ActiveManage Extends the Sysadmin's Reach
Keep your network running from anywhere.
What do you do if you need to fix problems on your network but you can't
always be in the office? Traditionally, this has involved picking up the
phone and trying to talk someone through the Windows user interface from
memory, or hauling around a laptop loaded with a remote-control or remote-access
program. ProductivityNet now offers you another option: network administration
from Palm wireless devices via their ActiveManage product.
An ActiveManage installation consists of three pieces. First, there's
a network appliance (based on a Cobalt RaQ4 server) that you plug into
your network. Second, there's a server agent that you install on each
computer that you'd like to manage. In version 1, the server agent can
handle Windows NT 4.0 or Windows 2000 computers, but they're extending
the software to include agents for Solaris, Linux, and advanced Win2K
features in version 2 (now in beta). Finally, there's a small application
that you install on the Palm device.
Installation was fairly simple: Use the front panel of the appliance
to set an IP address, then run a browser-based setup from a computer on
my network. The server agents installed without issue, though I did have
to call tech support to get the security set up so that the ActiveManage
server would talk to the server agents-the documentation could use some
improvement in this regard. On the plus side, ActiveManage makes good
use of security tools including SSL certificates for communication with
the server agents, as well as end-to-end encryption from the wireless
device (your data never travels in unencrypted fashion). ActiveManage
has its own concept of users layered on top of operating system users,
which could be a nuisance if you had a lot of administrators who needed
to be maintained as ActiveManage users.
Another minor nuisance was the necessity to run around to individual
computers to install the server agent; there's no central "push" installation
available. For a large network, you'll definitely want to use a product
such as Microsoft SMS or Vector Networks' LanUtil to automate the installation.
However, once things were up and running smoothly they worked great.
You can log in to the ActiveManage server from any Web browser or from
the Palm device. Once there, you can perform a host of management tasks,
including starting and stopping services, executing command-line tasks
at any server, investigating running processes or even rebooting the machine.
Basically, if you can do it from the Windows console, you can probably
do it through ActiveManage. It can be tough to perform some operations
from the tiny Palm screen, but ActiveManage does a good job of optimizing
the available real estate.
|ActiveManage's web-based interface provides easy access
to all the critical parts of your network. (Click image to view larger
You can also create custom alerts with ActiveManage, causing a server
agent to monitor critical operations on any particular computer. These
alerts will be the first thing that you see when you log on to the system,
and will be e-mailed to the administrator when they happen if you so desire.
Overall, I was quite happy with my test drive of ActiveManage. It's sort
of amazing to be able to pull out a Palm device or log on via a web browser
and have complete, but secure, control of the network. If you're a sysadmin
on call, this is definitely a product worth investigating. ActiveManage
is $2,995 for the server appliance, plus $295 per managed server and $25
per managed client.
Mike Gunderloy, MCSE, MCSD, MCDBA, is a former MCP columnist and the author of numerous development books.