Track your messaging resources

If you need to track the use of your messaging resources, Tally Systems' Veranda is a product you need. This enterprise-level electronic messaging reporter keeps track of email, fax, and Internet resources. The software lets managers consolidate information about resource usage into a central location and run any predefined or custom report on Veranda's database.

To provide this reporting capability, Veranda lets you establish a series of resources. With each resource, you provide the name of a log file another software package generates on your system (e.g., a "sent mail" log from your Simple Mail Transfer Protocol--SMTP), or the name of a data file that contains transaction data Veranda will load and use for analysis. It also lets you perform preprocessing steps, in case you must alter the data before Veranda uses it.

The software supports many different resource types, such as Microsoft Exchange Server, Lotus Notes, proxy servers, and fax resources. Although the product promises adaptability using PRML (a proprietary data definition language), you cannot define your own resources--the product limits you to those resources that Tally Systems supports and your license allows.

The software includes a user's manual and an administrator's manual that total 536 pages. Both manuals are in Adobe Acrobat .pdf format on the distribution CD-ROM.

I ran setup.exe in the root directory of the CD-ROM. The software gave me three installation options: Report only, to access an existing Veranda database and generate reports on it; Administrative, to have full read and write access to the database; and Custom, to select components.

Veranda requires a SQL database engine to store its data. The product includes a copy of Sybase's SQL Anywhere, which is the default choice. If you use SQL Server, you must set up your database manually. I chose SQL Server, and the documentation walked me through setup without incident.

After you install the product, you are ready to configure your users and resources. This portion of the installation can be quick or time-consuming, depending on how complex you want your reporting environment to be.

To configure the software, run the main Veranda executable program from the Veranda program group on the Start menu. This program, the Veranda Enterprise Messaging Reporter (EMR) Manager, uses an Explorer-like interface for resource and report management, as shown in Screen 1.

To complete setup, you need to define your users, resources, and charges. Veranda lets you group users and resources into common folders--for example, if you have a multisite company, you can create site folders, create department folders to place in the site folders, and place users within the department folders. With resources, you can have only one level of resource folders--for example, fax resources, Internet resources, and email resources--to group the resources you define.

After you complete setup and import all the necessary reporting data, you are ready to use the Reports index tab. From this tab, you can run any number of reports on the data you collect.

When you select the Reports index tab, you'll see two generic folder classifications: Veranda Reports and Selected Reports. Veranda Reports are reports that Tally Systems ships with its product. Selected Reports are reports you choose from the Veranda Reports. To add a report to your Selected Reports, simply click it in the Veranda Reports folder and drag it to your Selected Reports folder.

After I configured the software to monitor my Exchange Server and RightFAX resources, I used several Veranda Reports to generate statistics on my email and fax usage. When I created charges associated with the different resources and grouped my users into departments, I could make comprehensive bill-back reports for each department.

Veranda is a boon for mid- to large-size organizations that need to get a handle on their messaging resources. The reporting capabilities of the software are unparalleled by any other product.

Veranda
Contact: Tally Systems * 603-643-1300 or 800-262-3877
Web: http://www.tallysys.com
Price: $2995 (50 users)
System Requirements
Client Administrator Console: Pentium PC, Windows NT 3.51 or NT 4.0 or Windows 95, 24MB of RAM, 50MB of disk space, 800 X 600 display resolution
Database Server: Microsoft SQL Server 6.5, Optional desktop database Sybase SQL Anywhere 5.0 (supplied), 50MB of hard disk space