Product Reviews

User Manager Pro

This tool leverages group power to ease administration.

Consider the following scenario: You’re the senior network administrator for your company, and you work with a number of other administrators on a sizable network with hundreds of machines. Like many companies, you try to keep administrative tasks simple by assigning a common administrator password to all machines on your network so that any one of the network admins will be able to log into any machine locally with administrative rights. Now, suppose that one of your network administrators get fired, and you need to change the administrative password on several hundred machines right away. What do you do? You could try altering the space-time continuum so that you can actually accomplish this task before the end of time, or you could get User Manager Pro.

User Manager Pro is designed for this and many other similar situations, where changes need to be made en masse (and time travel is not an option). Using User Manager Pro, you can make a wide array of changes to groups of systems at a time. To do this you create groups and assign machines to those groups. When you open User Manager Pro you’re asked to select a group to work with, and when you select that group you can start making changes to the machines in the group.

So, to change the administrator password on all of the machines on the network: Create a group in User Manager Pro, assign all network machines to the group (which can be done through discovery methods), select the machines in the group and make the change. And you aren’t limited to just passwords. You can change just about anything: Group membership, Registry entries, auditing and user rights, and the list goes on. There is even a handy little app that will physically identify a computer remotely by playing a short tune on the remote system. It’s all pretty easy once you get the hang of it.

One of the handiest features is the random password generator. This little gem is built in, but you have to pay extra to activate it. The tool generates a random password for each network machine. You can make these passwords extremely complex. An example of a generated random password: 9iBREr#$YAh~N6. Just try to hack something like that! The software will even store the passwords for you in a password-protected database so you don’t need to try to remember them. This feature is great for generating one-time passwords to allow users administrative access to a single computer.

Lieberman & Assoc.  User Manager Pro
User Manager Pro hides a lot of power behind an unattractive interface.(Click image to view larger version.)

User Manager Pro’s main drawback is the interface. It’s pretty basic and, dare I say, unattractive. The buttons are small and there are a lot of abbreviations. For example, you may not figure out right away that the button labeled “Reg Perm” is for making permanent Registry entries. But this is a small price to pay for such a powerful tool.

Lieberman & Associates sets out to give network admins a product that would ease the job of making mass changes on their network. They did just that. This is an excellent tool that all Windows network administrators should seriously consider adding to their toolbox.

About the Author

Joseph L. Jorden, MCSE, MCT, CCNA, CCDA is Chief Technical Officer for Dugger & Associates (www.Dugger-IT.com). He was one of the first 100 people to achieve the MCSE+I and one of the first 2,000 to become an MCSE under Windows 2000. Joseph frequently contributes to books from Sybex and various periodicals.

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Reader Comments:

Mon, Mar 22, 2004 Philip Lieberman Beverly Hills

Yes, we do track serial number usage (as do many other software companies, including Microsoft). However, we do not track or return passwords or other encrypted data. The return of such information would be in violation of numerous Federal laws (both civil and criminal) and is simply not a good business practice. To give an example, Microsoft could read all the data on your system during a Windows Update, but they don’t as it would ruin them as a company. In fact, there is nothing that could prevent ANY program you are running from performing any operation that your account (and thus you) is allowed to do.


Our business is the creation of powerful administration tools for mass management--not compromising the integrity of our customer's security. For reference we are members of the Software Publishers Association and are also a Microsoft Gold Certified Partner.

We are not in the business of compromising the security of our customer’s environment. Nor would we do anything that would damage the reputation we have built over the past 25 years.

If you (or any other MCP readers) would like to discuss this issue further, or would like to learn how to verify that our applications are not sending sensitive customer data to our servers, please feel free to contact me at phil@lanicu.com.

Regards,
Philip Lieberman
Founder and Owner, Lieberman & Associates

Sat, Feb 28, 2004 disgruntled tester Anonymous

I personally thought it was a great tool, until I reread the EULA and realized it's reporting back to Mr. Lieberman's servers. Although I'm sure it will be claimed that it is only used for licensing reasons, what is to prevent this software from delivering a copy of the password you just reset to Mr. Lieberman. Use it to reset the admin password on your servers and you might be sharing it with Mr Lieberman himself.

Fri, Jan 2, 2004 bob seoul

i evaluted this product about a year ago to primarily address password resets, and found value in the other features. yet, i decided to purchase winternals recovery manager since it includes password reset in addition to its more desirable and valued features. user manager pro is a good product, but there are others worth evaluating.

Thu, Sep 18, 2003 Ron Rosenkoetter Kansas

Mr. Lieberman, you make good points in your post. Documentation and support ARE important, as is the quality of home-grown scripts. I'm pretty good at over documenting all my own scripts, but having inherited multiple scripts with NO documentation, I concede your point. That IS an advantage to buying an off-the-shelf application. Having good help files, and even better, a phone number IS worth some money. I've worked with the demo version of your product, and I will admit, it is very nicely done (I especially like the Retry period, and the Send Wake on LAN packet). Our desktop team currently contains no one who is competent at scripting, and I wouldn't mind our organization buying User Manager Pro for them to use. BUT the cost is prohibitive. $70,000 is ridiculous ($19 a computer for 3600 computers). I couldn't, in good conscience recommend such a product to my manager (and he would laugh when he heard the price tag anyway). There should be some kind of cut-off Enterprise license... Say over 1000 PCs, it should just be a straight $20,000. That seems more reasonable to me (although still a little high) There should be some economy of scale. Respectfully, Ron Rosenkoetter

Thu, Sep 18, 2003 Ron Rosenkoetter Kansas

>> One question for Mr. Rosenkoetter, "How does he change all of the Local Administrative Account Passwords on thousands of computers within 15 minutes?"

