A golden image is a preconfigured template for various virtual machines (VMs) (e.g., virtual servers, desktops, or disk drives) used in network virtualization. Some organizations also consider it a master image that users can copy multiple times. A golden image makes it easier for IT managers to develop a consistent environment for all users.

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How Does a Golden Image Work?

A golden image works as a master copy or template of a company’s email newsletter. The marketing team can launch multiple email marketing campaigns using the same template. All they need to do is replace fields to make them relevant to the specific product or campaign.

For example, the newsletter template may start with a greeting that says, “Hello, [client_name],” and goes on to ask, “How is your subscription to [product_name] going?” This template can be reused multiple times.

A golden image works the same way. From one master golden image, developers or system administrators can create different computer or application models.

golden image

For example, a large corporation may require a golden image to be used across the accounting department. The golden image would already have the necessary accounting software and tools. A different golden image may be used for the human resource department.

What Are the Benefits of Using a Golden Image?

A golden image provides the following benefits to organizations:

Reduces Errors

Manually configuring two or more VMs or session hosts with similar patches and applications runs significant risks in process confusion, possibly leading to operator error. In most cases, administrators may overlook minute details, causing issues for some or all session hosts (i.e., copies of the system).

Using a golden image significantly reduces risks because it automates redundant configuration tasks, allowing teams to focus on what they need to do.

Saves Time

A golden image allows IT teams to deploy multiple remote applications and VMs using a single base image. This process ensures that all session hosts remain consistent, significantly saving time, especially when an organization’s user base grows. IT teams do not need to configure session hosts as required.

The golden image instantly spins up each time a user accesses a system or application for work.

Ensures Consistency

A golden image is crucial to ensure that all configurations and performance tweaks remain consistent organization-wide. Update and upgrade cycles get automatically applied to it. As such, all users always get access to the most recent and secure version of all systems and applications.

Creates a Secure Baseline

A golden image should be created with a secure baseline. All technologies, including servers, operating systems (OSs), and cloud applications, deployed on it remain protected. It, thus, reduces the chances of leaving configuration gaps that can severely impact an organization’s security.

Prevents Configuration Drifts

Configuring VMs manually for deployment can cause some IT teams to suffer from configuration drifts when modifying settings. A configuration drift occurs when the data hosts’ or centers’ production infrastructure differs from the backup and recovery systems’ configurations. While configuration drifts are typically unintentional, they can result from application or user updates.

Using a golden image with an automated configuration assessment tool can prevent configuration drifts from happening.

Best Practices When Using a Golden Image

Organizations that use a golden image can enjoy all the benefits mentioned above if they follow best practices when building one.

Every time a golden image is created, it must be updated regularly before deployment to VMs. It must also undergo quality assurance tests to reduce errors during actual use.

IT teams can also benefit from using multiple session hosts rather than a single but colossal session host. Multiple session hosts allow automatic scaling to help organizations reduce costs by as much as 50%.

How to Create a Golden Image

If you decided to use a golden image for your virtual network, here are the steps to follow in doing so:

  1. Add a local machine admin account to the VM you wish to clone and turn to a golden image.
  2. Clone the VM or make a copy of it to serve as its golden image.
  3. Update and configure the new VM.
  4. Deploy the VM you cloned on the machine you’re using.
  5. Remove old session hosts.
  6. Update the schedule so the VMs, which you removed, will be deleted from it.
  7. Test the golden image, and when you’re satisfied with the results, it’s ready for deployment.

Now that you know the answer to “What is a golden image?” you understand why organizations rely on it. To enjoy its numerous benefits, though, make sure to follow best practices before, during, and after deployment.