Do you want a hybrid solution or a roaming profile


If you use a hybrid profile solution, use it correctly.

The last years we’ve traveled from the horror of roaming profiles to a hybrid form making life easier for administrators and the users. In this blog I will shed my view on how I see many organisations make use of the hybrid profile and what is happening in my opinion. The topic is this blog is whether you want a hybrid solution or a old fashion roaming profile…

A bit of history

In the beginning we had nothing, then came roaming profiles, local profiles and mandatory profiles. All of these had their own issues which made them far from optimal to be used. We didn’t have any options because the three profile solutions were the only options around. 
Administrators had a lot of work fixing profiles, user had to have a lot of patience logging on and experienced the occasional corruption.
Somewhere around 2000 the world changed and solutions appeared on the market to help users and administrators with providing a better way of handling user profiles.

Hybrid profiles

With the solutions that appeared on the market a new user profile type appeared, the hybrid profile. A hybrid profile is a combination of the old fashion profile types and the new solution. A hybrid profile offers the best of both sides, we can use a fast loading small non-persistent profile to load Windows and still save all the user settings that roaming profiles provided. On the other side it provides more stability and relieves the administrator from solving roaming profile corruption. 
As you have noticed the user profile is now made up from two profiles, a default Windows profile (local, mandatory or roaming) and a profile solution on top of it. It’s not possible to stop using the default Windows profile, while loading and logging on to Windows a profile is still needed. In the ideal world we would only use a profile solution that would capture the user settings and stop using the Windows profiles… that won’t happen anytime soon I guess. hopefully it will come someday…

How are hybrid profiles used?

Now after the lengthy intro let’s talk about the issue at hand. I’ve been working with hybrid profiles for ages now and lately I’ve been noticing something that look awkward to me.
With roaming profiles the biggest issue was that the profile grew because everything was saved each time the user logged on and logged off.

With hybrid profiles you have the option to select which settings you want to save and which settings will be lost when the user logs off. This option is the biggest gain in using a hybrid solution for it keeps the user space small and guarantees that log on and log off is fast.

When you select %appdata% to be saved for the user you can also use a roaming profile for effectively you’re doing that. With hybrid profiles the idea is that you think about what you need to save and what not.
When you think about what you want to save, what is really important to your users, you will save user disk space on their home folder and make the user environment snappy.

I’ve been seeing to many environment where the application settings were done on a rather high level, they saved e.g. all of Google Chrome and with that the used disk space grew with 30-50MB. First thought I had was; what in Google Chrome (never the default browser in an organisation) is worth saving… and looking at the disk space wasted, is it worth it?

I’ve seen this with more applications and more settings saved, some user profiles I encountered were hundreds of MB’s large.. bringing us back to the roaming profile era, something I never thought we would go back to.

I guess the reason for what I’ve seen is time and perhaps a bit of lack of knowledge of the solution. Perhaps the salesmen sold the product as the golden egg fixing thing at once. At the end of a project this all is true, consultants have setup the ideal situation, but over time new applications are added and administrators lack time and perhaps knowledge how to set it up ideally.

I’ve been talking to administrators about this and guided them to look into the matter, or hire me 🙂 to do it for them. Just don’t like to see a less-then-optimal environment, user experience is the key factor in user happiness.

How should you use a hybrid solution

When a new application is added administrators or application owners should provide a list of locations were the settings are saved. This list should be the exact locations of the settings as precise as possible. With this list it is possible to make sure the hybrid solution is as snappy as you want it to be.
Next to this with every setting you should think about whether this setting should be loaded at logon or at application start. the timing of loading the setting determines the user experience. Settings loaded at logon make the time it takes before the user can work longer, it will lower the user experience.

Products

products that provide hybrid solutions are:
  • Liquidware Labs profile unity
  • RES Workspace Manager
  • Appsense (several products)
  • Flexprofiles
  • many others 

Conclusion

My first blog in 2014 was about something I noted the last couple of months, I thought that a blog might be a good idea. Many of you will comment that this is so obvious and it is.. you’re so right. 
On the other side there are administrators out there that know or don’t know this and should realize it, it will make your users happier. 
The main reason for this blog was my feeling that we were creating a roaming profile over again and I’m sure no one is looking forward to that, are you?

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