Product Reviews

PolicyPak for Windows 7: Convenient Configuration

PolicyPak gives IT pros the power to automate application configuration with minimum hassle and maximum results.

Here's the business problem: You have a variety of applications sitting on an end user's desktop -- but you have no configuration control. It's up to the end user to configure his applications as he sees fit. But consider the consequences. Poorly configured applications can lead to a loss of productivity, increased support costs, potential security breaches and, in the worst cases, data loss. That's where PolicyPak comes in.

Configuration Magic
PolicyPak Professional and PolicyPak Design Studio, two components of the single PolicyPak product, don't deploy applications. You continue to use whatever delivery technology you prefer. Instead, PolicyPak Professional integrates with your existing Group Policy infrastructure to provide consistent and enforced application configuration.

The software installs on Windows 7 desktops. You'll need the Group Policy Management Console installed from the Remote Server Administration Tools and the Visual C++ 2008 Express Edition; you can download it during setup. There's a small client-side package to deploy to your desktops as well.

PolicyPak offers a few freely available PolicyPaks on its site and promises more to come, including a community exchange, but you'll most likely want to create your own. You create a PolicyPak configuration using a wizard and the easy-to-use Design Studio. There are excellent video tutorials for configuration creation on the company's Web site, and the documentation is easy to follow. When creating a PolicyPak configuration, you see the exact configuration options that a user would see. However, you can set specific values that you want enforced, grayed out or hidden. Modify the application settings as required. The application configuration can then be pushed out with Group Policy.

Because PolicyPak Professional integrates with Group Policy, if a user modifies an enforced application setting, it will be restored to the configured policy during the next Group Policy refresh period or when the user logs on again. But it gets even better. If the user goes offline or can't contact a DC, he still gets the configuration policy because PolicyPak Professional caches information locally. Now you can enforce application-configuration settings to your mobile workforce.

REDMOND RATING
Installation: 20%
9.0
Features: 20%
9.0
Ease of Use: 20%
8.0
Administration: 20%
8.0
Documentation: 20%
9.0
Overall Rating:
8.6

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

Licensing Rules
PolicyPak is licensed per computer for an unlimited number of applications and users. If you have terminal servers, either Windows or Citrix, those too are licensed. What I like is the flexible licensing scheme. You can apply a license to the domain level or an organizational unit (OU). Perhaps you only need to manage the 200 computers in the sales OU. During licensing setup, pick that OU and -- voilà -- they're all licensed. Visit PolicyPak.com and check out the video tutorials; you can also download a trial version. The trial version operates in Community Mode, which allows you deploy PolicyPak for free with up to 25 elements. PolicyPak Professional and PolicyPak Design Studio (two components of the single PolicyPak product) are priced per computer on a sliding scale based on volume for unlimited number of users and applications.

The bottom line is that PolicyPak automates application configuration for any number of applications on any or all computers in your organization. Users don't waste time fiddling with application settings, making them more productive. The help desk doesn't have to field as many support calls caused by poor configurations. Your auditors are happy because you have secure and enforceable policies, and management is happy because everything just works.

PolicyPak

PolicyPak Community Edition: Free for one app (up to 25 elements)
PolicyPak Software | 800.883.8002 | Policypak.com



About the Author

Jeffery Hicks is an IT veteran with over 25 years of experience, much of it spent as an IT infrastructure consultant specializing in Microsoft server technologies with an emphasis in automation and efficiency. He is a multi-year recipient of the Microsoft MVP Award in Windows PowerShell. He works today as an independent author, trainer and consultant. Jeff has written for numerous online sites and print publications, is a contributing editor at Petri.com, and a frequent speaker at technology conferences and user groups.

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