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Readers Review Hot Products - 30 May 2007

Unattended Antivirus Protection for Your Organization
Panda Software's Panda WebAdmin Antivirus

As a network administrator, part of my job is keeping users' systems free of spam and viruses. To help keep client systems clean and operational, I use Panda Software's Panda WebAdmin Antivirus, which I can install, configure, and monitor over the Web using the software's centralized management system.

When I installed Panda WebAdmin, I was given several configuration options, including when the virus scan should take place and what files should be scanned. You can configure the software to send you email reports on virus events and updates. What's really great about Panda WebAdmin is that even though it scans every file and email message, it's completely invisible to users and to me.

Another aspect of the product that I really appreciate is its unattended daily updates of virus signatures. Antivirus software that I used in the past locked up my servers and was too complicated. Panda WebAdmin is a small program that does the job without a lot of bells and whistles and requires a license only for the server.

Editor's Note: Because of Panda WebAdmin's ability to manage the security of multiple systems over an Internet connection, the software is intended for administrators who have to manage numerous remote users. In addition to spam and virus protection, WebAdmin protects against adware, spyware, and system vulnerabilities. WebAdmin also provides configurable reports on virus events and updates.

Reader: John Hart
Network administrator
Panda WebAdmin Antivirus
Panda Software

Run Windows with Mac Os X
Parallels Desktop for Mac

As a graduate business student with an old Macintosh and a PC, I purchased a new MacBook Pro in search of a single hardware solution for all my OS needs—home, school, and work. I originally set up Windows Vista and Windows XP using Apple's Boot Camp software only to find that, despite its strong native performance, Boot Camp was plagued by several unfortunate inconveniences. Booting into each OS separately was painful and wasted time, and creating a separate partition for each OS proved problematic on more than one occasion. I decided to ditch Boot Camp in favor of virtualization software and eventually settled on Parallels Desktop for Mac.

With Parallels, I have near-native performance for Vista, XP, and even Ubuntu. I used Parallels' Transporter tool to migrate my PC to a Parallels virtual hard drive, and I no longer reboot to switch between OSs. Sharing an Internet connection, files, and printers between the Mac and PC is almost seamless, and with the recently introduced Coherence feature, Windows programs run side-by-side with Mac programs.

In the event that Windows encounters a system error, I simply replace the virtual hard drive with a clean copy of my latest "active" backup and I'm up and running again in minutes. Most important, with the Intel Core 2 Duo processor and 2GB of RAM, the performance slowdown is negligible. Overall, Parallels is the right solution for me and should seal the deal for hoards of potential PC users seeking a near-perfect transition to a Mac.

Reader: Eric Elben
Graduate student
Parallels Desktop for Mac

Flexible Image deployment
Altiris Deployment Solution

Altiris Deployment Solution has changed the way that I approach any and all computer projects. It lets you inventory individual computers (e.g., software, hardware, BIOS) and can easily create reports, then run jobs (e.g., software installations and uninstalls) based on a report. Altiris Deployment Solution also lets me create software images of individual applications or an entire OS. Once an image is created, I can set up an installation by dragging and dropping the image (or job) on a group of computers, then scheduling the install. Due to Altiris Deployment Solution's Wake on LAN support, I can schedule jobs to run at night when computers are turned off.

The product also lets me perform conditional installations. I can set up one job to install software, and Altiris Deployment Solution will install the proper software for each computer. For example, if I want to install an application that requires the Microsoft .NET Framework 2.0 to be installed first, I simply condition the job accordingly. If the Framework isn't installed, Altiris Deployment Solution installs it, reboots, then installs the application.

I recently changed jobs, and the first thing I brought to my new job was Altiris Deployment Solution. It's relatively inexpensive and gives an instant return no matter how you end up using it.

Reader: Damon Martin
Product: Altiris Deployment Solution

Tunnel Through Almost Any Firewall
OpenVPN Solutions' OpenVPN

OpenVPN Solutions' OpenVPN is a terrific open-source Secure Sockets Layer VPN solution that works anywhere. I've never found a situation where the software couldn't immediately tunnel straight back to the server. I've tested OpenVPN scenarios in which the server was behind a Network Address Translation firewall and the remote user was behind a random firewall, and the product still worked without a hitch. Once I had to give a presentation to a customer, but at the last minute the customer asked me to present different details. I plugged into the customer's network, tunneled back to my server through the firewall, and quickly picked up another presentation containing the information the customer wanted to see.

Setup is straightforward; within an hour, I had a remote-access solution up and running. OpenVPN is full of options and can be overwhelming to a new user. However, all those options just illustrate the breadth of the software. In one package, OpenVPN provides almost a superset of the features in just about every other VPN software product on the market. For example, OpenVPN supports dynamic IP addresses and can read certificates and private keys from smart cards that support Microsoft's CryptoAPI. It can use virtual network drivers to create secure Ethernet bridges, uses real-time adaptive-link compression and traffic shaping to manage link bandwidth utilization, and has all kinds of clever pass-through capabilities. You can use it to push the network out to the remote machine, or to pull the remote machine into the network. I highly recommend OpenVPN—and best of all, it's free.

Reader: Ed Wildgoose Director
Product: OpenVPN
OpenVPN Solutions

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