Gravity Storm Software's Service Pack Manager (SPM) has been a patch-management mainstay on Windows networks since Windows NT. I recently tested SPM 2000 7.1, which includes distributed patch management and a useful new Windows Firewall-management feature.

At startup, SPM enumerates the workstations and servers on your network and scans the devices for hotfix and service-pack status. Then you can select a network computer and have SPM produce a detailed list of the hotfixes and service packs that are appropriate for that computer and identify whether they've been downloaded and installed. SPM can also manage ISA Server, Microsoft IIS, Internet Explorer (IE), Office Outlook and Outlook Express, SQL Server, and Windows Media Player (WMP) updates.

You can install SPM 7.1 as either a master console or a secondary console. Master console operators can test, approve, and publish patch code on intranet Web servers, whereas secondary console operators are limited to deploying approved patches.

SPM 7.1's useful new Windows Firewall manager uses a simple GUI to control Windows Firewall. It's easier to use than the command-line tools Microsoft provides and doesn't require Active Directory (AD). Simply select the systems you want to manage from SPM's top-level network-tree view, then click the firewall icon. You can examine and set the firewall policies, then apply them to selected machines or groups of machines on your network.

SPM is compatible with NT SP4 and later (but not with XP Tablet PC Edition). You can download a fully functional 2-week trial version from the company's Web site.
—John D. Ruley



Service Pack Manager 2000 7.1
Contact: Gravity Storm Software * 858-792-0162
Web: http://www.securitybastion.com
Price: Starts at $495 for a 15-computer license
Summary
Pros: Simple management of service packs, patches, and Windows Firewall settings
Cons: Incompatible with Tablet PCs; port 2889 must remain open
Rating: 3 out of 5
Recommendation: Worth the price if you manage a large number of workstations.