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Server Consolidation Software

4 products that transfer data between servers

Whether consolidating file servers is part of your plan to trim management overhead or part of your strategy to migrate to Windows 2000, you have your work cut out for you. You need to copy data to your new servers, recreate shares on the new servers, and reset permissions on the data. If you also want to move user profiles, you need to update your users' accounts to point to the new profile locations.

These tasks are time-consuming, but tools exist to make the job easier. The Windows 2000 Magazine Lab tested four server-consolidation products: Aelita Software's Aelita Server Consolidation Wizard 5.63, FastLane Technologies' DM/Consolidator 2.6.2, NetIQ's Server Consolidator 2.0, and Small Wonders Software's Secure Copy 2.0.

Test Configuration
To evaluate each product's features and usability, I consolidated three source servers' shares, user profiles, and data to one server. First, I tested the products using a Windows NT­equipped target server, then I retested them with a Win2K-equipped system. For source servers, I used two NT servers to store individual users' roaming profiles and one NT file server to store shares. I arranged the shared folders' permissions to simulate a typical corporate user environment. For target servers, I used newer and more powerful computers with more available disk space than the NT source servers. I consolidated to these servers individually to test how the products worked with the different OSs; none of the products consolidated more efficiently or effectively to one OS than to the other. I configured all the servers as file servers because the server consolidation products I tested aren't meant to consolidate domain controllers (DCs) or application servers.

To test how the products copy permissions, I created several domain user accounts and global groups on the source servers. I set the share and folder permissions to correlate with these domain user accounts and global groups. I also created a few local groups on the file servers. I then set up a few client computers and configured each to use a domain user account to log on.

Server Consolidation Wizard, DM/Consolidator, and Server Consolidator include console programs that you can install on any computer with network access to the source and target servers. In testing these three products, I used another computer on the network—a Win2K Server computer in my office—to drive the consolidation processes. I installed the products' console programs on the Win2K Server computer. You set up and manage consolidation jobs from the computer on which you install the console program. However, I/O passes between only the source and target computers to save both time and network bandwidth. As you step through job setups, these three products install agent software, which processes the consolidation jobs' I/O. Server Consolidation Wizard installs the agent only on one server (i.e., the server that you want to process the job); the other two products install agents on all servers involved in consolidation.

Secure Copy doesn't offer agent software. I installed this product on my target server to avoid introducing a third point in the copying process. This installation choice kept I/O between source and target servers and conserved bandwidth.

Aelita Server Consolidation Wizard 5.63
When I began this review, Aelita packaged Server Consolidation Wizard only with the Aelita Domain Migration Wizard product. I received the product in this format. (Currently, the vendor ships the products separately, although Server Consolidation Wizard still includes a limited version of Domain Migration Wizard to assist in local group migration.) If you only want to transfer files, folders, and shares to a new computer, you simply run Server Consolidation Wizard. However, if you want to migrate users and local groups, you need to use Domain Migration Wizard.

Installation from the product's CD-ROM onto my Win2K Server computer was simple. I selected Install Domain Migration Wizard to begin setup. Server Consolidation Wizard requires Microsoft Access. If you don't have Access, setup prompts you to install Access Run Time from the CD-ROM. Aelita provides complete print and online documentation, although I had trouble locating some of the information that I needed.

To test migration of users and local groups, I ran Domain Migration Wizard's Project Manager from the Win2K Server machine in my office. Project Manager's interface looks similar to Windows Explorer's interface and lists categories (e.g., users, global groups, local groups, computers) on the left and items within those categories on the right. I clicked New Session on the toolbar, and a wizard let me choose the source and target domains of the users and local groups I wanted to migrate. The wizard creates new local groups on the target server, then stores the group names, SIDs, and server names in an Access database for Server Consolidation Wizard to use. After the wizard finished, I viewed the session I had created and details about the users and groups that the wizard had migrated. At this point, you can edit the session.

