Online Forms Made Easy
Formatta E-Forms Suite
With 15 remote offices, my company was wasting a lot of time, money, andpaper on internal request forms. Each office was required to send check requests, vacation requests, and so on, to our home office in Austin, Texas. We needed an online forms solution that could streamline this process and offer some of the components that other solutions lacked, such as a way for users to sign documents, track versions of a form, and export data into Excel and SQL Server. We decided on Formatta E-Forms Suite, which bundles four components—the Formatta E-Forms Manager, Formatta Filler, Formatta Server, and Formatta Designer 7.0—into one package.
E-Forms Manager lets our IT staff update existing forms, and when a user signs an updated form, previously downloaded forms are automatically updated. This is a huge time-saver when you have over 130 users and document versions floating around. The solution also integrates nicely with our existing Active Directory environment, which eliminates having to create additional security for end users. You can also use LDAP or Formatta's own authentication. The Server component encrypts the signing process, and this means I don't have to use SSL when I publish forms. The Designer component lets me import existing PDF forms or create new ones and convert them to online forms, with minimal modifications. I've been looking for a solution like this for two years, and Formatta is the only vendor that provides everything I need in one package.
Reader: Carlton Whitmore, Systems analyst
Product: Formatta E-Forms Suite
Connect to Remote Computers Behind a Firewall
NetworkStreaming's SupportDesk appliance 300
We were looking for a better way for our company's Help desk to provide remote support to our traveling workforce. We ran into difficulties when we had to remotely connect to and fix computers for employees who were connected at client sites behind a firewall, which is a common problem with many remote-support solutions.
Our solution had been to walk users through step-by-step instructions to troubleshoot and fix the problems themselves. But with NetworkStreaming SupportDesk Appliance 300, I can connect to any machine that has Internet access and take over the machine quickly. Our users love the product because it makes their lives so much easier. A user can be in a meeting or out to lunch while a support technician accesses his or her computer and solves the problem.
Unlike other products, SupportDesk lets us connect to remote computers even when they're behind a firewall, and it doesn't require us to leave a port open solely for SupportDesk. Additionally, if a connection is lost, SupportDesk automatically reconnects with the support desk technician responsible for that job. Another benefit is that we don't need to preinstall a client on a user's machine. A client is installed while we're connected, and when the session is closed, the client is automatically uninstalled.
Reader: Asif Shaikh, Senior technical support engineer
Product: SupportDesk Appliance 300
Contact: www.networkstreaming .com
A Free Tool That Monitors, Inventories, and Reports on Your Infrastructure
Spiceworks IT Desktop
I started using Spiceworks IT Desktop when it was still in beta. It's a free tool that provides a remarkably complete view of all devices connected to my network without using any agents. I manage 50 workstations and 14 servers, so I'm a long way from having the budget, manpower, and time that the enterprise-oriented tools require. Spiceworks gives me information on computer hardware configuration; all software, services, and hotfixes on each computer; all connected devices; offline servers; low disk space; plus hardware and software and low-toner alerts. All this information is presented in an interface that's easy to understand. I'm also really impressed with the quality of the support forums and the energy of the moderators whenever I have any questions about the software. This is a great tool for anyone who needs all the basic information on his or her systems without spending a ton of money or time learning a commercial tool. IT Desktop will serve me well into the future.
(Editor's note: Spiceworks isn't limited to just a monitoring and inventory solution. The software can run reports for all installed software, trouble tickets, and disk usage. You can use predefined reports or create your own from scratch. All reports can be exported to PDF or Microsoft Office Excel formats.)
Reader: Jonathan Chorney, Systems administrator
Product: Spiceworks IT Desktop
Combine Data from Multiple Sources for Troubleshooting Anomalies
As a consultant, I've seen my share of products that help troubleshoot anomalies in network infrastructures, and they all have their good points and bad points. But Ascendview's Wild-Metrix has one thing that no other product I've seen has—the ability to combine data from any source onto one time-oriented graph, including performance counters, event log entries, and SNMP events. One of my clients was having problems with in-house ASP Web applications that would crash and then require restarting Microsoft IIS. Without WildMetrix, I had to use Microsoft's Performance Monitor and wade through the different pieces and was left with nothing to correlate them with. But with WildMetrix, I can take the same performance counter data and correlate that data on the same graph with individual Web page counters and determine what a specific Web page was doing to cause an application to crash. I've also used the software to determine when an Active Directory Group had its membership changed by correlating the security event logs on the domain controllers with service account failures from the system event log.
On one occasion, end users reported intermittent slowness with Exchange Server. WildMetrix was able to correlate event logs and system counters to determine that several antivirus and defragmentation runs were running simultaneously, which caused a low level of free RAM for the server. Without WildMetrix, seeing all of this would have been nearly impossible.
Reader: Buzzy Winter, Senior certified consultant