine for on-prem but what if you want to move to some Windows boxes to the cloud?  Why should you have to put up a file server simply for saving profiles and incur the extra cost of running a file server or multiple file servers?  It didn’t make sense, so we added the ability to save to object-based storage which is significantly less expensive and much more resilient than IaaS.  This gives you a lot of flexibility in how and where you store profiles.  As an administrator, you are not restricted.

Second, let’s talk Office 365.  ProfileUnity has a technology called Profile Disk and Profile Containers that have been around since 2014.  It is a VHD or VMDK that is attached to Windows at user login and captures the entirety of the user profile.  This essentially makes the profile a local profile versus roaming.  What does that have to do with Office 365 though?  A few things:  1) it means we can capture a user’s OST so for all intents and purposes it is local and not over the network, 2) we can capture the search index for that user, 3) OneDrive can be redirected to it as well.  That’s the easy stuff.

Third is Profile Portability.  Microsoft has made it a habit of changing profile versions over the years.  This is important because if the version is changed, then user profiles are started over.  If you have two desktops, one is Windows 7 and the other is Windows 10, then the user will have at least two different profiles (Windows 10 has at least four profile versions already!).  All of these profiles are not compatible with each other.  For administrators, this dynamic can feel like a lose/lose situation.  As an admin, you lose if you decide to migrate profile information from an older version to a newer version.  This is typically labor intensive.  You also lose if you decide that it’s easier to simply start over new.  The lose is because your users will be extraordinarily upset because they’ve lost their customized settings. User productivity can also suffer if the move causes downtime.  Then you must deal with the fallout from that decision and if an executive gets involved…well, it’s not always pretty.

ProfileUnity is able to make a profile completely version agnostic to the profile version – in seconds at user logon.  If Microsoft flips the version bit, users will continue happily working along.  They will have their settings, configurations, etc.  Happy users, happy admin.  Ok, the profile is now migrated to Windows 10 but what if the user still needs access to Windows 7 for an important app that hasn’t been updated yet.  Most profile solutions the user would have two separate and distinct profiles now.  With ProfileUnity, the user can go back and forth between operating systems WITH THE SAME PROFILE!  This is not a one-way migration. This is true portability.

Policy Management

ProfileUnity will also help with policy management.  You can use ProfileUnity to assign printers, map drives, redirect folders, set environment variables, start menu, file associations and much more.  It can be used in place of Group Policy or along side Group Policy.  This will definitely help speed up log in times by moving many of the functions in Group Policy over to ProfileUnity.

Tired of making your users local administrators?  Take that away and use the privilege elevation function of ProfileUnity or deny privilege as well.  You can elevate on path, hash, or digital signature.

ProfileUnity assigns policies at an Admin level, even for Standard users. This powerful capability sets ProfileUnity apart allowing it to secure and lockdown desktops (disable USB save, hide control panels, etc), append to the user profile and registry outside of the user-level settings, and more.

Other Stuff

The ProfileUnity central management console is also leveraged to deploy Liquidware FlexApp layered applications as well.  This allows for one console to manage the entire user environment.  This also means that, on the user’s endpoint, there is only one agent, one filter driver and services to do all of this.  Due to this, it is very easy for Liquidware to coordinate all three pieces.  For example, a user’s profile can be delivered before a FlexApp is fully attached.  This is not an issue because the service knows it happened and can take measures to make sure that the profile pieces for that FlexApp are applied accordingly. Also,

Remember the context-aware filters (conditions) I discussed in the FlexApp blog?  Those same filters are used throughout ProfileUnity and can apply registry key edits and elevation for FlexApp applications if required. There are also triggers that can be configured to apply or take away settings.  For example, ProfileUnity can be used to implement location-based printing.  This is done through triggers, say with the reconnect trigger.

Conclusion

This is a very small subset of what ProfileUnity has to offer.  There are many more features that you can check out very easily by downloading and doing a POC.  I would encourage everybody to take a good look at what we have to offer to enhance the user experience on Windows and how easy it is for you as the administrator to setup and deploy.

My next article will be on Stratusphere UX and how that can quantify the user experience and give you insight into everything that would affect that experience.

An instant hit! The Liquidware partner training 2018 – Spring edition

After almost two months of planning and preparations, on February the 26th we opened our doors to the first ever Dutch Liquidware partner training, here in Amsterdam. Joseph Ahn, our internal trainer flew in from Austin, Texas to provide four days, with an optional fifth of intensive training and certification around ProfileUnity, FlexApp and Stratusphere UX.

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Kick-off – Het Liquidware Tech Insider Programma 2018

crowd-2045289_1920Begin 2018 is het zo ver, vanuit Liquidware Nederland starten we met het Liquidware Tech Insider Programma. Het programma zal zich volledig focussen op het delen van kennis en ontwikkelingen rondom het Liquidware portfolio, waarbij we de deelnemende IT/EUC-professional uiteraard niet met lege handen naar huis sturen. Wat wij hiervan verwachten? Een gezellige tijd met gelijkgestemden en oprechte feedback, dat is alles.

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The future looks bright for User Environment and Workspace Management

ProfileUnity is hot, there’s no denying. Everywhere I go partners and (potentially new) customers keep asking for demos, and as soon as I show them a thing or two they are eager to get their hands dirty. In fact, the number of trial licenses I have been handing out throughout the last couple of weeks must be some kind of a new internal record (I’ll make sure to check). Seriously, the demand for a future stable, easy and straightforward to use User Environment and Workspace Manager product has been higher than ever before.

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Probleem – Windows 10 blijkt niet het beloofde ‘One OS to rule them all’. Gebruikersprofiel versies blijven wijzigen

Ruim twee jaar geleden was het zo ver, Microsoft kwam met Windows 10 (en niet veel later Windows Server 2016) en schreeuwde het van de daken. Niet langer zouden we ons zorgen hoeven maken om nieuwe versies van het Windows desktop besturingssysteem. Windows 10 is en blijft de laatste, op de gebruikelijke jaarlijkse updates na. Echter, schijn bedriegt. In deze blog leg je graag uit wat ik hiermee bedoel.

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Probleem – Microsoft Office 365: Outlook en OneDrive hebben een blijvende/persistente opslaglocatie nodig

Zodra een gebruiker Outlook opent, worden o.a. berichten (e-mails), zoekresultaten, inclusief de contacten en kalender informatie gedownload in de AppData folder van het zogenaamde gebruikersprofiel. Een blijvende/persistente opslaglocatie t.b.v. het gebruikersprofiel is dus gewenst – anders moet deze informatie iedere keer opnieuw binnengehaald worden, een ongewenste situatie.

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FlexApp version 6.7 release – Features overview

The release of FlexApp version 6.7 this week marks a tremendous set of milestone achievements for Liquidware. In a competitive industry, it is important for software platforms to constantly evolve or run the risk of being replaced. This release builds upon the leadership position that FlexApp has held for a while now.

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