My network’s keeper

Since speed of reporting clearly wasn’t an issue for single systems, I upped the stakes somewhat and pointed Sitekeeper at two servers and three workstations at the same time, making sure that I was asking for live data (data gathered at the moment the scan is run) and hit Create Report. I ought to point out that I had both Sitekeeper and Diskeeper Administrator installed on a workstation, and not the nice big server that would be their more usual environment. Thirty seconds later, I was browsing the reports from three Windows XP Professional workstations, a Windows 2000 Server, and a Windows Server 2003. Did you know there have been 40 hot-fixes for Windows Server 2003 since it shipped? Nor did I, but I saw so many as I was browsing through the installed software that I was curious enough to count them.

My network's keeper

The data returned gave me the name of the software’s publisher, the software and its version number. If Sitekeeper was unable to identify the publisher, it put ‘Unavailable’ in the Publisher column and listed all the software under that; this seemed mainly to happen with small utilities and games. The important thing, of course, was that it accurately listed all the installed software on the systems in question, and as far as I could see it didn’t miss a thing. I could live with not knowing who the publisher was in the report, because the name of the software usually told me that anyway.

The report interface was good. I especially liked the drop-down combo at the top of each field that let me – to take the Publisher field as an example – elect to view the software installed by one particular publisher on all the systems included in the report. If I have a criticism of the report interface, it is that when scrolling quickly to get to a particular system you can easily fly past its first line in the report, as there is no clear demarcation for when you move from one system to the next. I would have liked a gap of a couple of blank lines between systems, but it could be argued that I should just have gone to the Computer drop-down combo and elected to view the report from only one of the systems. When viewing, the Reporting tool lets you hide report items, which sounds a bit odd at first, but I found it an advantage to hide all the hot-fixes and just peruse the application software. Obviously, you can unhide items too, and there is also an option to view the items you have hidden away.

Next, I decided to run a hardware report: hardware identification is not always easy, and I wanted to see how well Sitekeeper coped when compared to Lavalys Everest. I picked my most up-to-date system and fired it off. Both pieces of software mistook my SATA hard disks for SCSI, but Sitekeeper also had a problem with reporting the memory, which was decidedly odd – having correctly told me I had 1GB of RAM, I couldn’t see why it was insisting that the two 512MB RAM modules were only 256MB in size. Other than that, I didn’t see any major problems in what I was being told, but it falls a long way short of what a program like Everest can provide in terms of hardware data, and it is probably best to think of Sitekeeper as a fast overview rather than an in-depth exposé of what is on each system.

Aside from its reporting module, Sitekeeper comes with three other components. The first is a software deployment module that lets you deploy full programs, patches, updates and so on across your network. The second module uses technology from Shavlik Technologies and is called Patchkeeper. This little beauty lets you find out just where your systems are up to in patching terms, then enables you to fire them off where required. You can do this manually or just let Patchkeeper do it all for you. I use a Microsoft Software Update Services server on my network, so I was curious to see just what Patchkeeper would find when I aimed it at my servers. I opted for a complete check at all levels (Critical, Important, Moderate, Low and Service Pack) and I asked for a pop-up balloon to tell me when it had finished (I could have opted for an email had I wished). The check took about 20 seconds and I was more than happy to see that it reported no issues at all on either server. The final module lets you manage licensed software on your systems – after the scans have been run, you can select software items and add the licensing information. The ability to hide items comes in handy here as, for example, there is obviously no need to enter licensing information for a Microsoft hotfix.

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