PORTSMOUTH, NEW HAMPSHIRE (07/28/2000) - With Windows 2000 starting to show up on the corporate landscape, a company called Ecora Corp. is moving to provide IT executives with a way to automatically document the configurations of the servers they deploy.
While the subject of configuration documentation is one that gets ignored in many companies, it's the lack of that documentation that pains so many IT managers when servers go down and need to be rebuilt.
Ecora says those pains are unnecessary and recently unveiled Ecora Documentor for Windows 2000, an automated system that generates plain-text documents detailing configuration settings on Win 2000 servers.
The software documents settings for Win 2000 - such as hardware specifications, service pack level, installed applications, and Domain Name System and TCP/IP settings - and Active Directory components. Reports are produced in HTML, Portable Definition Format or Word formats. Documentor also includes "Diff" reports, which log only the settings that have changed since the report was last generated. Documentor works with Microsoft's Visio 2000, a graphical tool for diagramming network maps.
Documentor is designed to help IT executives create a plain-English bible of system configurations that can be used for disaster recovery, troubleshooting, migrations or standardization efforts.
"There are two problems with documentation - getting it into a format that is readable, and remembering to do it. Ecora solves both," says Rawson Hobart, director of IS for NativeMinds, which develops a talking robot for the Web.
Hobart's Exchange server crashed 10 days after he installed Ecora. "It took only one incident to pay for the software. When the server went down, it required a few hours to restore instead of most of a day." Hobart also uses the documentation to train junior network managers to configure servers.
Ecora's competition includes Aelita Software, Fundamental Software and FastLane Technologies. But Ecora's documentation and deployment options are unique.
A version called My-Ecora is an appliance that installs behind a firewall, but the software also can be rented on a subscription basis from a service provider. The hosted system uses 128-bit encryption to ensure secure transmission of data and allows hosted storage of documentation or downloads to corporate intranets.
Documentor uses an Active X control that works with a browser. The control runs a discovery application that gathers configuration data from network servers and feeds it to the Ecora server where the documentation is written. The control creates a Windows Explorer-like interface that selects servers that users want to document. Ecora officials claim Documentor can document a server with thousands of settings in five minutes.
Pricing for Documentor in the My-Ecora enterprise model starts at $150 per server with volume discounts available. The hosted version starts at $50 for one server.