Server Consolidation Wizard's Management view, which Figure 1 shows, also looks similar to the Windows Explorer UI. The Management interface lets you thoroughly manage the jobs you create. The UI is helpful, easy to understand, and powerful, making finding general statistics, job status, and remote-agent status easy. From this interface, you can create and delete consolidation jobs, view jobs you've already created, and change job settings.

I clicked the New Job icon to start the New Job Wizard. The wizard first prompted me to select the server on which to install the agent software and a username and password for starting the software. Because the agent software runs as a service, I created a special domain account with rights to log on as a service. When you use this product to consolidate servers, the server on which you install the agent service processes all I/O for the job. Therefore, I decided to install the service on my target server because this server wasn't yet in use as a production server and could easily handle the load.

I then configured the product's scripting features to automatically update users' profiles to reflect their new locations. I needed to copy several DLL files from the computer on which I had installed Server Consolidation Wizard to the computer on which I had installed the agent software. Then, I needed to use Regsrv32 to manually register the DLL files. When you install the agent software on the target computer, you need to install and register these files only once.

I also needed to edit the sample script that the product provided and use one of the product's utilities to list users whose account profiles Server Consolidation Wizard would update. The sample scripts assist in updating user accounts to the new user profile locations and updating embedded links in Microsoft Word and Microsoft Excel documents. You can run these VBScript and JavaScript scripts during the consolidation process. When specific consolidation events occur, such as the start or finish of file synchronization or the creation of shares, Server Consolidation Wizard calls functions—such as updating network shortcuts to point them to the new network share—that you have included in the script. These unique and powerful scripting functions can also control many product features, giving the program substantial flexibility and options for customization.

After I configured the scripting functions, I invoked the New Job Wizard again. The wizard let me choose source and target data paths, in effect letting me create and run all my jobs at one time.

The wizard then gave me logging, scheduling, and scripting options. I selected a script to update the users' profiles to the new server. I then selected Re-permissioning from several options for copying and synchronization. This choice let me update permissions for the groups I had already used Project Manager to migrate. When the wizard finished, the agent service began the consolidation process, and the wizard brought me back to the Management view. From this window, I watched the progress of each job.

After the jobs had completed, I checked several user account permissions from a workstation on the network. Server Consolidation Wizard successfully copied all files, folders, permissions, and roaming profiles to the new server.

Server Consolidation Wizard's features help make the consolidation process run smoothly. The product's ability to schedule consolidation jobs is especially helpful if you have many users and you don't want the consolidation jobs to interfere with typical operations. For example, you can schedule a job for off-hours; if the job can't complete within this specified time frame, the job stops, then continues in the next scheduled time frame. As long as the target server is running the service, Server Consolidation Wizard detects and copies file changes that occur after you begin a consolidation job. Server Consolidation Wizard also includes logging options that I found useful for troubleshooting. In addition to the included scripting features, the product offers a command-line interface, which you can use to script the consolidation process.

Setting up the product and using the included scripting features and other advanced features was complicated. However, taking the time to leverage these features and customize the process is a worthwhile endeavor. The product's extra capabilities distinguish it from the other products. Server Consolidation Wizard's interface is easy to use, the wizards are easy to understand, and the wizards' tasks are easy to view and modify. The product lets you easily monitor running jobs. At its competitive price, Server Consolidation Wizard is a good choice.

Aelita Server Consolidation Wizard 5.63
Contact: Aelita Software * 614-336-9223 or 800-263-0036
Price: $895 per source server
Decision Summary
Pros: Interface is well designed; scripting features allow advanced customization and let you point users' accounts to new profile locations; scheduling feature allows consolidation only at times you specify; the product detects and copies file changes made after consolidation begins
Cons: DIncluded scripts and scripting features are difficult to set up and use

DM/Consolidator 2.6.2
To accommodate DM/Consolidator's window size, you need to install the product on a system with a monitor capable of at least a 1024 * 768 screen resolution. Installation on my office Win2K Server machine was straightforward. DM/Consolidator's print and online documentation is clear and detailed.

