Windows NT users who are weary of grappling with the operating system's multiple management facilities are turning to third-party products that combine the functions of several utilities in one package.
That is because, with the exception of System Policy Editor, Microsoft "hasn't significantly enhanced the baseline Windows NT management utilities for the past two years," says David Sheridan, an instructor at TechTeach International Inc. in Arlington, Virginia. Tech-Teach offers Windows NT training classes.
System Policy Editor replaced an earlier, more unwieldy utility in Windows NT 3.51 to let administrators restrict and modify Windows NT Workstation and Windows 95 desktop configurations.
"Microsoft has left a lot of critical items off Windows NT administration, and the ones they do address are a pain to use," sysd Scott Rackliffe, assistant vice president of information systems at Farm Credit Financial Partners in Massachusetts.
For example, to discover the trustee rights of a group or a user, Rackliffe says he must go into File Manager and highlight a directory, select and call up the permissions object and then repeat the process for each directory.
Last year, Rackliffe's biggest complaint was the dearth of tools to manage Windows NT Server domains and the file servers themselves.
Users turn to third parties to circumvent problems such as how to meld various management facilities into a single interface, manage disk quotas and restrict concurrent log-ins.
One popular tool is Hyena, from Adkins, Texas-based Adkins Resource Inc. It shipped in March and costs US$99 for a single-user license and $699 for a site license. Hyena melds several of Windows NT's basic management functions into a browser interface. Hyena lets administrators manage user accounts, servers and workstations on the network.
Competitors include Computer Associates' Cheyenne division in Roslyn, New York, which sells the ArcServe backup software, and CA itself, in Islandia, New York, which offers Unicenter for NT, an integrated scheduling, security and backup package. Intel sells LANDesk, a set of administration tools for Windows NT.
Peter Tagatac, a Windows NT engineer at Merrill Lynch & Co., a brokerage firm in New York, calls Hyena an "invaluable tool" that saves him hundreds of configuration and setup hours each month.
"Hyena is the best product on the market right now for melding the functionality of several management utilities into one," Tagatac says.
He said he no longer opens up multiple, separate utilities to perform routine functions such as tracking active sessions and creating shares to make directories accessible to all users on the network. "The load times for each of the Microsoft utilities are too long for a large environment. Considering that we now have 5,000 users and are growing to 28,000 within a year, the time savings is phenomenal," he said.
Later this year, Microsoft will buttress its own management capabilities when it ships the Microsoft Management Console (MMC), an add-on package that will provide users with a unified mechanism to manage the Windows NT Servers and services.
"Microsoft's MMC will unify many of the bits and pieces of the operating systems. But it's eventual, not immediate," says David Strom, president of a consulting and testing firm in Port Washington, New York.
MMC will ship with Microsoft's Internet Information Server 4.0 in the third quarter and eventually will ship with every Windows NT-based product.