Deliver software and information via your intranet

As new software or product updates become available, users often ask systems administrators to install the software. If users could visit the company's intranet to download software, configure software, and receive company information, this independence would simplify administrators' jobs. Sterling Commerce's CONNECT:Manage provides new and updated applications to users and makes efficient use of a company's intranet and extranet.

With CONNECT:Manage, administrators use channels to install software and provide relevant information to users. You designate these channels as push or pull. Push, or autosubscription, channels automatically deliver information or software to users when they visit the intranet, so you won't need to update users' software manually. However, when you push updates, you must rely on users to visit the intranet, which can result in machines with different versions of the same software. Pull channels provide information only to users who subscribe to the channel.

For example, users who need weekly sales figures can subscribe to the sales channel, which will download the information to their machine.

You install CONNECT:Manage on the clients and the server. Installation was quick and straightforward. In a matter of minutes, I had the server software configured and was ready to start defining my channels.

You perform all channel administration in the Channel Administrator (go to CONNECT:Manage's main menu, and select Channel Administrator). Here, you can view the logs the software keeps and see who is currently connected to the server. To add channels to the server, you determine the type of channel: A software channel updates or loads software, a document channel lets users view any type of document (e.g., Microsoft Word document or Excel spreadsheet), and a session channel lets you use a scripting language to monitor and change a user's computer.

You create a software channel using the Software Manager. You name the channel, provide a description, and define the software that you'll use in the software channel. CONNECT:Manage lets you control the installation on the remote machine. For example, if you don't want the user to control the installation, you can define an installation option file that answers the installation questions ordinarily presented to the user.

After you set up a channel, the software automatically generates HTML code. You copy the HTML code to your intranet. For my evaluation, I selected autosubscription so that all users received a software update. My test user connected to the intranet and correctly downloaded and configured the software. Because this test user connected via a LAN, the software downloaded as fast as the server could send it. However, connecting via a dial-up connection can make a large download cumbersome.

You configure a document channel with the Document Manager. Document channels push data to users and can include almost any file format. I tested Word, Excel, Program Definition Files (PDFs), and JPEG files. I successfully subscribed to the new channel, and the file downloaded without problems.

The Session Manager administers a session channel. I used the Session Manager's Channel Administrator to verify that clients' machines had the most recent copy of an employee manual, as Screen 1 shows. I pushed an updated copy of this manual to users who had an outdated copy.

CONNECT:Manage is easy to use and effectively manages content and software delivery for users who connect to the intranet daily. However, the product's price is steep when you consider the additional time you'll spend upgrading clients who don't regularly visit your intranet.

Contact: Sterling Commerce * 972-868-5802 or 800-311-9775
Price: $5000 per server; $50 per client
System Requirements
Windows NT Server 4.0
Microsoft Internet Information Server
Microsoft Internet Explorer 3.0 or later or Netscape 3.0 or later
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