Product review: Express 2000 adds solid Y2K features

Software metering offers network managers several significant advantages. It can help pinpoint those applications that deserve the highest priority when it comes to load-balancing and applying updates; it can ease software licence management; and it can help to determine a network's year 2000 compliance status. WRQ's Express 2000 Software Manager 4.0 addresses the immediate need for year 2000 certification, as well as the ongoing need for application management.

Express 2000 offers strong inventory and metering functions that will allow managers to inventory all hardware and software on the network and determine year 2000 compliance. But be careful: Express 2000's features may seem confusing at first, so you need to follow the documentation closely to ensure you understand all the components.

The one feature I found that really makes Express 2000 stand out is its exceptional reporting capabilities. Although all software metering applications offer reporting features, Express 2000's implementation is richer and easier to use, and creates more meaningful reports. Preconfigured reports allow you to select the information you want to generate. For example, you can indicate that you want a report of all unused applications and their locations, which will help you to determine whether to continue offering support for outdated applications.

The product's reporting capabilities will prove important to network administrators labouring to bring their networks into year 2000 compliance. Reports show you which are the most-used applications and which have the highest priority for year 2000 certification. And Express 2000 also generates reports suitable for upper management, with graphics showing the progress made by the IT department.

Reports can be printed out or exported to Microsoft Word or Excel, or to HTML. A post-consolidation capability running as a Windows NT service will automatically export selected reports to HTML, so you can post daily updates on your intranet.

The Express Console is a Windows Explorer-like interface used to manage all aspects of Express 2000. It lets you organise workstations by groups, users, applications, and machines.

You will need at least one NT 4.0 server or workstation to maximise your use of the functionality of Express 2000, but either a Windows 95, Windows 98, or NT computer can be used for the administration console. Network clients can be any version of Windows, from 3.x to NT 4.0.

I installed the Express 2000 Enterprise Services on my NT 4.0 server, and I installed two Windows 98 test systems on the client. Setting up Express 2000 requires closely following the documentation, especially when preparing it for widespread deployment.

The client software can be loaded through a log-in script, which allows you, from the Express Console, to manage all machines on the network.

You can configure the inventory scanning to either low impact or high impact. By default, it is set to scan a client for 10 seconds, wait for 30 minutes, scan for another 10 seconds, and so on. Although it will take several days to complete the inventory, using these intervals will help reduce the impact on the network and client.

I chose to have Express 2000 completely scan all of my test computers. It will take a few minutes to scan a 4Gbyte drive, and less if it's only half-full. Once the inventory process is complete, you can start using the product's reporting tools, performing year 2000 tests, and metering your software.

Using Express 2000's software-metering capabilities, you can disallow the use of applications that are not year 2000 compliant.

Additionally, if a user attempts to use an outdated application, the network manager can create a pop-up message that will point the user to a URL on the company intranet that will allow the user to download an upgrade, call the system administrator, or simply inform the user as to whether the application can be run. In this way, users may receive updates on the intranet rather than getting them from the Internet.

When you select your configured applications, you can see their year 2000-compliance statement and add your own compliance notes to it.

I was impressed with Express 2000's extensive knowledge base, a collection of compliance information about many business and popular applications. At the time of this review, there were 7300 applications in the knowledge base, representing 1200 vendors.

Express 2000's knowledge base makes it easy to determine the current compliance status of the applications available on your network. Furthermore, WRQ offers a dedicated staff of 16 full-time employees whose sole job is to research applications and create monthly updates. These updates are available to Express 2000 customers on the company's Web site.

In addition, Express 2000 will test your hardware by performing the rollover and leap-year tests. But unlike some hardware-testing tools, Express 2000 will not provide patches for noncompliant BIOSs. This is because most BIOS manufacturers do not like the idea of a TSR fix because it isn't guaranteed or secure.

Instead, Express 2000 will direct you to the URL of the BIOS manufacturer, allowing network administrators to download the official patch (if available) for the specific BIOS type and version. It is also important to realise that BIOS tests do not work on NT systems, because NT protects the hardware with the Hardware Abstraction Layer.

The version of Express 2000 I tested offered no capability for data-file scanning. However, WRQ is now distributing NeoMedia's Adapt PC2000 spreadsheet and database tool as part of the Express 2000 product for an added price of $US36 for each seat. This makes it a well-rounded product for companies looking to integrate software metering and inventorying with a great year 2000 tool.

Dennis Williams ( is a free-lance writer and product consultant in Alpine, UtahThe Bottom Line: Very GoodExpress 2000 Software Manager 4.0This software-metering tool offers a full, strong set of features, adding in year 2000 functionality.

Pros: Access to extensive year 2000 knowledge base for compliance testing; preconfigured reports available for management or technical staffCons: Lacks year 2000 data-scanning capabilitiesWRQ; http://www.wrq.comPrice: $US1237.50 for 25 usersPlatforms: Server: NetWare 3.x, 4.x; Windows NT 3.x, NT 4.0. Administration console: Windows 95, Windows 98, NT 4.0. Client: all Windows platforms

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