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Using Goverlan RAS to centralize Windows desktop control

The Goverlan Remote Administration Suite may provide systems management functions for Windows admins for less money than Microsoft System Center.

I recently was evaluating systems management offerings with a lower price point and a smaller business target set than Microsoft System Center. In the process, I discovered a product that can come in handy for many desktop administrators: the Goverlan Remote Administration Suite from P.J. Technologies Inc. Let's take a look at Goverlan's features and pricing.

Goverlan RAS features

In my tests, Version 7 of the Goverlan Remote Administration Suite (RAS) performed quickly and consistently on Windows machines, although a Web-based tool would be able to perform similar tasks on non-Windows computers, at least in a limited fashion.

Setting up Goverlan was reasonably fast, especially the installation of client agents. Goverlan's agent is only a few megabytes, has negligible memory requirements and deploys within seconds. The agent can be pushed to clients over the network without requiring a separate installation sequence, and it doesn't affect system performance. The installation and uninstallation of agents from systems is very snappy -- in some cases, I was able to remove and then redeploy agents in under five seconds.

Goverlan RAS offers a central console for administrators to manage servers and clients. Goverlan's interface has a distinct Office 2007/2010 look, with a task-based ribbon and logical organization, so it is not intimidating to get started with.

One feature I found highly useful is the Scope Actions tool, which allows you to easily define a scope of targets -- they could be users, computers or groups -- using powerful filtering and selection criteria. Then you define the administrative actions to perform on that scope, which can essentially be anything Windows permits you to do, including Windows Management Instrumentation (WMI) queries.

You then can run those actions on an ad hoc or a scheduled recurring basis. I found the availability of options and the granularity of setting up a proper scope very robust with Goverlan -- this is a feature that would pay off more and more as your network grows.

Goverlan can help desktop admins create custom WMI queries through its WMIX utility. It includes a WQL wizard that makes quick work of customizing WMI queries, and it allows you to access even obscure classes and properties with a query that you then can export to other Windows, such as the Group Policy Management Console and Group Policy Object Editor. This can be a real boon to speeding up the creation of policies.

Remote control and desktop sharing is another area in which Goverlan excels, allowing administrators to remotely assist and troubleshoot client machines. Goverlan uses an agent that has access to a single TCP port for communications, and it works with Windows, Mac OS X and Linux computers. It encrypts the remote control traffic for added protection.

Goverlan also offers the option of masking a user's screen while admins perform functions remotely, so a user cannot see potentially sensitive information. Remote-control targets are well organized in its interface.

In addition, Goverlan works well with virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) deployments, allowing an IT staffers to shadow multiple client sessions on a single virtual host. The host uses Microsoft's Terminal Services and Remote Desktop Services, as well as Citrix's Xen line of VDI products, just as simply as a console session on a physical computer. Finally, Goverlan provides screen-capturing options including video recording alongside these remote session features.

Pricing and support

The Goverlan Remote Administration suite is priced at $699 per administrator with no client node fee. P.J. Technologies provides 90 days of maintenance support with every license, and you can purchase one- or two-year maintenance package extensions

Goverlan's Remote Administration Suite v7 lives up to its claims of automating and centralizing Windows administration and support in the enterprise. The product presents a robust, rich set of options and strong overall value for the money.

It has a relatively low starting price, comes with a perpetual right to use the entire software suite by default and includes a unified set of capabilities, as opposed to edition thresholds. Goverlan RAS can also manage an unlimited number of client machine targets per administrator.

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