I've never actually had to do this before, but I wrote this script in about 5 minutes. I'd probably want to add a ping function to test for connectivity before trying to connect to a remote machine using the WinNT provider, and of course, some logging, and maybe some retry logic (or maybe run something similar as a computer start-up script in Group Policy)

In any case, a couple of hours of refinement and testing, and I could build my own tool. The point is, there is no reason to spend that much money for something I can build myself.

'Resetting Local Admin password - one way to do it

For each ComputerName in ComputerList

Set objUser = GetObject("WinNT://" & ComputerName " & "/Administrator,user")

Wscript.echo objUser.Name

objUSer.SetPassword "Puppy100"
objUser.SetInfo

If Err.Number = 0 Then
Wscript.echo " Changed Password"
Else
Wscript.echo " Unable to change password"
Err.Clear
End If

Next

I'm sure this didn't post very well on these boards.

Fri, Sep 5, 2003 Phil Lieberman Beverly Hills, CA

In response to the reader's response to our review I would like to respond.

Our program User Manager Pro has no WMI scripts nor is it a front end to some sort of scripting engine. The program consists of well over 150,000 lines of C++ code using the Microsoft MFC framework. The code provides multithreaded operation using UNICODE internal data structures with extensive logging, retry/recovery logic, and complex impersonation routines. We chose to write the application in C++ so that the product would operate with speed and reliability in all environments, from small organizations to large enterprises (> 50,000 systems).

While it is true that scripting solutions are powerful and provide extensive access to the operating system, there are issues that an administrator must consider. If a customer must manage a mixed environment from the oldest versions of Windows NT to the latest version of Server 2003, not all scripting interfaces are supported on all platforms. Scripting of and by itself does not provide any system for managing the list of systems, sorting, cryptography, inter-process communication, scheduling and a myriad of other housekeeping chores that must be done as part of any enterprise solution.

There is a bigger question that the writer should ask. Is it best to use their limited resources writing applications that are already available off the shelf from our company and others or is it better if they used their energies developing specialized applications that require the special knowledge of their business for which there are no commercially available alternatives? Another issue is documenting and supporting scripts that are developed in-house. If this step is skipped it will be very hard for a new administrator to maintain the script after the author has moved on. More importantly, there is no guarantee that the script will be well written and maintainable.

Our product pricing is based on the practical realities of life. Namely, our customers deserve a technical support staff that is available to answer questions quickly. Customers want products developed by professionals, so we have assembled a team of top notch, highly educated and experienced C++ and infrastructure developers that are making continuous improvements to the product. We have an extensive Quality Assurance process and team to do testing before our products are released. We also have a program of continual education for all of our staff as well as providing specialized on-going education for developers. As part of our commitment to excellence in our products, we maintain an extensive support contract with Microsoft to assist us in resolving development questions as well interoperability issues that our customers may encounter. If we don't charge for our products, it would be impossible to provide the level of support and continually improving products that our customer's expect.

Another aspect that customers may not realize is that our products go through a rigorous specification and acceptance process based on Microsoft standards for certification. We became a Microsoft Gold Certified Partner by having our products go through a very expensive and rigorous testing process specified by Microsoft.

I believe Mr. Rosenkoetter seriously under estimates the effort it takes to create and maintain enterprise quality applications. There is nothing wrong with writing scripts, but commercial applications offer greater capabilities, speed, safety and accountability that some enterprises prefer. We have been in business since 1978 providing excellent products and support for our customers. In all of this time we have learned that not everything is about price...most customers want quality, reliability and someone always available for product support. That is what we do.

Sincerely,

Philip Lieberman
Owner
Lieberman and Associates

Fri, Sep 5, 2003 Don Webb Baton Rouge

Our Enterprise cosist of over 4000 desktops, and over 60 locations. User Manager Pro has saved us in excess of the $67,000 that Mr. Rosenkoetter complains about. We also have been able to save that amount of money on staff like Mr. Rosenkoetter writing scripts, which I feel he is misinformed about. The product recently assisted us in Virus detection and removal efforts. Even Mid-Level managers can see the cost savings by using this product, and when put a pencil to it, can justify the expenditure many times over. I would recommend anyone try it, because it will sell itself. One question for Mr. Rosenkoetter, "How does he change all of the Local Administrative Account Passwords on thousands of computers within 15 minutes?"

Wed, Sep 3, 2003 Ron Rosenkoetter Kansas

I don't understand the pricing on these kind of products. All they've done is write a few WMI scripts, and put a not-so-fancy GUI front-end between the user and those scripts. Useful? Yes! Worth $19 a computer? NO! Our environment has 3500 PCs. Think I'd want to pay $67,000 to make changes to the registry or the local Admin account's password on multiple PCs at once?? I don't think so. Those scripts are not hard to write. A manager would better off spending that money on training, books, etc. so his or her people could learn scripting (such knowledge is EXTREMELY powerful for an admin), or even hiring another person so everyone would have more time to become proficient at scripting. Don't get me wrong. Software products like these ARE useful, but should be sold much cheaper. I can only guess that idiot managers at mid-sized to large companies make this kind of pricing possible. I still would think that selling an Enterprise-licence at $3000 each, and a small-business license (say up to 30 PCs) at $500 each would garner a lot more sales, more market share, and in the long run more money (think upgrades as well). But perhaps I under-estimate the number of idiot managers out there willing to pay this price.

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