FastLane designed the program interface to help step you through the consolidation process in the correct sequence. Nevertheless, knowing what to do, and when, can be difficult. The main interface, which Figure 2 shows, has three button sets: Copy Data, Full Synchronization, and Data Synchronization. Buttons are numbered within each set. Beneath these buttons, the center window shows the job queue. The bottom of the interface displays the status of different consolidation processes. DM/Consolidator updates statuses at infrequent intervals but doesn't reflect these changes on screen until you click Refresh. This feature conserves network bandwidth; however, I would prefer that the product continually update statuses and show the changes.

The consolidation process was somewhat complicated. I selected both source and target computers on which the product needed to install agent software. The program then started the Schedule service on these servers.

Selecting Remote Computer Options from the Tools menu opened the Configuration Options dialog box, on which you can change miscellaneous settings—including logging settings and folder exclusion options—for each server. When I wanted to exclude a folder from the copying process, I needed to type the folder's complete pathname, which often is very long. I changed settings once, but when I opened the dialog box to change settings again, the dialog box didn't reflect the changes I had already made.

I used the Copy Data buttons at the top of the main interface to start consolidation. I clicked 1. Snapshot, and DM/Consolidator recorded the directory structure and directory permissions sets for the servers involved in the consolidation process.

I clicked 2. Add Job to add jobs to DM/Consolidator's job queue without actually starting the jobs. Each share you want to copy constitutes a separate job. DM/Consolidator copies local groups. The product can copy file-level permissions, although this feature slows the consolidation process. You can also elect to copy permissions without copying files, a useful feature if you've used tape to transfer data but you still need to set up permissions for the data.

I then clicked 3. Replicate, selected the jobs I wanted to schedule, and selected the server I wanted to perform the replication processing. I selected my target server because this server wasn't yet in production and was more powerful than the other servers.

After the jobs completed, I used a domain user account to log on at a workstation. I successfully accessed the user's files on the new file server. All share and folder permissions were the same as they were on the old servers. Because DM/Consolidator doesn't automatically change users' logon paths or profile paths, you need to change them manually. Also, if your users connect to their files through shortcuts, you need to change the shortcut targets. These extra steps can be a problem if your network has many users. According to the vendor, DM/Consolidator 3.1, available in summer 2001, will change user accounts' paths. Meanwhile, FastLane provides DM/Developer scripting solutions to accomplish this job. The beta scripts that I tested successfully redirected users' accounts to the new profile locations.

The interface's Full Synchronization and Data Synchronization button groups keep the new server's data consistent with the old servers' data. Data Synchronization updates the target server to reflect any changes made to the source server's files. The Full Synchronization buttons perform Data Synchronization functions and copy file and folder permissions changes.

Resynchronizing seems like a lot of extra work, but the feature is useful if your consolidation takes a long time and users change data while the consolidation is taking place. To keep the files, folders, shares, and permissions up-to-date on the new server, you can resynchronize instead of rerunning the entire process. DM/Consolidator tracks every job you've run, even deleted jobs. DM/Consolidator traces which files changed after the job ran and copies only the changed files. These features help administrators who need to consolidate multiple servers or assign consolidation tasks to other employees. Any user with backup operator rights can execute consolidation jobs (although only a user with administrative permissions can install the product).

Several features help you verify the consolidation process's success. The product uses an Excel spreadsheet to report on specific or all jobs. DM/Consolidator also provides snapshot, replication, and scheduling logs, as well as a console-program error log.

DM/Consolidator's UI disappointed me and complicates the server consolidation process. Unless you know exactly which steps DM/Consolidator requires next, you can easily get lost. (According to FastLane, DM/Consolidator 3.0 will improve the UI.) The program also lacks a command-line interface. Because you want the product to connect users to the new server quickly and with as little downtime as possible, the product's inability to automatically update user accounts to the new server path is also a drawback.

Overall, DM/Consolidator is a satisfactory product for copying files, folders, shares, and permissions to a new server. However, DM/Consolidator makes the consolidation process more difficult than it needs to be, and the product's price is slightly higher than the other products' prices.

