Product Reviews

Administration En Masse

User Manager Pro helps you keep tabs on your admin tasks.

Ask a hundred IT magi what sort of wizardry they use to get their jobs done and you will undoubtedly get a hundred different answers. Most of those same administrators probably have countless spells and incantations at their disposal to handle everything from mass password changes to importing and exporting data in Active Directory to aligning policies on a thousand or more machines at once.

Personally, I'm the type of admin who likes a toolbox full of single-use tools and scripts for my day-to-day work. There are other administrators who prefer the monolithic approach. They'd rather have one tool and one interface to help them do all their day-to-day administration tasks from one über station. Lieberman Software Corp. has just the solution for those who love the convenience of a single dashboard: User Manager Pro. So, enough talk of magi and spells. Let's talk about the tool.

Jump in to Setup
You can get User Manager Pro set up very quickly. Install the software on a server and begin a discovery—whether you run that through AD or NetBIOS—and pull in your machine list.

You select the nodes from the list that corresponds to the number of licenses you have, and you're ready to go. There are no client components or agents to install on the machines you're going to manage.

Go with the Groups
User Manager Pro's strength comes from its ability to slice up administration tasks based on the groups of machines you have defined with the tool. Those groups may or may not correspond to how you have your network laid out, by the way. You're not bound to your physical network topology for administrative processes. Once you define your groups, you can begin managing them en masse as you need to.

Figure 1.
Figure 1. User Manager Pro gives you a single dashboard from which to manage your systems. (Click image to view larger version.)

Ever lose a machine? You know it's on the network and you can talk to it, but you have no earthly idea where it is physically located in the building. (You mean I'm the only one on the planet to ever lose a machine? Right.)

One feature of User Manager Pro that I especially liked was physical identification. Simply turn it on and the machine will sing you a little tune through its PC speaker, making it a lot easier to track down in a sea of cubicles and computers.

REDMOND RATING
Documentation 20%
8
Installation 20%
9
Feature Set 20%
7
Performance 20%
8
Management 20%
7
Overall Rating:
7.8

——————————————
Key:
1: Virtually inoperable or nonexistent
5: Average, performs adequately
10: Exceptional

Reporting and Add-Ons
User Manager Pro also has some great reporting capabilities. Two of the reporting features I liked were file reporting, where you could locate versioned files all across your managed group, and automating reports through the tool's scheduling capability.

User Manager Pro has an add-on feature called the Random Password Generator that helps you generate and apply unique passwords. You could use this, for example, to lock down all your local admin accounts. This is nice because it mitigates risk of exposure though a compromised password, which is a feat in of itself when your password is something like 7d#45!1Be89.

I did find the interface for User Manager Pro a bit tough and chewy at first. It's not particularly elegant, but once you get past that, you can really see what this versatile tool can do.

Something About Scripting
Realistically, there is little that this product can do that a nice collection of VBS scripts couldn't get done.

What's Next
Lieberman Software frequently updates User Manager Pro. Here's what you can expect in the recently released version 6.02.
  • Improved report interface: The updated interface gives you clear access to reports on accounts, groups, settings and event logs.
  • Event log filtering: You can now filter for specific event identification numbers, schedule reports, have them e-mailed to you, and store them in a SQL or MSDE database.
  • Complete WMI reporting: Reports give you details on WMI objects and all their properties.
  • Additional Active Directory management: Lets you manage specific fields within AD.
  • Reporting on Active Directory fields: Gives you an expanded view of AD fields, including all levels of contact information.

In fact, you can change all the Local Administrator passwords for all machines in an Organizational Unit with just six lines of Visual Basic code. You can batch script changes to any number of machines and orchestrate your changes in ways limited only by your imagination.

(For all you script hounds out there, and you know who you are, you should all be familiar with Dr. Scripto. If not, stop by Microsoft's TechNet Script Center where the good doctor will be roaming about.)

However, not every admin has the time and the inclination to become a scripting mage. That means if you need to get things done en masse, a tool like User Manager Pro is a tremendous help. What if, for example, you had to slice up an OU or weren't allowed to monkey with Group Policy Objects for the domain? Scripting will still work, but it will be much harder to define the common element in the script. That makes something like User Manager Pro even more attractive. It simplifies complex processes, which can also help you standardize those processes.

In short, Lieberman Software's User Manager Pro is a pretty powerful tool for those looking for a monolithic administration control station. Functionally, there isn't much to this tool that couldn't get done through some good solid scripting, but having it all right in front of you makes life that much simpler.

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