PrefixNE 3 review
PrefixNE is a network-management system. The complete software set contains four modules: the core management module reviewed here and three optional modules dealing with computer control and patch management, end-point security and application policy enforcement.
The software architecture has three components. There’s a software agent installed on each managed system, a repository installed on a Windows Server system, and one or more management console systems. The software agent provides the interface between the host system and the other components, handling all communication between them, and executes various control and inventory management functions. The software demands very little in terms of resources, and the impact on managed systems will be minimal.
The management module not only provides core support processes for the other modules, but also essential network-management services such as licence monitoring, hardware and software inventories, system usage, assistance and reporting.
Collecting information about network assets is only half the job, and comprehensive reporting options are needed if the results are to be useful. PrefixNE provides a wide range of reports that can be exported as ordinary text files or printed directly. The system provides a complete inventory audit of all the hardware and software on the network, and can also provide subsets of information, such as all the systems with Xeon-class processors. It retains historical information, allowing it to produce reports detailing hardware and software changes over time.
Since the system operates with agents installed on every managed system, it’s able to update its information in real-time, which in turn allows the management console to offer a wide range of monitoring facilities. With this information an administrator can easily identify a problematic system, such as a server with low available memory or high utilisation. Potential security risks such as insecure shares can be identified in good time, too. The agents can also send security log and hardware alerts to the central console, ensuring problems can be identified and dealt with as soon as they arise. General status displays are available, too.
The agent software can also provide two-way communication between a user and a management console operator. The user can send a message to the console using the agent software, while the console operator can send messages to the agent, which in turn generates pop-up messages to the user.
PrefixNE’s pricing structure is unusual. The total cost of the software is spread over three years, paid monthly according to the number of PCs and the modules involved. A basic PrefixNE management installation on a 100 PC network would typically cost £1 per PC per month. All support and upgrades are included in the price: the standard support package provides telephone technical support in normal office hours over the three-year period.
There are a number of network management systems available for Windows networks – NetSupport DNA and Vector’s Asset Management software, for example, offer similar asset-management facilities – but PrefixNE offers a useful combination of inventory and monitoring processes that could well be all that’s required.