Product review: Enterprise minder keeps watch over Web

If you are interested in keeping track of your competitors' latest moves, your vendors' lowest prices, or your company's ever-changing policies, then I recommend you consider Enterprise Minder 3.0, NetMind Technologies' Web-page monitoring solution. Billed as a "change-detection server", Enterprise Minder lets users monitor Web pages and receive notification when pages change. Its uses are innumerable: Publishing sites can create "Mind It" links to notify users when information changes, for example, driving users back to the site. And corporate users can monitor competitors' sites for changes or monitor intranet documents to ensure users are aware of changes.

When I last reviewed Enterprise Minder I found it to be a fairly solid product exhibiting only minor flaws. The same holds true for this version, which adds monitoring customization capabilities that users will appreciate, and offers administrators greater flexibility when it comes to user setup.

Minding those Web sites

Enterprise Minder offers IT managers three big advantages: It has a small footprint, it does not require any software on the client, and it is easy to work with. Plus, it can help users glean information from the mass of data on the Internet or from a corporate intranet without feeling as though they are trying to drink from a fire hose.

The most useful improvement for the administrator is Version 3.0's capability for setting up groups, such as people with similar job titles. Whereas Version 2.0 offered templates that let you define basic default settings for users, this version's grouping feature allows administrators to control how similar users are notified of changes and also set up predefined lists of changes to monitor for these users.

End-users will experience the most extensive changes when using this version of Enterprise Minder. For example, the new Minder Wizard makes it easy to create complex logic for monitoring change on a Web page. It puts a small frame across the top of the browser and lets you click the page you want to monitor.

In addition, the Minder Wizard monitors your interaction with Web pages, tracks the information that you enter on Web sites, and observes which links you click upon to get to desired pages.

Minder Central is a one-stop shopping feature that gives users a single point of access to information about monitored sites. It lets you see which sites have changed, edit your search criteria, and organize your searches into folders.

But Enterprise Minder really kicks in once a user has reached the page he or she wishes to monitor. The Monitor Wizard allows the user to select several methods for monitoring content on the site. For my tests, I chose to track a stock price, and Enterprise Minder alerted me whenever the price fell below a targeted threshold.

I liked the way the Monitor Wizard numbered all of the elements on the page I was interested in, letting me create fairly complex criteria for defining change on the page. This way, users can control how often they are notified of changes.

Further, Enterprise Minder's Persistent Search will perform a search on a variety of search engines and let you know when the results change, which could actually improve the usefulness of search engines. For example, you can look for software to help you perform a task and be notified when new products appear on the market.

Room for improvement

Enterprise Minder does suffer from some minor drawbacks. For example, administrators will find that few improvements have been made to the product's administrative capabilities. Administrators will still have to manually edit a configuration file to make any changes to Enterprise Minder's basic settings, and the process of querying the database storing user and change detection information is still very much a manual one.

Also, Enterprise Minder would benefit from the addition of a browser interface for changing configuration settings and some security for setting up monitoring. With this version, anyone can set up monitoring for a given user, creating the potential for bombarding a user with useless information.

I also would have liked it if Enterprise Minder included some canned queries to help the administrator gain insight into what is happening in the Enterprise Minder database.

I installed the product on a Windows NT server. The setup was easy, but if you don't get the settings right, it won't start. Make sure you use the "Test Settings" feature at the end of the install before you try to start the Enterprise Minder server.

All in all, I liked Enterprise Minder; it does what it claims to do quite well and is easy to work with. Aside from some configuration and security limitations, I would recommend Enterprise Minder to any company that wants to monitor its own Web site or those of its competitors or partners.

(Eric Hammond (ehammond@earthlink.net) is a free-lance writer and developer at Viewmark, a Colorado-based new media design company. Previously he was a technical analyst at the InfoWorld Test Center for two years.)The bottom line: very goodEnterprise Minder 3.0This robust Web-page monitoring solution is well-suited for companies that want to monitor changes on their own Web site, as well as the Web sites of their competitors or vendors.

Pros: Can create complex logic for monitoring a Web page using Minder Wizard; offers single point of access to information about monitored sites.

Cons: Needs browser-based administration; no limitations as to who can set up monitoring for a given user.

NetMind Technologies Inc., Campbell, California; (888) 550-6463 (toll-free); www.netmind.com.

Price: From $US10 to $45 per seat (100-seat minimum).

Platforms: Server: Windows NT 4.0, Sun Solaris; Client: any Web browser.

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