Product Reviews

Desktop Management, Front and Center

Profile Maker 8 allows for incredibly simple control over your enterprise desktops.

How often do you find yourself frustrated with the limitations of Microsoft's Group Policy Objects? Or maybe you're in a mixed-mode or Windows NT 4.0-based domain and you're using System Policies that they don't allow you to do everything you want. So, you put a lot in the login script to bypass these issues. If you're like me, this is a fairly frequent occurrence. Don't you wish you could do these things quickly and easily without using a complicated login script?

AutoProf offers a solution in Profile Maker 8. Profile Maker 8 allows central management of Windows desktops. It offers the ability to configure Office, Outlook and Internet Explorer, run executables, set system policies, create/update shortcuts, connect to printers, map network drives and much more. Each profile can be configured using more than 25 filtering options.

Profile Maker 8 works through a client-server setup. On the server side, it installs the Master Server that contains all of the settings. The Master Server runs the secondary service, which responds to client requests. You can set up additional secondary servers, which synchronize their information with the Master Server on a regular basis. The option to install secondary servers allows Profile Maker 8 to scale with your organization by allowing logins to be processed from the nearest server.

The client installs on all Windows 9x/NT/2000/XP desktop computers. The executable, a 32-bit application with a tiny footprint of about 180kb, launches at startup through a Group Policy Object, a batch file or a login script. You have the option to run Profile Maker 8 in an administrative mode with elevated privileges for "locked-down" desktop configurations. Clients connect and apply their settings based on the applicable filters. The results are reported back to the secondary service, which then reports back to the Master Server for reporting.

Configuring Profile Maker 8 requires no special scripting knowledge, although it does require knowledge of desktop configuration. All Profile Maker 8 functions are available via a point-and-click user interface within an MMC snap-in. The interface is logical and settings are easy to find. Building filters is extremely easy, as all options are available through pull-down menus.

AutoProf Profile Maker 8
AutoProf's Profile Maker 8 provides 25 different filtering options for customized desktop configurations. Drop-down menus make the filtering further simplify the configurations. (Click image to view larger version.)

 

Performance is snappy, and applying a profile is quick and efficient. In most cases, it takes the same amount of time-or less-as performing the same functions through a login script on the same machine. Profile Maker 8 uses XML configuration files, so the files are small and are copied over and processed quickly.

Profile Maker 8 comes in three versions. Profile Maker 8 Desktop includes all of the configuration options for desktop management, such as save paths for Office applications, printers, mapped drives, and system policy. Outlook Profile Maker 8 contains only the settings to manage users' Outlook settings for all Outlook 97 and newer. Profile Maker Professional encompasses both packages.

What makes Profile Maker so valuable is the ability to extend and enhance Microsoft's GPO. Profile Maker 8 offers the ability to remove printer and network drive connections, registry updates, .ini file settings and much more from the login script and apply them using GPO management. The remaining login script functions are easier to maintain and should be more universal in nature. It reduces the number of secondary files needed to support individual configurations for printers and mapped drives. Because Profile Maker 8 manages each setting discretely, changes to one configuration have less chance of affecting other configurations, reducing risk in your login configuration.

Overall, if you want an easier way to manage your desktops and extend system policies or GPO, Profile Maker 8 may be just the tool you are looking for.

About the Author

Matthew A. Kinsey, MCSE, MCSE+I, CCNA, holds a Master's Degree in computer information systems; he's a senior-level engineer for a major retailer.

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