Perform routine administrative chores efficiently

If you find performing routine administrative chores such as managing Registry settings on remote computers tiresome, you're not alone. Wouldn't life be easier if you could perform simple tasks from your computer? Aelita Enterprise Suite gives you this ability.

Aelita Enterprise Suite is a collection of eight programs that help you administer your Windows NT LAN. You can administer all the computer systems in your environment if you install these programs on a central server. This method is more efficient than walking to each server and performing the maintenance on it manually.

Programs
Virtuosity is the most powerful component of Aelita Enterprise Suite. You can use this component to save network configuration information in the product's database and restore key pieces of your network configuration later, if necessary. This saved information includes information about the computers in your domain, the users and groups within the domain, shares, and access permissions. After Virtuosity stores this information in its database, you can generate reports on the data, or change the network configuration data and apply the changed configuration back to the computer system in question. For instance, you can use Virtuosity to perform mass changes to access permissions across a wide range of shared resources.

ERDisk lets you create a series of emergency repair disks (ERDs) for every server on your network and store the disk images on one server. You can automate this process with the Scheduler Wizard. After ERDisk creates the disk images, you can access them whenever necessary.

EventAdmin is an event log management and reporting tool that lets you consolidate the contents of your server's event logs. After EventAdmin consolidates the data, you can launch the product's Microsoft Access reporting component and generate reports on the data. You can also design your own reports with the data in the Access database if the stock reports are insufficient for your event log reporting needs.

Administrator Assistant Tool Kit is a collection of three programs—ScanPro, FileAdmin, and RegAdmin. You can use these programs to perform security maintenance on your NT servers and workstations.

  • ScanPro is an enterprise-level password-auditing program. When you launch this application and click Scan, the software automatically tests your users' passwords against a dictionary of common words and phrases. A graphical display shows you the results and the user's password if the software guesses correctly. ScanPro is useful when users forget their passwords.
  • FileAdmin is a security management program for your files and directories. Unlike NT Explorer, you can use FileAdmin to update security for one user or a group of users recursively through a directory tree, without affecting existing security on lower-level files or directories. For example, user James has read and write access to the C:\Temp directory but doesn't have access to the C:\Temp\Marketing directory. With NT Explorer, you can't easily give James read and write access to the C:\Temp directory and give him read and write access recursively to the subdirectories without affecting the file and directory permissions already in place. (When you add James to the C:\Temp directory and perform the recursive application to add him to the C:\Temp\Marketing directory, Explorer inserts the security permissions for the C:\Temp directory into lower-level directories and files.) FileAdmin overcomes this limitation.
  • RegAdmin lets you manage your system's Registries. With RegAdmin you can easily add, remove, and modify permissions. You can propagate changes to the security structure down through the hive without affecting security permissions already in place. This procedure simplifies certain administrative features, such as giving a user access to an entire subtree of your Registry.

MultiReg is a Registry management component that lets you view and modify the contents of the Registries on multiple workstations and servers on your network. Using an Explorerlike interface, the product presents a list of machines on your network. Then, you go through the Registry hives until you reach the key you want to modify. Or, if you want to copy Registry keys from one system to another, you highlight the key you want to copy, select the destination computer system, and select Copy key from the Edit menu.

Synchronizing NT system clocks from one server to another can be difficult. With TimeAdmin, you can synchronize your NT servers' clocks with a time server anywhere on your network. You can synchronize your administrative computer or any number of NT workstations and servers locally or remotely across your network.

With BootAdmin you can shut down one or more computer systems on your network for an orderly reboot without manually logging on to the target machine. You can couple this component with the NT Scheduler service to automatically perform system reboots during times when the server is otherwise inactive (e.g., when nobody is logged on).

Aelita Journal is a centralized task management system for the other components. You can create new tasks, edit existing tasks (the product comes preloaded with dozens of tasks; some active, others not), and delete tasks from the database. When you define a new task, you can tell the Journal component when to carry out the task and what to do with the results. In addition, you can automatically analyze the Aelita Enterprise Suite database for reporting on all activities that the various components of the suite perform. Depending on the results of the queries you perform with the Journal component, you can institute corrective actions or automatically send email to an administrator or other interested party.

Installing the Software
Aelita Enterprise Suite runs in a network environment. I installed the software on my Micronics-based dual-Pentium II server running NT Server 4.0. In addition, I used my Digital Prioris HX 590 server running NT Server 4.0 and my American Megatrends MegaRUM dual-Pentium II client computer system running NT Workstation 4.0 to test the product and its components.

Installing Aelita Enterprise Suite and its components was easy. When I inserted the product's CD-ROM into my Micronics system, the installation program automatically launched. After providing some basic information (i.e., username, company name, and location of license file), I selected the components I wanted to install. I installed all the components. The installation program asked me if I wanted to perform a standard installation or a custom installation. I opted for custom, which provides better control over the install process.

Custom installation takes longer than standard installation. The installation program launched a series of subinstall processes to install each component. For each subinstallation, I had to answer questions such as where I wanted to install the software and what subcomponents to install. Even with these minor delays, I installed the software in less than 5 minutes. Then, I rebooted my server.

Using the Software
To test the software, I ran a short test with each component. I didn't test ERDisk, because I had previously worked with the software.

To start, I used TimeAdmin to synchronize the clocks on all my computer systems. The TimeAdmin component requires the Network Time Protocol (NTP). Fortunately, I run an NTP server on my SCO UNIX machine. After launching TimeAdmin, I changed the product's settings to point it to my UNIX machine. I selected the machines I wanted to synchronize, and clicked Synchronize on the toolbar. A few minutes later, my clocks were synchronized.

After completing the time synchronization, I used the BootAdmin component to reboot my Prioris server. I scheduled a reboot for 10 minutes in the future, and I started working on other tests. As I expected, the Prioris server started its reboot process 10 minutes later.

I was particularly interested in evaluating ScanPro, a component of the Administrator Assistant Tool Kit. I wanted to see how well the software was able to guess passwords. After setting passwords on several logons on my Micronics server, I ran ScanPro. A few moments later the software completed its scan, and it guessed two of the passwords I supplied, as Screen 1 shows. ScanPro didn't guess the complex passwords, however.

The last product I tested that is worth mentioning is the Virtuosity component. Of all the components in Aelita Enterprise Suite, this component was the most complex to use. A wizard helps guide you through the component's collection and reporting stages. The reporting component, which Screen 2 shows, lets you generate detailed reports on the data you collect in your environment. After spending some time with the product's documentation, I understood how to use the software.

Useful Administration Tool
Aelita Enterprise Suite contains many programs that are useful to systems administrators. However, some of the products are esoteric. In addition, the software duplicates what a competent systems administrator can accomplish with scripts, the Scheduler service, or freeware programs available on the Internet.

You can download demonstration versions of the components from Aelita's Web site. Pricing depends on the number of servers and users in your organization.

Aelita Enterprise Suite
Contact:
Aelita Software Group * 614-336-9223
Web: http://www.aelita.net
Price: $4720 for 5 servers and 100 users; $7995 for 10 servers and 200 users
System Requirements:
Windows NT Server or Workstation 4.0 or 3.51