Looking for a way to run your enterprise centrally—while bringing together system configuration, compliance and control? Consider Configuresoft’s Enterprise Configuration Manager 3.5.

Keeping Your System in Sync

Looking for a way to run your enterprise centrally—while bringing together system configuration, compliance and control? Consider Configuresoft’s Enterprise Configuration Manager 3.5.

Enterprise Configuration Manager (ECM) 3.5 is advertised as an enterprise-scale application that manages servers and desktops from a central console, while—at the same time—bringing together system configuration, compliance and control. That’s a hefty claim for one application, so I set out to discover if it’s true.

For my review, Configuresoft sent me a limited five-user license ECM package. I set up the following as my test environment: For the ECM application and database server, I used a Compaq ProLiant 3000 (dual 450 MHz processors, 256MB RAM) running Windows 2000 and SQL 7.0. Server clients consisted of one Compaq ProLiant 1850 (Win2K domain controller) and a Dell PowerEdge 6450 (Win2K member server). Desktop clients consisted of a Hewlett-Packard Vectra running Windows NT 4.0 Workstation and a Dell Dimension running Win2K Professional. All devices were members of the same Win2K domain configured in separate Active Directory (AD) sites. One NT 4.0 Server in another NT domain was used as the last client. Microsoft’s Network Monitor 2.0 was used to test network bandwidth demand on the isolated network.

ECM’s installation program allows the option of installing different parts of the application on separate servers, such as placing the ECM SQL database on a separate SQL server. You also have the choice of installing the ECM console on your desktop or using a standard Web browser to access the ECM application.

In my case, installation was straightforward; the only problem I encountered was with using the wizard-based install program. During this process, you’re asked to supply a user ID, password and domain information. Instead of working with drop-down boxes or a browse option to eliminate “fat-finger” mistakes, you must key in the information manually. If you enter even one typo during this process, the installation can fail. I deliberately mistyped the administrator password during one of my many installs, which caused the ECM application not to start on reboot. I highly recommend that Configuresoft consider adding browse button and edit check capabilities to the install wizard to avoid installation snafus.

One good thing about Configuresoft, however, is that it offers to “walk” new ECM users through the product. I recommend you take Configuresoft up on its offer, either by phone or by having a company representative visit your site. Centrally installing the ECM agents on your desktops and servers is easy once you understand the product and its powerful filtering features.

ECM’s feature list is overwhelming. One feature that looks interesting, but that I didn’t test for this review, is the ECM Windows 9x Migrator. This feature informs you if any of the machines in your enterprise fail to meet Win2K hardware compatibility list requirements. ECM features I focused on for this review include system analysis, centralized monitoring and reporting. After installing the ECM agents on the devices I chose to monitor, it was an easy task to quickly gather information on enterprise-wide disk space, shares being used, logon events and IP addresses. Using Network Monitor, I couldn’t detect any measurable bandwidth overhead when requesting all available data from all five devices simultaneously. (Of course, my demo copy was for only five devices, so that was a limiting factor.) Each device took about six seconds to send the data and update the database. After the first inventory of a monitored device, only delta changes were sent to the SQL server.

The best ECM feature, in my view, is the reporting function (240-plus canned reports are available). It’s great that an application gathers lots of data, but an easy-to-read presentation of that data is just as important. I found the “Monday Morning Meeting” reports (see figure), providing a quick system security “health check,” to be outstanding. I just wish it wouldn’t take so many mouse-clicks to run reports. It would be a great help to simply right-click on the report you need.

Configuresoft Enterprise Cofiguration Manager
Enterprise Configuration Manager’s 240-plus reports provide you with a rapid security “health check” of your system.

The option to save any ECM report to Excel and HTML also proved useful, as did the ability to upload any type of file to a SQL server for safekeeping. The ability to upload manufacturer-specific configuration files to a central SQL server, plus boot.ini files, is of major benefit.

As part of a good Win2K design, AD sites need to be well thought out. One major side benefit of ECM is that it lets you view all IP address information, affording you the data needed to configure AD sites.

With my years of experience rolling out, configuring and supporting various enterprise-wide applications—from IBM’s Tivoli Systems to Microsoft’s Systems Management Server—I’ve seen both success and failure in living up to product claims. I found that Enterprise Configuration Manager 3.5 lives up to its promises. If you’re struggling with centralized management of servers and/or desktops, ECM is a product you’ll want to try.

About the Author

Mark England, MCSE, MCT, MCNE, is a principal technology consultant with HP Services, Microsoft Infrastructure Practice, where he specializes in Windows and Exchange. He is a regular contributing author for Microsoft Certified Magazine, a presenter at MEC, as well as an evening instructor in Sacramento.

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