User-account creation and management in one easy package

Windows 2000 and Windows NT include easy-to-use graphical functions to help you create, modify, and delete user accounts. However, both products lack the flexibility to manage large numbers of users. You can use a template of predefined settings (e.g., home drive location, group membership) to create multiple user accounts, but filling out a template gets old after a dozen times. You can also run scripts containing the Net User command or the Addusers utility (available in the Microsoft Windows 2000 Resource Kit and the Microsoft Windows NT Server 4.0 Resource Kit), but these methods provide limited functionality and don’t configure any Win2K Active Directory (AD) user settings. Tools4ever’s UserManagemeNT 5.3 product suite includes powerful enterprise-class NT utilities that let you manage user-account and user-resource creation, movement, and deletion from within any configured domain. You can also use the product with Win2K.

The suite includes three UserManagemeNT modules: Professional, Import, and Delegation. I tested the Professional module, which lets you create custom templates to preconfigure group membership settings, default Microsoft Exchange Server mailbox settings, and Win2K Server Terminal Services or NT Server 4.0, Terminal Server Edition profiles. The product’s functions can also enhance network security: Account Administrators can search across any configured domain for access-permission levels for any user or group, and the product includes a function to reset user-account passwords. I also tested the Import module, which worked in tandem with UserManagemeNT Professional to create multiple user accounts from data in a delimited text file. (Although the vendor lists these modules as separate products, the version I downloaded installed both modules; the Professional module accessed the Import module’s functionality.)

The vendor offers a downloadable version that you can test free for 30 days. This version is fully functional, although the Import module’s download limits you to a 5-user import. After 30 days, you must register the product to receive a vendor-supplied license code that lets you continue use and gives you import functionality for the licensed number of users. I downloaded the installation file and installed the product and license code on a Win2K server running AD. I created a LAN with one AD-enabled Win2K domain and one Win2K domain controller (DC) as well as one NT 4.0 DC in a trusted NT domain.

After I installed the product, I launched UserManagemeNT Professional. The primary GUI includes tabs from which you control each of the product’s major functions: Create user, Move users’ resources, Manage passwords, Remove user, Search permissions, Import, Configure, and Log.

First, I went to the Configure tab. From this tab, you can configure the product’s other major tasks. When you specify options on the Configure tab, the product automatically applies those settings to the other function tabs, such as Create user or Remove user. I specified configuration settings for the Win2K and NT domains and organizational units (OUs) that contained the accounts and resources I wanted to manage. I also configured default user-account settings and created a general user template that specified a home directory and drive for each new user. The Configure tab included options to create AD objects that I wanted the product to apply to each new user account when I imported a user list. I also configured UserManagemeNT Professional’s Username syntax specification option, which lets the product automatically convert a user’s full name to whatever user-account naming standards you want to use. For example, if your naming standard is lastnamefirstnamemiddleinitial, you can configure the Username Syntax Specification so that when you type John F Smith, UserManagemeNT converts the name to SmithJohnF.

After I completed the configuration, my next step was to create user accounts. To create an individual user account, I used the Create user tab, which lets you create one account at a time. This tab gave me a full view of the group membership, OU, domain, and home server information that I’d specified on the Configure tab. The Create user tab uses the product’s Username syntax specification, so I simply typed a full name in the appropriate boxes and UserManagemeNT Professional automatically converted the name and entered the username in the Username field. After I created the new user account, I opened the Win2K AD manager but couldn’t find the account under the AD USERS folder (in which the account would typically reside if I’d created it manually). However, the username appeared in the domain users group, and I could use the account to log on normally. Tools4ever’s technical support group responded promptly to my query about the account’s location; to correct the problem, I simply needed to use the Create user tab’s Domain drop-down box to select the OU, rather than the top-level domain, as the domain for new accounts.