DM/Consolidator 2.6.2
Contact: FastLane Technologies * 902-421-5353 or 800-947-6752
Price: $995 per source and target server
Decision Summary
Pros: Provides scripts to help you point users' accounts to new profile locations; tracks every job you've run and copies file and folder permissions changes made after consolidation begins
Cons: UI complicates the server consolidation process; lacks a command-line interface

Server Consolidator 2.0
Server Consolidator installation to my office Win2K Server computer was straightforward, and NetIQ provides clear, detailed documentation in print and online formats. When I inserted the CD-ROM, an installation screen popped up inside my system's Web browser. This page gave me access to the product's setup program, online documentation, and technical support links.

Server Consolidator includes a limited version of NetIQ's Domain Migration Administrator. This program helps Server Consolidator copy local groups between servers. The Domain Migration Administrator and Server Consolidator interfaces are Microsoft Management Console (MMC) snap-ins.

I used Domain Migration Administrator first to copy local groups to the new computer. I then opened Server Consolidator. From Server Consolidator's main page, which Figure 3 shows, you can choose between Migrate Files, Folders, and Shares; Migrate Printers; and List Tasks Completed. Clicking one of these links brings up a wizard.

I clicked Migrate Files, Folders, and Shares. The wizard started and gave me three options: Migrate now, Save migration task and migrate later, and Test the migration settings. I chose Migrate now. The wizard asked me for the source and destination computers and the source and destination paths on the servers. Then, the product installed agent software on each server.

The wizard led me through several options' setups. I specified what the program would do if it found duplicate files, folders, or shares. I also limited the directory depth of folders I wanted the product to copy, and I selected the server to process the migration job. Finally, the wizard prompted me to enter a username with local logon rights and the username's password. The wizard is easy to understand and use. However, I was disappointed that I couldn't run multiple server consolidation jobs simultaneously; the product copies only one share at a time.

After the wizard finished, the consolidation process began. The console displayed a Domain Migration Administrator Agent Monitor dialog box, which contained job progress and summary information. The program updates this information every 5 seconds.

As a final step, I returned to Domain Migration Administrator and ran a wizard that adjusted the new server's ACLs. The wizard matched the SIDs of the local groups that I'd migrated through Domain Migration Administrator with the permissions that I'd copied through Server Consolidator. The program copied all files, folders, shares, and permissions to the new computer without problems. I used the domain user accounts I had created earlier to connect to the shares. Each user account I tested could access its private folders and all public shares.

Server Consolidator can also copy printer shares and drivers. I set up a printer pool of two print devices and two logical printers (i.e., software interfaces) connected to one print device. The two logical printers had different priority levels and different permissions for different global groups. Clicking Migrate Printers in the MMC Server Consolidator snap-in started the Printer Consolidation Wizard, which was similar to the Migrate Files, Folders, and Shares wizard. I selected the source and target computers, then selected which printers I wanted to copy from the source. The process was quick, and when it was complete, all share settings, permissions, and other properties worked correctly on the new server.

Like the other products, Server Consolidator logs status and errors. You can locate these log files on the computer you have selected to process the migration jobs. I also viewed reports of all jobs I had run. The reports listed copied paths, short job summaries, and each job's start and end times.

Like Server Consolidation Wizard and Secure Copy, Server Consolidator has a command-line interface. This feature is useful for scripting the server consolidation process. For example, you can use a script to schedule a consolidation that keeps a mirror file server up-to-date every evening. Server Consolidator doesn't copy duplicate files. If you've backed up your files and restored them to the new server, you can use Server Consolidator to copy only the shares and file permissions.

Server Consolidator's interface is simple and easy to understand, but I prefer more status feedback than the product provides. Another drawback is the product's inability to easily consolidate more than one share at a time. The product also doesn't automatically update users' accounts to point them to the new profile locations. However, Server Consolidator transfers printers, files, folders, shares, and permissions well, and the product's price is competitive. If you want to migrate printers in addition to data, Server Consolidator is worth the investment.

