This software makes remote administration easy

KeepCooL 3.1 from PalmSun Software offers some of the same functionality as Microsoft's System Management Server (SMS) at a significantly lower price. KeepCooL can help you manage remote computer systems by taking hardware and software inventories, performing remote hard disk maintenance, distributing software, and editing remote machines' system files.

Installation Is a Breeze
Installing KeepCooL is simple. During installation, you have to select the proper hosts file for machine name resolution. (KeepCooL functions only through IP port 8126, so if you're running NetBEUI, you can't use this product.) The installation software also requires you to select a manager computer, from which you will manage KeepCooL and issue administrative commands to remote machines.

When KeepCooL's setup program ends, you have to run the NETsetup utility to set up a directory on your file server from which you can install the KeepCooL software on each of your managed computers—the remote machines you want to manage. You also have to select your managed computers and assign them to groups, which lets you apply KeepCooL functions to more than one computer simultaneously. After you complete these tasks, you are ready to start using the software.

Cool Client Distribution
Remotely distributing an application using KeepCooL is much simpler than installing software using SMS's Package Command Manager. To install an application on a remote machine, you must first install the software on your manager computer while running the KeepCooL Recorder program. The Recorder takes a snapshot of your system's configuration (including .ini and Registry settings) before the new software installation. When you finish installing the software, the Recorder takes another snapshot. From these two snapshots, the Recorder creates an installation script, which contains information about the files that KeepCooL needs to copy, where KeepCooL needs to place the copies, and what .ini and Registry entries KeepCooL needs to update. Screen 1 shows the TDistr utility, which you use to remotely install applications.

After you have installed a new application on your manager computer and the Recorder has created an installation script, KeepCooL can install the software on remote machines. On the manager computer, you specify which of your managed computers you want to have the new application installed on. Every time a managed computer starts Windows, it contacts the manager computer to determine whether KeepCooL needs to install any new software packages on the managed machine. When managed computers determine that they need an application, KeepCooL asks the remote users whether to perform the installation at that time. Users can opt not to install a package.

My testing revealed that this remote software installation process usually works, but I had problems. I used the software to install a new copy of Netscape Communicator on two machines, and the installation worked without a glitch. However, when I tried to install Office 97 through KeepCooL, the packaging software appeared to work, but some files did not copy correctly to my remote systems. I could not track down the problem, but when I ran the Recorder a second time, the problem disappeared.

KeepCooL's other applications ran without any difficulty. The inventory agents provided me with information about my remote machines' hardware and software, and the file transfer agent let me copy files to remote computers. The reboot program performed as advertised, and I even used the SNAP program to snap screen shots off remote machines.

I found KeepCooL to be a little over priced, considering that the package does not include nearly as many features as SMS (most notably, Administrator's Network Monitor and Help Desk do not have counterparts in KeepCooL). However, KeepCooL is a good, basic remote administration package that costs considerably less than SMS.

KeepCooL 3.1
Contact: PalmSun Software 512-322-5330 or 888-266-5045, Web: http://www.palmsun.com
Price: $890 for 20-user license
System Requirements: Windows NT, Windows 95, Windows 3.11 running TCP/IP 20MB of hard disk space