Next, I tested UserManagemeNT Professional’s ability to search any configured domain for a user or group’s ACL permissions. I went to the Search permissions tab (which Figure 1 shows), selected a user from a domain group, selected the option to search for any permission for this user, then selected the directories I wanted to search. The tab included filters that let me customize my search (e.g., search for a specific permission, include permissions of all group memberships, search subdirectories). My search results returned a complete list of directories and files and the ACL permissions on each. I could print the results or export them to a text file.

Creating many user accounts one by one from the Create user tab can become tiresome. My favorite function—and, I imagine, the product’s most popular and most used function—was the Import function, which lets you create user accounts in bulk. The Import function lets you import and assign names, addresses, phone numbers, and AD information during the Import process. UserManagemeNT Professional’s Import tab, which Figure 2 shows, let me access the UserManagemeNT Import module, and this module’s power and flexibility didn’t disappoint me.

My goal was to import a long list of users and user-account settings (e.g., home directory location, group membership, AD settings) into my Win2K domain. The first step in the process was to create a delimited text file with the information I wanted to import. I used a spreadsheet program to create a comma-delimited text file that listed 500 first and last names. Although I created a simple list for my tests, the more information that you can include in the import file, the better—especially if your network uses AD.

One of the primary problems with creating an import file is the quality of the source text file. For example, when your user-list text file originates from a foreign or legacy system, the file might include unwanted extra characters. If you try to import such a file as is, those extra characters might cause formatting problems and cause the Import function to insert incorrect information into the user-account template’s fields. Typically, this type of problem would require a large amount of hand editing to reformat the source prior to import. However, UserManagemeNT Import offers robust functionality for configuring import source files: The Import function’s powerful and dynamic filtering capabilities can detect and remove unwanted characters or lines of text prior to the import process. UserManagemeNT Import quickly imported my 500-name test file and used the Username syntax specification to combine the last and first names from my list into lastnamefirstname format.

UserManagemeNT Professional includes several other useful functions. Manage passwords lets you reset passwords for one or more users. Move users’ resources lets you move users’ home drives, profile or logon script paths, and global group memberships to another server. Remove user lets you remove one or more user accounts and includes options to simultaneously remove the deleted users’ home directories and Exchange Server mailbox accounts. Log lets you log major operations and errors within UserManagemeNT products. For example, when you create or delete user accounts (including accounts that you create through the Import module), the product displays the date, time, action, and username of the person performing the action and records this data as a line entry in a plain-text log file.

Because I found the Import module to be so useful, I expected the same list-processing functionality to work for the other major functions (e.g., Remove user). These operations often involve many user accounts and would benefit from the ability to process information lists. I was slightly disappointed to find that only the Import function could import information from a source file; however, as of press time, Tools4ever has added a Mass Delete function to UserManagemeNT Import.

UserManagemeNT Professional and Import are valuable products for any Win2K or NT installation that has many user accounts, especially accounts that change frequently. The Import module was my favorite; I’m a big fan of using scripts to process repetitive tasks. Often, account administrators receive new user information (e.g., locations, group memberships, telephone extensions) in file format, and the Import function can process these types of lists, thus letting you create new accounts and add necessary user information—including AD settings—to those accounts in one process. The Professional product appeared to be extremely stable and did a good job of searching and relocating network objects. The ability to move user resources is helpful for companies with multiple locations. UserManagemeNT Professional’s ability to increase your account-management productivity most likely will result in cost savings for your organization.

UserManagemeNT 5.3 Professional and Import
Contact: Tools4ever * 516-482-4414 or 866-482-4414
Web: http://www.tools4ever.com
Price: $1782.50 for a network of 500 to 1000 users (price is for the first module purchased; contact vendor for discounted pricing of additional modules); includes 1 year of support; licenses for less than 500 and more than 1000 users are also available
Decision Summary:
Pros: Powerful and useful Import functionality
Cons: The Move users’ resources and Remove user functions don’t offer multiple account processing as the Import function does