KACE Networks' KBOX IT Management Suite 2.1 appliance helps IT pros at small-to-midsized businesses (SMBs) more efficiently deploy and maintain software, manage patches, and assess vulnerabilities. Targeted at companies with up to 10,000 nodes, the 1U rack-mounted appliance comes in two models. I tested the KBOX 1100, which can handle a recommended maximum of 5000 nodes.

Setup was simple and intuitive. The KBOX integrated easily into my Windows network using a single static IP address. A convenient Web interface enables remote setup and administration, letting me see all devices on my network and view the details of each machine. The KBOX ships with Free BSD, the open-source OS that the software runs on.

I used KBOX's client application?Online Representations and Certifications Application (ORCA)?to test software deployment. The KBOX integrates with Active Directory (AD), and I easily deployed software updates to all the nodes in my network.

Open Vulnerability and Assessment Language (OVAL) compliance gives SMBs functionality typically found only in high-end products. The security test features are thorough, and the scans were quick, taking about two minutes per machine during my test. The detailed, easy-to-read summary of vulnerabilities is viewable in HTML as well as being available in more portable PDF and comma-separated value (CVS) formats.

The feature-complete Help Desk module lets you assign tickets, route problems to a technician, and view a ticket history. However, I would have liked the ticket assignment and resolution capability to integrate with Outlook's task list or another task management system. And, in most detail areas, the KBOX supports only Windows. For example, the Network tab shows all machines and devices, but detailed information about non-Windows machines doesn't appear in other sections.

I was impressed with KACE's extensive customer support, which includes JumpStart setup and orientation, during which KACE works with the customer for several days. JumpStart is included in the purchase price, which starts at $7500 for 100 nodes. RDP support lets KACE professionals connect directly to a client to diagnose a problem, and customers also have access to extensive resources on the KACE Web site. The KBOX is an affordable, compelling solution for SMBs looking to help their IT pros become more efficient, and I recommend it.

Summary
KBOX IT Management Suite 2.1

PROS: Affordable; simple setup; easy-to-use interface; OVALcompliant
CONS: Works only with Windows
RATING: 4.5 out of 5
PRICE: Starts at $7500 for 100 nodes
RECOMMENDATION: Recommended for SMBs that want to automate hardware and software maintenance.
CONTACT: KACE Networks * 888- 522-3638 * www.kace.com

—Michael Cassens