An Instant Suite of Tools for Installing Windows NT

Hands On: Raxco Software’s InstaNT Pro

With InstaNT Pro, Raxco Software Inc. has packaged a suite of products for enterprise installations of Windows NT. Within the suite are tools for administering, maintaining and monitoring Windows NT across the enterprise that are every Windows NT administrator’s dream.

We installed InstaNT Pro on a server running Windows NT 4.0 with Service Pack 4. Three Dynamic Link Libraries (DLLs) caused us trouble during installation: NTWDBLIB.DLL, CTL3D32.DLL and MSVCP50.DLL. The installation seemed to go well but when running the utilities these DLLs were reported as missing or improperly installed. All three can be downloaded from the support section of Raxco’s Web site along with instructions for resolving problems. Raxco reports that these DLLs and the associated installation problems will be corrected in the product’s next release.

InstaNT Pro is composed of nine utilities, of which four stood out: PerfectDisk NT, ERDisk, ScanNT Plus and Remotely Possible.

PerfectDisk NT, a disk defragmentation utility for File Allocation Table and NT File System disk devices recognized under Windows NT, boosts disk performance. PerfectDisk NT optimizes the disk by first reordering or optimizing files based on frequency of use. Seldom used files move toward the outside of the disk. Fragmented and likely to be deleted files that were recently created are moved toward the center of the disk. This positioning optimizes the way in which files are organized to reduce read and write time to the disk. PerfectDisk can run as a service and can be set to run at different priorities or set to be scheduled for off-peak times.

ERDisk automatically generates emergency repair disks across a network. This component takes all the Registry information from the target computer, including the machine's local SAM database, and saves the sensitive Registry files to a centrally located system. Should something happen to a machine that requires emergency action, the saved files can be copied to a floppy disk and used in the recover process. Clicking the ERDisk admin utility remotely restores the computer's damaged Registry across the network and reboots it after repair. Collecting the Windows NT Registry for all the Windows NT systems on a network is difficult, but ERDisk provides an automated way to collect this information during off-peak hours via its built in scheduler. Simply specify the time it should run and the computers you want backed up.

ScanNT Plus is a password security monitor. The software automatically tries to break into your network by testing each account's password against a standard dictionary. If the password is in the dictionary, it gets flagged for administrator action. The dictionary can be modified so site-specific common words, such as a company name or location, can be added to the scan.

Remotely Possible is Raxco's version of PC remote control along the lines of pcAnywhere32 from Symantec Corp. (www.symantec.com). Remotely Possible made it easy to reach across the LAN or WAN, or use a modem, to take control of another system’s desktop. The ability enables helpdesk operators to resolve potential problems with a remote system that is also running Remotely Possible. Although the user interface is somewhat clunky, it’s speed was impressive, appearing to be slightly faster than Symantec's pcAnywhere32. Unlike pcAnywhere32, Remotely Possible will run on Alpha Processor systems.

The remaining five segments of InstaNT Pro include InstaNT Reach, to enhance user support services; EventAdmin, to simplify Problem tracking; FileAdmin, to centralize file permissions management; RegAdmin, to manage and audit registry permissions; MultiReg, to simultaneously administer registries across multiple computers; and Virtuosity, to streamline access permissions administration.

After resolving the installation problems, InstaNT Pro performed well. We wouldn’t recommend the product for the uninitiated, but for a seasoned Windows NT administrator, InstaNT Pro could be a solid addition to the Windows NT tool set. In the future, we would like to see Raxco modify the tools to interface with the Microsoft Management Console (MMC). The MMC was released with Option Pack 4 for Windows NT 4.0 and will be the primary interface for system administration in Windows 2000. Use of the MMC interface would give this suite a uniform look and feel.

InstaNT Pro
Raxco Software Inc.
Gaithersburg, Md.
(301) 527-0803
www.raxco.com
Price: $11,950 for a combination of 50 Windows NT servers and workstations.

+ Comprehensive suite of system administration tools
+ Uniform pricing for workstations and servers
- Inconsistent user interface
- DLL problems