Product review: ZAC 2001 takes shops to Y2K and beyond

Network Associates' (NA) Zero Administration Client (ZAC) 2001 includes "2001" in its name with good reason -- its value does not end when the new millennium begins.

This full-featured, year-2000 risk-assessment tool, which began shipping January 18, can find and help eliminate noncompliant hardware and software throughout a network.

ZAC 2001 is a scaled-down version of NA's ZAC suite. It includes only the utilities necessary for effective deployment of an enterprise-wide year 2000 strategy, such as enterprise inventory management and reporting, software distribution, software metering, and menuing.

In addition to these features, ZAC 2001 offers built-in remote-control capabilities, which I haven't seen in competing products, such as WRQ's Express 2000. Further, its remote-control features support 32-bit Windows environments across the network, offering easier management of desktop PCs.

Nevertheless, I found that Express 2000 was easier to use than ZAC 2001. Furthermore, Express 2000's software-metering approach lends itself better to year-2000 compliance testing than does ZAC 2001's asset-management approach. Also, I was impressed by WRQ's efforts to maintain and update its compliance database.

That said, I did find that ZAC 2001offers strong inventorying and reporting capabilities, and that it was easy to implement on either Windows NT or NetWare servers. The product's main drawbacks were an oversimplified administration console, which made it difficult to locate and use some product features, and a discovery agent that could not be hidden from view when running on client computers.

ZAC 2001 offers unlimited reporting options using Seagate Software's Crystal Reports engine, which lets you slice and dice data in any way, and offers report formats ranging from tactical to strategic.

Those who are familiar with Crystal Reports appreciate its power and flexibility, allowing users to create virtually any report from database files. However, the Crystal Reports features may be too complex for those who are not familiar with database design and report creation tools. To resolve this, ZAC 2001 also includes canned reports that are available from the administration console.

Although ZAC 2001 is being marketed primarily as a year 2000 tool, the product essentially functions as an enterprise inventory application that compares its findings to a large database of more than 6000 applications, and notifies you of your applications' compliance status. This method works to the product's advantage; once the new millennium arrives, network administrators will still be able to use ZAC 2001 for ongoing enterprise inventory, asset tracking, and management reporting.

To implement ZAC 2001, the network administrator must configure the inventory agent to run from log-in scripts. When a workstation logs into the network, the inventory agent automatically collects hardware, software, BIOS, system files, and data file information. The information gathered during the inventory is stored on the file server in a database. From the administration console, specific information can be viewed about each workstation, or reports can be created to display enterprise-wide data.

The administration console offers a Windows Explorer-like interface, and links to many year 2000 sites on the network. In the bottom left corner of the screen, a year 2000 digital clock counts down, telling you down to the second how much time remains.

After all the workstations on my network logged into the server and ran the inventory loader program, I was able to view a wide range of data, ranging from details of a specific workstation to network-wide result statistics.

In short, this is a solid inventory application that offers good year- 000 capabilities. Network managers who are interested in a tool that integrates remote-control functionality with year 2000 compliance and provides long-term management may want to consider ZAC 2001.

Dennis Williams (Dennis@ProductReviews.com) is a freelance writer and product consultant in Alpine, UtahThe bottom line: GOODZero Administration Client (ZAC) 2001ZAC 2001 adds help desk integration to its year- 000 testing and inventorying features to offer long-term management.

Pros: Strong inventory, auditing, and reporting capabilities; remote controlCons: Administration console hides features; static IP address for Windows NT servers; failed to identify many applicationsNetwork Associates: www.nai.comPlatforms: Clients: Windows 3.11, Windows 95, Windows 98. Servers: NetWare 3.12 and later, NT Server 4.0

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