Server Consolidator 2.0
Contact: NetIQ * 408-856-3000 or 888-323-6768
Price: $895 per source server
Decision Summary
Pros: Functionality for migrating printers; easy-to-use UI
Cons: Doesn't point users' accounts to new server locations; copies only one share at a time

Secure Copy 2.0
Setup from Secure Copy's CD-ROM onto my target server was simple and straightforward. To accommodate the program's window size, you need to install the product on a system with a monitor capable of 800 * 600 screen resolution. Secure Copy's interface is busy but easy to figure out. The interface comprises two tabs. The first tab, Secure Copy, contains options for creating a job, as Figure 4 shows. The second tab, Saved Jobs, lists saved jobs. Double-clicking a job in the Saved Jobs tab's list brings up the job's settings in the Secure Copy tab.

Because I hadn't yet run any consolidation jobs, I configured the settings from scratch. I selected the folders I wanted to copy from the three source computers and selected the destination folder on the target server. I then set copying options, such as synchronization options, name-conflict options, and an option that let me copy local groups from the source server to the destination server. The ability to copy local groups is useful if you've organized your global user groups into local groups on your file servers. After I set the options, I saved the job.

Secure Copy let me test the settings before I copied the data. This helpful feature showed me the number of files to be copied, the total size of the files to be copied, and any errors that the consolidation process might encounter in the process. In the dialog box for previewing consolidation results, I clicked Run Now. The dialog box that appears during the file-copying process is similar to the preview dialog box. The process's dialog box shows the number of files copied so far, the total size of those files, the progress of the current file, and errors.

When the process was complete, I logged on to a client workstation and checked permissions and shares on the new target file server. Secure Copy had transferred all files and folders and had correctly set all permissions. The product also transferred the local groups that I had set up on a source server.

Like Server Consolidation Wizard and Server Consolidator, Secure Copy offers a command-line interface and lets you customize schedules and logon scripts. And like all the other products I tested, Secure Copy offers logging abilities.

I liked Secure Copy's UI: One window controls the entire consolidation process. The vendor doesn't provide print documentation, and online documentation takes the form of Help files. However, the Help files are useful and easy to understand. Because the UI is so clear and logical, the product's lack of conventional documentation isn't a serious problem.

Secure Copy doesn't modify users' accounts to point to the new profile locations, which means you need to make changes manually or use another product to make the changes. However, Secure Copy is a great product for copying files, folders, shares, and permissions. Secure Copy doesn't use agent software that you need to install on your production servers. However, this approach requires you to either use twice the network bandwidth that products with agent software use or install the entire product on a file server. Nevertheless, at a price well below that of the other products, Secure Copy is worth considering.

Secure Copy 2.0
Contact: Small Wonders Software * 407-248-2558
Price: $299 per source and target server; price discounted for multiple servers
Decision Summary
Pros: Easy-to-understand UI; low price
Cons: Doesn't point users' accounts to new server locations

A Consolidated Comparison
Each product successfully copies files, folders, shares, and permissions to Win2K and NT servers. However, Secure Copy and Server Consolidator make this process easier for the administrator than the other products do. The ability to consolidate servers without spending a lot of time studying manuals and Help files is a benefit.

Without supplemental programs, Server Consolidator and Server Consolidation Wizard can't copy local groups between servers. The vendor includes these programs with the products, but switching between programs complicates the consolidation process.

Each product but Server Consolidator runs multiple consolidation jobs at the same time. The ability to run jobs simultaneously lets you set up all the jobs at once, then simply let them run.

Another important server consolidation feature, especially for administrators who need to copy users' roaming profiles between servers, is the ability to update the users' accounts to point to the new location of their profiles. Two products, Server Consolidation Wizard and DM/Consolidator, provide scripts and utilities that assist in this process.

If you need to consolidate servers that contain users' profiles, Server Consolidation Wizard is your best choice. If you don't need to update users' accounts to point to the new servers, Secure Copy's low price and simple interface make that product a good choice.

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