Configuresofts Enterprise Configuration Manager 4.8 is a well-conceived, very usable configuration management tool that tracks myriad data points from hundreds or even thousands of servers, workstations, desktops and laptop systems. With its roots in the Windows world, however, ECM 4.8 is most appropriate for use in Microsoft shops. Since the last time we looked at ECM, in 2003, the product has gained crucial support for Unix and Linux operating systems. Version 4.8 also offers report templates that will make it easier to track infrastructure compliance with several key regulations, including Graham-Leach-Bliley, Sarbanes-Oxley and HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act).The product also offers reports for industry best-practice and audit guidelines, including FISMA (Federal Information Security Management Act).Configuresoft aims to ease compliance. Click here to read more. Given the broad reporting capabilities and clear insight ECM provides to both IT and business managers via these reports, eWEEK Labs has awarded the product an Analysts Choice designation. Operations Tool ECM 4.8 is definitely a network operations tool. It excels at tracking server, workstation and laptop configurations, along with basic information about network infrastructure. ECM 4.8 does not track application performance, nor does it provide real-time change reports. This means that reports are only as good as the most recent data collection. During tests at eWEEK Labs, we were able to create sophisticated reports that showed exactly what changes were happening in our devicesdown to the least significant registry modification. We ran the reports daily, but its possible to run reports as frequently as every hour. (Reports for critical infrastructure can be run as frequently as every 15 minutes.) ECM 4.8 is an agent-based system, so we could configure our reports to show only the delta between collections. This significantly reduces the load on monitored systems CPUs as well as on network bandwidth. Pinpoint delta changes are one advantage of using an agent-based collection system rather than probing with agentless processes. Some competitors, including Symantecs Veritas Configuration Manager (formerly Relicores Clarity, which Symantec acquired in February), track real-time application and server changes. And Managed Objects Business Service Configuration Manager uses agentless service discovery, along with existing data repositories and other discovery tools, to create a configuration management database. Business Service Configuration Manager also accepts real-time data from other IT management tools. The accuracy of information provided by the Configuresoft ECM agent, as well as the products focus on managed server and workstation configurations, will be worth the price of running daily reports to ensure the most up-to-date collection of change data. However, we think it would be a worthwhile investment for Configuresoft to endow the ECM agent with the ability to sense configuration changes and push that data to the collection server. This would do a lot to boost ECMs stature as a security-monitoring tool. Click here to download a podcast about the security aspects of configuration management database tools. Given ECMs deep roots in Windows management, Version 4.8 would work best for IT managers who have to keep tabs on a variety of mostly Windows systems but also must watch over Unix, Red Hats Red Hat Linux and Sun Microsystems Solaris systems. ECM 4.8 monitors any of those operating systems running on either desktops or laptops. ECM 4.8s deepest and most advanced reporting, though, is for Windows systems. In fact, every area of ECM 4.8s operationfrom agent deployment to data collection to the number and sophistication of monitored configuration parametersis geared to Windows data center operations. For example, the ECM Collector, the hub of ECM 4.8, runs only on Windows Server software. ECM also requires Microsofts SQL Server. To get the most out of the package, database managers will also need to install Microsofts SRS (SQL Server Reporting Services). It was no big deal to add SRS to our SQL Server 2000 installation, and the SRS module supports the new compliance reports that are available for ECM 4.8. Next Page: Data drill-down.