In the classic Japanese samurai series, “Lone Wolf and Cub,” a disgraced swordsman named Ogami wanders the countryside with his son and a baby carriage. The baby carriage is armed with a panoply of fantastic weaponry, and Ogami dispatches multiple groups of assailants in brutal fashion. To the swordsman, the proper weapon makes all the difference. To a network administrator, the proper tools can mean the difference between spending a few minutes setting users’ rights and properties, and spending hours trying to copy files and manually load new users.
In an enterprise environment, how do you make simultaneous changes to large numbers of users? In a Novell environment, with the emphasis on lightweight directory access protocol (LDAP), some changes may be imported via lightweight directory interchange format (LDIF). NetWare 6 and above include LDAP bulk update/replication protocol (LBURP) functionality to do bulk loading. Making complex changes, however, is not suited to using LDIF import, and setting up the proper LDIF file can be a challenge. NetWare groups are not security-only groups, as in Windows, so iManager or the older ConsoleOne can be used more easily to make concurrent user changes. Check out cool solutions tools at www.novell.com/coolsolutions/tools.
When free tools are insufficient, there is avanti’s TaskMaster v4 and TaskMaster Lite. TaskMaster is an enhanced command shell, batch processor, scheduler and remote manager rolled into one. The Lite version is relegated to individual-server-only support. TaskMaster adds nearly 100 new commands at the system prompt.
Some Windows management tasks can be made easier via Windows 2000 Resource Kit tools. A list of these tools can be found at windows.about.com/library/weekly/aa010318j.htm. It can be a challenge to change permissions for Windows users, especially if these users are within multiple, remote domains. Two of my favorite tools for doing so are Hyena, from SystemTools.com, and User Manager Pro, from Lieberman Software Corp. These two tools have some similar functionality, but each provides a different “view” of the Active Directory (AD) world.
Figure 1: Hyena v6
Hyena has an Explorer-like interface used to manage objects. The expected standard scheduling, permission change, group and object management are here, as well as the ability to query AD objects. Export relies on Windows Management Instrumentation (WMI) functionality, and exported information can be added to an Access database. Hyena shows extensive computer information. For example, when you click on the hot-fix versions installed on a computer, you can view Microsoft patch information.
User Manager Pro (UMP) is designed to make mass changes to groups, users, passwords, registries, policies, auditing and rights. To make changes, you place the computers in a group and apply the changes to the group. Think of it like this: UMP gives the Microsoft group NetWare flexibility. Though the interface is non-standard and a little clumsy, there is advanced functionality. For remote access, UMP can be scheduled to retry off-line machines at specific intervals. Or you can create a list of computers that should not be included in any change policy, so that you will be issued a warning before any changes could be applied. One unusual feature is the ability to play a tune on remote machines so that you can identify which computer is managed. Like Hyena, UMP supports Wake-on-LAN. With UMP, you may choose the connection method: IP, DNS or NetBIOS.
Figure 2: User Manager Pro
Though users and their satisfaction remain the lifeblood of any IT operation, managers are frequently faced with making large-scale changes to user objects. Like the samurai, choosing the right tool–and convincing management to spend money on task automation–makes your job easier and frees you to do the things that matter to your users.
Douglas Mechaber, MCSE, MCNE, CCNA, BCSD, is an industry veteran who has served as a network administrator and is now a consultant for a large government health agency. He is always on the lookout for tools to make his life easier. E-mail your suggestions and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.