NetSupport DNA 2.5 review
Along with its well-respected Manager remote control utility, NetSupport has been busy with its desktop management software. This latest release of its DNA brings plenty of extra features to the table. At the top of the list is the new alerting module that provides warnings via email for system events such as a new PC being added to the network, applications being installed or removed, users trying to access restricted websites or application licence counts being exceeded. It will also make a good watchdog on your PCs, as it can monitor hardware configurations, disk space, the Windows event log, file size changes and many more areas.
Installation is handled nicely. If an existing SQL database isn’t available, the setup routine will load the bundled MSDE 2000 desktop engine on the selected host system. Each monitored client requires a small utility loaded, and this is handled by a smart deployment routine that displays all discovered systems on the network and allows you to push the client to those selected. The DNA console sees some graphical refreshment, making it even easier to use. All systems with the client loaded are displayed to the left, and DNA uses dynamic grouping, so you can easily keep track of systems by OS, memory, applications, CPUs and so on. Linux systems now come into the fold too. DNA can identify them and perform hardware and software inventory on all the main distributions.
Inventory accuracy is impressive. DNA spotted all key components and more in our test clients. You can select one system from the left-hand pane and view all of its hardware or use the View panel below, select a component and see how many systems have it installed. You can also run custom queries on the inventory database, or use the selection of predefined Crystal reports to produce a printable version.
Software inventory details are pretty good too, with DNA spotting almost all applications loaded on the test clients. You can keep an eye on programs loaded on each system, and metering brings into play basic licence controls as well. You simply select an application and enforce a limit on the number of active instances. Alternatively, you can use this to block or permit access to specific apps on a per group or user basis, and if a user loads a restricted app they get a polite warning message. Software distribution relies on packages being created that consist of setup.exe or MSI files and pre-selected folders that are advertised for installation or pushed to clients. The impact on network bandwidth can be reduced using selected clients as distribution warehouses, and another new feature is the option to schedule package deliveries.
The internet monitoring and control features are good. Not only can you keep a close eye on every website being visited, but lists of permitted and restricted sites can be applied to strictly control access. It’s easy enough to do, as you pull up the list of visited sites and move them into the required list.
NetSupport DNA shows that desktop management doesn’t need to be an expensive luxury. It delivers a wealth of features, all presented in a well-designed interface with a good selection of reporting tools.