Looking at Scense Live Profiles I see a user profile solution capable of replacing the old roaming profiles, but does this mean that I should use it the way I used the roaming profiles? This and other questions I try to answer in this article.
Out of the box
After installing Live Profiles with Scense 7.6 and up, we get a bunch of standard filters that cover the important parts of the user profile. The application settings will be covered by self-learning or imported filters. So, out of the box everything looks ready for action and when our users start using the workstations it looks like Live Profiles is doing the job just fine and just like with roaming profiles we might think ‘it works, so it must be ok’. But Live Profiles works differently compared to roaming profiles, and so it needs a different approach.
By default Live Profiles will keep 3 days of history plus the ‘current’ version for both the windows and the application settings. This means that potentially the user profile will be present 4 times in the profile store, taking up 4 times the space. While this is not entirely true, because Live Profiles will not save the entire profile and everything gets compressed, it is something to think about. Live Profiles stores the windows settings in so called ‘units’. There are different units for different parts of the settings. E.g. the desktop files and the ‘my documents’ files are stored in separate units. Especially the ‘my documents’ unit can get quite large for some users, over 1 GB is not exceptional. Do we really want Live Profiles to keep multiple versions of such large files? Do we really want Live Profiles to transport such large files?
The Scense system can deliver application suites as a single application. E.g. Microsoft Office is commonly found as a single application object in Scense systems. The way Live Profiles works the settings are handled on a per application basis. This means that the settings for the entire Office suite are stored as a single file. One might argue that it’s undesired to have the settings for Outlook overwritten while Outlook is running, just because we open a Word document.
Minimize the workload
Fortunately Windows, Scense and Live Profiles provide ways to streamline the user profile experience. Let’s first consider the common needs or requirements for a user profile. Do we really need to keep everything in the user profile? Most of the time we don’t need to keep everything. The user profile is full of stuff we don’t really need. So it’s good to focus on the things that matter. The standard set of filters are already quite ok, but one might consider excluding the desktop- and the ‘my documents’ folders and redirect them instead. Windows folder redirection policies work quite well and this will keep Live Profiles from dragging around multiple versions of very large files which will be good for the overall performance as well. As a side effect the data will probably take less storage.
To prevent application surprises it might be worthwhile to think about splitting up application suites based on how individual applications from the suite are used, like e.g. Microsoft Office. I think it is fair to say that typical use of the Outlook application involves starting it after logging on and leave it running until logoff. The rest of the applications in the office suite will be opened and closed throughout the session whenever documents are opened. So, it might be beneficial to create a separate Scense application object for Microsoft Outlook so it can have its own filters and settings.
After enabling Live Profiles for an application, Live Profiles will be set to ‘Learning mode’ for this application by default. In general this is very helpful, but at some point it stops being helpful and might even cause problems. So, as an administrator you should use this functionality with care. Using the learning mode for quickly creating a basic filter set that covers most or all of the applications settings is great. Live Profiles will automatically consolidate multiple filters for certain locations to one and locations where the application has been deleting settings are marked. Once you have this basic filter you might want to switch to ‘Production mode’ and manually shape the filter set to its final state. Switching to production mode will instruct Live Profiles to stop monitoring and use the filters as they are. As an administrator you can rest assured that the filters will not change from that moment on. After you switched to production mode you can start editing the filters.
Filter the filters
After having monitored an application for some time it’s not uncommon to see a list of several dozens of filter entries in the application’s filter set. Some applications might even show several hundreds of filters. In most cases the number of filters can be reduced to around 10 filters or less. This is because most applications will write their settings in just one registry key (and its subkeys) and just one folder. There’s one thing the learning mode doesn’t do and that’s creating ‘exclude’ filters. Exclusion filters can be created to exclude areas from being saved to the profile store. This is a handy feature to limit the number of filters. Instead of specifying all locations that should be included, you can simply include the entire tree (in the registry or file system) and then exclude one or more locations. After you have shaped the filters to your liking you might want to export them using the available import/export tooling and keep them as a backup.
So, there are several things to consider when installing and configuring Scense Live Profiles. For each Scense environment there may be different requirements and tuning possibilities, but it will be worth the time and effort to see how things can be optimized. The measures described above are just examples of how Live Profiles can be optimized