File management has always been a problematic, time-consuming fact of network life. Traditionally, administrators had to write and implement several batch files to automatically manage files or just leave them as is. Ilexis hopes FileRules will replace the batch files administrators have come to know and loathe. FileRules is a tool for writing and executing rules for managing files automatically.
FileRules packs a lot of punch in a small package. The program ships on two floppies and takes up roughly 5MB once installed. FileRules feels like a typical Windows application; you add, delete, and modify rules via context-sensitive menus. FileRules displays rules in an intuitive outline format.
You use FileRules by setting up rules, which FileRules executes sequentially. You can even create shell extensions (new options added to context-sensitive menus) to run these rules. You can run your rules on network drives from your computer, or you can send them out for local installation. This flexibility comes in handy if you can't always access certain machines from your computer. After you write and debug the rules, you distribute them across the network, and users run them with the included runtime executable. This procedure lets users execute your rules without installing the full version of FileRules on their computer. The runtime version disables editing, thus preventing users from tampering with your work. FileRules also lets you create a standard batch file from your rules.
To test FileRules' automation features, I set up a rule to scan all drives (local and network) for documents that users haven't accessed in 90 days. The system then archives those files with PKZIP and deletes them. To build the rule, I had to create a condition to find those files, then weed out the prespecified files based on an extension match. With the FileRules API reference in hand, I used FileRules to create the rule in just over 30 minutes. You can see the result in Screen 1. Executing the rule was a matter of selecting Run from the Start menu.
You can also use FileRules as a rudimentary backup scheduler. By using certain API calls (Backup and BackupFile), you can set FileRules to trigger NT's Backup applet. However, this method is a kludge compared with products specifically designed to schedule backups.
Unless you're working with the prefab rules, however, you'll probably spend more time learning FileRules' batch language than letting it work--the batch language seems to be proprietary, and the company has no plans to support REXX, Perl, or VBA. Building a set of effective rules requires a great deal of programming proficiency; although the language is less complex than, say, C++, you still must learn some conditions and actions and string them together with a series of IF and THEN commands. Therefore, FileRules is better suited for simple file management, such as document archiving and cache cleanup tasks. Ilexis, I'm thankful to say, offers prewritten and updated rules on its Web site. Ilexis has a rule-writing service for users unfamiliar with scripting. Unless you have special requirements, you may not even have to write any rules.
If you're a systems administrator who spends too much time managing files--and are willing to invest the hours required to learn a new API set--you'll want to install FileRules. It will make your life much easier.
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