ESM Keeps Close Eye on Desktop App Use

Express Software Manager 6.0 from Express Metrix LLC does a good job of monitoring and reporting on the use of desktop applications.

Express Software Manager 6.0 from Express Metrix LLC does a good job of monitoring and reporting on the use of desktop applications, but most IT managers will be hard-pressed to justify adding this utility to their tool kit, even with the Business Software Alliance breathing down their neck.

Although it proved to be an effective tool in eWeek Labs tests, Express Software Manager, which shipped earlier this month, is not as detail-oriented as a full-blown software inventory package, such as Tally Systems Corp.s TS.Census, that allows IT managers to take action if they discover more software licenses are needed to stay in compliance.

Despite the lack of detailed version information, we easily added software definitions that enabled us to find out-of-date and custom applications on our desktops. We also used the definition wizard to add the detail we found lacking for many of the products that we zeroed in on during tests.

Express Software Manager is priced at $30 per monitored desktop for a one-year subscription, which is double the cost of AssetMetrix Inc.s namesake software metering tool, and competitive with SofTracks 25-user license fee of $995—or just over $39 per PC.

This version of Express Software Manager is a catch-up release, gaining some features that were found in competitors earlier versions. For example, Version 6.0 supports Microsoft Corp.s SQL Server database, which makes it more suitable for use in enterprises.

Express Software Manager 6.0 also gains support for Crystal Decisions Inc.s Crystal Reports, which in tests significantly improved our ability to follow software license use. We could, without much trouble, track the most frequent users of applications and how long they used the software. We were also able to generate reports that could be used to show summary information about license usage to upper management.

Desktop managers at far-flung organizations will likely appreciate the amount of control that Express Software Manager 6.0 gives them over how users access software applications.

In tests, we exercised a fine degree of control over how applications were used on our desktop systems.

For example, we used the metering capability to prevent the use of unauthorized applications by using the local agent to block the installation of proscribed products. It didnt take much effort to create a list of common games and utilities, such as downloadable packet sniffers, that we were then able to block with Express Software Manager.

The tool provided more than enough information to prove compliance for a BSA audit. After letting the package run on the network for several days, we were able to get reports that showed nearly every aspect of how our software licenses were used in real time. And the utility performed as expected in controlling licenses—even in a multi-LAN scheme.

Express Software Manager also provides extensive system information that can be used to plan software rollouts and operating system migrations. It was easy to collect the typical system specifications, including the amount of physical memory and hard drive size. These reports and the information they provide are standard for asset management tools, although it was much easier to access them using the familiar Crystal Reports interface.

Express Software Manager works on most Windows platforms. In tests, we controlled even the oldest systems in the network, as well as the latest systems loaded with Windows XP. Using the products Knowledgebase, which was loaded on a separate Windows 2000 server, we got accurate reports on hardware and software. The Knowledgebase is updated monthly; the monthly maintenance package costs 20 percent of the initial purchase price.

Senior Analyst Cameron Sturdevant can be contacted at [email protected]