AutoProf adds more extensions to Windows Group Policy

Management vendor AutoProf will this week add nearly a dozen extensions to its lineup of software that provides users with policy-based security and administration through Microsoft's Group Policy technology.

Policy Maker Professional 2.0 includes 11 new extensions to Microsoft's Group Policy Management Console snap-in. Group Policy -- which is supported on Windows 2000, Windows XP, and Windows Server 2003 -- works in conjunction with Active Directory and allows administrators to manage and customize desktop and server settings based on a set of policies stored in the directory. A single Group Policy extension can include hundreds of individual settings.

With this new crop of extensions, AutoProf has added a power management capability and new controls for tightening security, especially over local accounts stored on desktops.

"With Group Policy you don't need to have a programmer do your rollout of desktop changes. With Active Directory you can put this computer into this group and this policy will apply," says Bill Van Acken, senior IT specialist for Bemis Co, which manufacturers flexible packaging mostly for the food industry. Van Acken said Policy Maker will eventually help manage 5,000 desktops and 600 servers.

With Policy Maker 2.0, Van Acken hopes to manage more user rights, such as local administrator settings.

With 2.0, Policy Maker allows users to manage local accounts on a desktop, giving them the ability to control local administrator accounts such as changing passwords or creating a roster of passwords that change on a rotating schedule -- to eliminate predictable passwords that could be easily guessed by hackers.

AutoProf has also added a policy for local groups that allows users to control such functions as administrative rights based on who is signing onto a particular machine.

In addition to the security focus, AutoProf has included power management options on desktops so power consumption can be controlled, especially for machines that are left on continuously. AutoProf worked on the power controls with Energy Star, a government-backed program that helps businesses and individuals protect the environment through energy efficiency. Energy Star officials claim power management on desktops can save up to US$51 per machine per year. AutoProf's Group Policy extension works with both global power and power scheme settings in Windows.

"There is no centralized capability to manage this in Windows and it is not something you can script," says Erik Voskuil, chief technology officer of AutoProf.

AutoProf's extensions to Group Policy compete with similar tools from FullArmor, NetIQ and Quest Software, which mostly offer Group Policy management tools as alternatives to the Microsoft Group Policy management software supported by AutoProf.

Policy Maker supports Windows 2000, XP and Server 2003 operating systems and all versions of Outlook, Office, and Internet Explorer.

Policy Maker 2.0 is priced at US$14 per user per 1,000 desktops.

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