By Cameron Sturdevant  |  Posted 2004-11-08 Print this article Print

Enterprise-class PC equipment and software inventory tools have been added to NetSupport Inc.s NetSupport DNA Suite 2.0, making the inventory, software distribution and user management tool worth considering for use in small and midsize offices.

However, NetSupport DNA Suite requires a considerable amount of manual data entry to track information about peripherals such as PDAs. In eWEEK Labs tests, we spent about 5 minutes per PDA hand-entering information. The time spent might not seem significant, but it shows that IT managers will need to add considerable effort beyond initial data entry to keep manually collected inventory data accurate.

For example, several times during testing, we had to stop and double-check to ensure that a Hewlett-Packard Co. iPaq Pocket PC was still connected to our target client. So, while we liked the fact that there is a new set of fields to note peripherals, we think IT managers should consider the latest version of NetSupport DNA more for its enhanced software distribution features.

NetSupport DNA Suite, which shipped in September, costs about $54 per user for 100 users. The inventory module alone costs $27 per user for 100 users. In either case, the product is likely to cost more than competitors. Vector Network Inc.s PC-Duo, for example, is sold as an annual subscription that costs as little as $12 per year.

Click here to read more about PC-Duo. NetSupport DNAs new software distribution warehouse is a significant improvement over software distribution in the previous versions of the product. The warehouse can be any PC running NetSupport DNA that is designated as a holding area for software packages. We created several warehouses in our test network with just a few mouse clicks.

Using the software warehouse feature, we could distribute software once across our slow WAN link, then continue distribution to all the PCs in the LAN. This capability has been around for years in enterprise software distribution tools, but the warehouse feature in NetSupport DNA is one of the most developed implementations weve seen in a branch-office product.

However, even the fully automated portions of NetSupport DNA Suite arent foolproof. The URL tracker included in the NetSupport DNA Suite agent that we installed on every managed PC in our test network told only part of the story about Web sites we visited.

The URL tracker accurately reported the number of times we visited eWEEK.com and the amount of time we spent on the site, but it missed all the sites we visited under the cloak of Anonymizer Inc.s Anonymizer.com privacy service (although connection frequency and length of time were logged).

NetSupport DNA works only with Internet Explorer. Sites we visited with Opera or Firefox browsers were completely undetected.

Not surprisingly, NetSupport DNA Suite fits in well with other PC support tools from the company, including a help desk module and remote control software. We think integrated tools work best for PC management, so IT managers should weigh as a heavy positive the availability of these other NetSupport tools.

Technical Director Cameron Sturdevant can be contacted at cameron_sturdevant@ziffdavis.com.

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Cameron Sturdevant Cameron Sturdevant has been with the Labs since 1997, and before that paid his IT management dues at a software publishing firm working with several Fortune 100 companies. Cameron also spent two years with a database development firm, integrating applications with mainframe legacy programs. Cameron's areas of expertise include virtual and physical IT infrastructure, cloud computing, enterprise networking and mobility, with a focus on Android in the enterprise. In addition to reviews, Cameron has covered monolithic enterprise management systems throughout their lifecycles, providing the eWEEK reader with all-important history and context. Cameron takes special care in cultivating his IT manager contacts, to ensure that his reviews and analysis are grounded in real-world concern. Cameron is a regular speaker at Ziff-Davis Enterprise online and face-to-face events. Follow Cameron on Twitter at csturdevant, or reach him by email at csturdevant@eweek.com.

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