Product Reviews

UniPress Footprints

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.

Figure 1. Viewing active help desk entries in Footprints' Web interface.

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.

About the Author

Mike Gunderloy, MCSE, MCSD, MCDBA, is a former MCP columnist and the author of numerous development books.

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