NetIntelligence 3.2 review
NetIntelligence takes a different tack on network security by moving the focus from the network core to the end points that comprise workstations, notebooks and PDAs. It’s a surprisingly simple system. Unlike many network management products that rely on a multitude of client agents, it only requires a single service installed on each monitored system to enforce a range of security measures. These include hardware and software inventory plus extensive monitoring and control of users, applications and Internet activity.
Installation won’t take long. The core services, which look after client management, general communications, update downloads and web-content checking, can be loaded swiftly on a single server or, for larger networks, distributed across multiple systems. We opted to use a single Windows Server 2003 system for testing and had the core services loaded in a few minutes. During installation you can opt to use an existing SQL Server database or load the bundled MSDE. Client installation is nicely automated as the Deployment Manager provides a network discovery routine, which is used to scan domains and push the client software to selected systems. These can be placed in groups for easier management, and you can decide on a per-user or group basis which components are to be activated. There are plenty of options and you can pick and choose from URL, application and file monitoring, file scans and URL blocking. Any changes you make are automatically scheduled to be downloaded to the selected clients.
Reporting is a major strength of NetIntelligence, as the client services pass back a wealth of information to the database about users, their systems and their activities. From the Report Manager you can pick from a diverse range of topics including attempts to access blocked URLs, hardware and software changes, logon activity and so on. The NetIntelligence fingerprint database can be used to search for and locate specific file types or dubious images on client systems.
The level of inventory accuracy is comparatively good. NetIntelligence correctly identified all key hardware components on our test clients, while the installed applications list included version numbers as well.
You can keep a close eye on user activity by creating reports on top applications by usage, URL access and the top surfers, while security reports can provide alerts on blocked URLs and configuration changes. Reports can be run once or scheduled for regular intervals and all are output only in PDF format and automatically forwarded to a single email address. In general, we were impressed with the range of reporting features although you can’t modify them to suit. Note that NetIntelligence can’t provide any real-time alerting.
For website blocking, the company provides remote access to its URL category database so all client web activity is passed on from the NetIntelligence server for checking. We did find this generates some extra Internet traffic, but at least you won’t have to download the database whenever it’s updated, although you can’t add your own lists of banned sites or customise those already provided. In fact, this inability for NetIntelligence to be customised is its only real drawback. That aside, it provides a fine selection of reporting tools, detailed inventory, solid web-blocking capabilities and tough security, allowing you to strictly control access to each component.