UniPress Software has built
Footprints as an entirely Web-based system for
tracking issues of all sorts. While help desks
are one clear market, the product can also be
used for project management, sales tracking, bug
tracking, etc.—in fact, any endeavor that
requires keeping track of open issues and assigning
them to particular users for resolution. Figure
1 shows the main issue-tracking screen.
active help desk entries in Footprints' Web
Being a Web application makes
Footprints easy to deploy across a heterogeneous
enterprise. The server part of the application
can be installed on Windows using IIS as the Web
server, or on many flavors of Unix (including
Linux and Solaris), using Apache or Netscape as
the Web server. The bulk of the application is
written in Perl. Footprints uses a database to
store issues; this database can use UniPress’
proprietary engine, or ODBC databases including
Access or SQL Server.
Installation of Footprints
is straightforward. Although it’s supplied
with instructions for Windows NT, I had no trouble
on Windows 2000. I chose to use a SQL Server database.
If you’re making the server available via
the Internet, you’ll probably want to use
the proprietary database instead, because the
account used by Footprints must be granted sweeping
permissions in SQL Server and represents a definite
security hole if you make a configuration mistake,
leaving your server open to the world.
Once you’ve installed
the product, both administration and daily use
is done via your Web browser. I checked several
common browsers on both Windows and Linux with
no trouble. UniPress has made it easy to customize
Footprints to the extent that you can add custom
fields to the database, input users, or create
reports entirely from the Web browser.
As a user, you log in to Footprints
from your browser and enter your problem. You
can also search a database of solutions without
entering a new issue. Over time, most organizations
will use this database to build up a knowledge
base of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) to lower
their overall help desk cost. When an issue has
been submitted, Footprints automatically sends
email to alert the administrator that it needs
to be handled.
Footprints licensing has two
parts. You need a basic server license at $2,995,
which also allows up to three analysts to work
with issues. But for end users who only need to
enter issues, you can buy a $995 unlimited group
user license. This license covers all of the users
in all of your offices who have user-level access
to the database. The company offers online guided
tours with help from their technicians, or you
can download a fully-functional 30-day trial version
from the company’s Web site.
Mike Gunderloy, MCSE, MCSD, MCDBA, is a former MCP columnist and the author of numerous development books.