Product review: DM/Suite eases Win2000 upgrade

Managing Windows NT domains is rarely easy, and the more domains you have, the more difficult they become to manage. And if you're planning to migrate to Windows 2000, you may be looking for a tool that will make consolidating your many NT domains simpler. FastLane Technologies offers a good solution to domain management and migration with its DM/Suite, which consists of three tools: DM/Administrator 4.0, DM/Reporter 2.0, and DM/Manager 4.0.

New to this version of DM/Administrator is the capability of establishing hierarchical domain structures. Using DM/Administrator, you can readily subdivide an existing Windows NT domain into smaller virtual domains, enabling you to delegate administrative privileges with finer granular control according to each virtual domain. You can also assign administrative privileges to span domains.

Additionally, you can use DM/Administrator to establish virtual domains when planning an Exchange Server rollout, consolidating networks, or migrating virtual domains to Windows 2000 domains.

DM/Reporter produces preconfigured, detailed reports that can include historical or real-time data from anywhere in the enterprise, using NT and Exchange Server as the sources for information. DM/Reporter can produce several different reports, such as one itemising established shares and installed services on each NT system on the network.

FastLane upgraded DM/Manager to include drag-and-drop functionality, as well as new treeview and listviews. This tool helps perform domain reconfiguration tasks, such as consolidating users from one domain to another. Also, DM/Manager automatically regenerates NT users' Security Identifiers (SIDs) by searching the entire NT domain structure and replacing SIDs automatically, as necessary. This component can help ease the migration from NT 4.0 to Windows 2000.

I tested DM/Suite on an NT 4.0 network and found that all of the tools were simple to work with and useful.

Using DM/Reporter to generate various reports was easy. Via the historical report selection page, I could select which data was displayed in the reports. For instance, when reviewing the user accounts across my domains, I quickly located all of the accounts for which passwords were set to never expire.

The DM/Manager interface is divided into top and bottom windows; the top window displays information about a source domain, and the bottom displays information about a target domain. Each domain window contains two window panes. The left pane displays the network tree, and the right pane displays the names and descriptions of the items selected in the left pane.

DM/Manager made it simple to move a user from one domain to another via a quick drag-and-drop technique between the window panes. And with DM/Administrator, I could manage files, printers, users, and groups and quickly assign access privileges. For instance, I easily created a virtual domain; added printers, shares, and users to that domain; then configured a user to serve as the domain's virtual administrator. DM/Administrator let me configure a fine grain of control over the virtual administrator's role -- much more control than is possible with NT alone. For example, I could limit the administrator to only editing passwords and unlocking locked accounts.

Managing nonadministrative user accounts with DM/Administrator gave me the same controls as NT's built-in User Manager. I could adjust the user's profile, log-on times, user rights, and other parameters with the same ease enabled by User Manager. Establishing and managing shares was equally as easy using DM/Administrator.

I found FastLane's DM/Suite to be a great set of tools that add functionality and control that is not possible with NT alone. Note that the suite does not support mixed networks, such as those using NT and Novell NetWare. DM/Suite's capabilities of establishing virtual domains, delegating administrative authority, and easing migrations to Windows 2000 overshadow its steep price tag.

Mark Joseph Edwards (mark@ntshop.net) is a writer and network consultant at the Netropolis Technology Group and has more than 17 years of experience in the IT industryThe bottom line: VERY GOODDM/SuiteThis program significantly increases the manageability and functionality of a Windows NT network.

Pros: Allows creation of virtual domains; eases domain migrations and consolidationsCons: Expensive; lacks support for NetWareFastLane Technologies, Halifax, Nova Scotia; www.fastlanetech.comPrice: $US25 per managed userPlatforms: DM/Reporter, DM/Manager: Windows NT 3.51, NT 4.0; DM/Administrator: NT 4.0

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