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netOctopus Enterprise Systems Manager

Netopia's netOctopus Enterprise Systems Manager provides software distribution, asset management, and remote configuration capabilities for Windows XP and earlier and Macintosh. Familiarizing myself with the product was time consuming. Because of confusing documentation, the initial installation took 2 hours. (I completed subsequent installations in only 15 minutes.) I also spent 3 hours reading the 876-page manual and trying menu options before getting the hang of how the program works. Manually installing agents, however, took only 5 minutes per managed machine. You can also push agents out to workstations—you just need to remember to disable Windows Firewall on XP systems.

After I conquered the learning curve, netOctopus didn't disappoint. The product maintains its own built-in relational database on an Admin machine. I found it easy to wake up and shut down machines, transfer files, send messages, change registry or computer settings, and run software and hardware inventories. Initially, the console view appeared to offer almost too much information to digest, but after spending some time with it, I found it comfortable and easy to use.

The product worked well overall, although some of my tests resulted in unpredictable results. For example, I occasionally had trouble using a group command to shut down several machines simultaneously because the systems wouldn't respond. Targeting individual machines always worked.

Compared with some other products, netOctopus is fairly lightweight—it doesn't support Active Directory (AD), for example. I wouldn't hesitate to buy the product for a small business, but larger businesses will want to look elsewhere.

netOctopus Enterprise Systems Manager
Contact: Netopia * 590-597-5400
Price: Varies by option; contact vendor for pricing
Pros: Once mastered, the program is easy to use
Cons: Installation documentation confusing; doesn't integrate with AD
Rating: 3 out of 5
Recommendation: Limited in scope but functions well within limitations; best suited for small businesses.
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