Those who oversee Macs in a shared-user environment, such as a classroom or office, often need to control individuals' access to the data on those computers. One way to do that is by using Power On Software's On Guard 3.2, a comprehensive -- though not completely foolproof -- utility for controlling access to information.
With On Guard installed on a Mac or across a network of Macs, the administrator determines who may view, move, open, and modify files and folders on hard disks, floppies, CD-ROMs, and removable media. In addition, you can force users to save files only to specific folders; limit the number of copies a user can print; prevent access to the Chooser, System Folder, and control panels; and disable the Force Quit command and Interrupt switch. You can also configure the program to lock volumes so they're inaccessible when someone boots the Mac from another disk.
Because On Guard has so many security options, administrators who can't resist tweaking every setting to the nth degree could spend a fair amount of time configuring the program for each user -- after all, it lets you tinker with access configurations for every file on a Mac's hard drive. Thankfully, On Guard offers some help in this regard. For example, the program is preconfigured with the kind of options that are likely to be used in a typical classroom setting -- users are allowed to save documents only to their own folder or a floppy disk, but they can't move, duplicate, or make aliases of files or open any control panels. On Guard also lets you create groups of users: just configure the program once for a group and then add individual users to that group. For example, students who supervise a computer lab's network could be granted greater access than the first-grade reading group. As welcome as this flexibility is, it would be nice if On Guard included templates for other typical setups and a wizard for creating more-complex configurations.
On Guard is intended for use in supervised situations and, as such, it's not completely bulletproof -- I was able to skirt the program's protections without a great deal of difficulty. You may need to chaperon students and workers bent on defeating On Guard's guardianship.
Macworld's Buying Advice Although not secure enough for government work, On Guard is capable of handling the security needs of a supervised school computer lab or hackerless office. If the computers you control are unprotected, it may be time to put them on guard.
RATING: 4.0 mice PROS: Comprehensive protection options; preconfigured for classroom use. CONS: Configuration can be involved; not completely secure. COMPANY: Power On Software (800/344-9160, http://www.poweronsw.com). LIST PRICE: Single-user pack, US$50; ten-user pack, $250.