Product Reviews

How Fast Can You Document Your Environment?

Ecora Configuration Reporter saves you time and grunt work.

How would you rebuild that server from scratch if you had to? Do you really know what’s on the box? Want to bank your career on the assumption that your assistant put on the latest hot fix?

If you need to quickly know how your machines are configured, turn to Ecora’s Configuration Reporter for Windows Servers and Windows Workstations. These are two products in an array of Ecora offerings, including reporters for Exchange (5.5 and 2000), Oracle, Cisco, Lotus and Solaris systems.

Ecora’s goal is to do the dirty work you don’t want to do: scrounge through the machines in the domain and figure out exactly how they’ve been put together. The Ecora applications come as downloadable executables that are licensed for a particular number of servers and/or workstations. Once the executables are installed on any workstation in your domain, and the license verified, you’re ready to report!

The server product can be run against domain controllers and/or member servers. On all servers, you’ll get instant information that covers applications loaded, DHCP, DNS, Event Log statistics, hardware information and a whole host of other nuts-and-bolts stuff. It would take quite a while to run down all the categories and subcategories that Ecora can grab.

The latest version of the product is Active Directory-aware, so if you run it against DCs in an AD environment, you’ll get reports of the Site, Domain and OU structure. It will also tell you which machines are Global Catalog Servers, which own the FSMO roles and what the Site Replication Schedules are.

One nice touch is that if you have a complicated NT or Windows 2000 domain structure, Ecora can map it out and then present you with a Visio diagram (provided you have Visio installed.) However, if you’re in a simple domain environment, this feature will be of no real use. There’s another Visio report that graphically details the major function of the computer (that is, whether it’s a SQL Server, Exchange Server and so on).

Reports are generated as four separate entities: There are long and short reports, and both come as Word documents and clickable HTML files. For a test, I documented one, and only one, production SQL server. The short Word file was anything but short at a hefty 42 pages. The long Word file was only slightly larger at 51 pages. My next test ran Ecora against two DCs. The short document was 73 pages; the long one was 92 pages. Each report, however, took only minutes to produce.

The workstation version of the product is very similar—simply omitting the server-specific information such as DHCP and DNS server information.

Once Ecora is installed, it can keep you up to date on the changes in your environment. The idea is simple: Compare two reports taken over time and spit out only the things that have changed. You can easily see whether someone’s been added to the Administrators group, the server’s IP address has changed, or a process is no longer running.

Ecora Configuration Reporter
Ecora provides complete and well-organized information on the servers in your domain. (Click image to view larger version.)

The information that Ecora picks up is useful, but not earth-shattering. You won’t discover any major “secrets” or revelations about your environment by installing Ecora. Could you, theoretically, run to every server, gather the same information that Ecora can find and manually type it into a Word document? Sure. Could you do it in less than $500 worth of time? Probably not. Ecora’s goal is not to ferret out problem spots in your environment, but, in a short amount of time, to simply “tell it like it is.”

And Ecora tells it to you—in abundance.

About the Author

Jeremy Moskowitz, a Group Policy MVP, is the Chief Propeller-Head for Moskowitz, Inc. and GPanswers.com. He is one of less than a dozen Microsoft MVPs in Group Policy. Since becoming one of the world's first MCSEs, he has performed Active Directory and Group Policy planning and implementations for some of the nation’s largest organizations. His latest books are Group Policy Fundamentals, Security, and Troubleshooting and Creating the Secure Managed Desktop: Group Policy, SoftGrid, and Microsoft Deployment and Management Tools.


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