As a network administrator, you have access to an administration utility for almost every piece of software on your network: User Manager For Domains, Active Directory Users And Computers, System Manager, and on and on. UltraAdmin, a shareware utility that will perform all the tasks an administrator needs, can help ease the constant jumping from one admin utility to another.
Configuring and running UltraAdmin
UltraAdmin, published by Dorian Software Creations, is designed to reduce the weight of the administrators' toolbox. It pulls rich features and functionality into one interface, providing an easy way to handle all the day-to-day tasks in your environment.
To download and install UltraAdmin, point your browser to Dorian Software's Web site and follow the prompts that appear. After the initial installation completes, you'll be prompted to complete the preconfiguration screen, as shown in Figure A. This screen allows you to specify the environment in which you'll be using the software—on a domain or in a workgroup setting. It also allows you to enter the name of your root domain or workgroup prior to opening for the first time, giving the software a chance to enumerate your environment.
|UltraAdmin's preconfiguration screen|
After setting the configuration options, click OK. The first window you'll see when entering the UltraAdmin environment will show all the PCs in your workgroup or domain environment, as shown in Figure B. In the main window, UltraAdmin will show an enumeration of your environment, allowing you to choose the PC you want to manage.
|When you start UltraAdmin, you'll see the central administration window.|
As you can see from the figure, UltraAdmin's interface is very straightforward. When you select the domain and computer you want to work with, the basic icons in the central administration change, as shown in Figure C.
|Additional icons appear when you select a computer.|
Each of the new icons in the toolbar represents a function you can perform with UltraAdmin. The UltraAdmin features you can run from the toolbar include the following:
- Browse To Shares opens a window listing all publicly shared (nonadministrative) items on the selected PC.
- Open All Administrative Shares opens a window on the selected PC showing all administrative shares.
- Authenticate With Remote Machine provides a login box to allow you to log in on the selected PC.
- Test Network Speed tests the speed and number of hops from the selected machine to the network.
- Reboot remotely reboots the selected PC.
- Send A Message sends a network message to the selected PC (similar to the net send command).
- Administer Shares opens a window listing the current shares on a PC; you can add new shares and remove current shares.
- Administer Services lets you start and stop services on a remote PC.
- Administer Devices opens a window listing devices installed on the selected PC; you can start and stop the use of those devices.
- Manage User Sessions allows you to view and disconnect users remotely connected to a PC.
- Manage Open Resources displays resources currently in use across the network and allows you to remove these from network use.
- Manage Shared Printers lists all printers available on your network, allowing you to control the print queue and other general printing options.
- Schedule Tasks lets you remotely schedule tasks on network clients.
- Computer Info displays installed software, system resources on the selected PC, network devices including NICs and statistics, and drive statistics that show mapped drives and free space.
In addition to the functions residing on the toolbar, you'll also notice the Categories drop-down list box. By selecting a category from this list box, you can reduce the number of computers that appear in the central administration window, filtering out every machine that doesn't match your chosen category. These categories are as follows:
- All Computers
- All 95/98
- All NT/2000/XP (Browser)
- All NT/2000 Servers
- Stand Alone Servers
- SQL Servers
- Dial-In Servers
- Print Servers
- Master Browser
The categories available to UltraAdmin are configurable, and only the entries specified will appear in the drop-down list. This makes it easy to disable items you won't need to manage. To change the contents of the list, select Set Application Preferences from the Options menu. You'll then see the UltraAdmin Preferences screen. Click the Category Chooser tab. When you do, you'll see the screen shown in Figure D.
|You can select which categories appear.|
The remaining tabs of the UltraAdmin Preferences window will configure specific portions or functions within UltraAdmin. The Services tab simply tells UltraAdmin if the list of PCs on your network should be enumerated automatically. The default and most useful option here is Yes, but there may be times when you want to disable this option. For example, if you have an absolutely humongous subnetted network, you may want to populate the list yourself to save time and to focus on a particular subnet.
The General tab is the tab displayed when you first enter the UltraAdmin Preferences screen. This screen will allow you to enable or disable ICMP pinging as well as let the software determine if domain administrator rights are available. The ICMP ping feature allows the software to send out pings to determine the state of networked PCs as either available or unavailable.
The Determine Domain Administrator Rights section allows the software to verify your user credentials with Active Directory. If this feature is disabled, UltraAdmin will not fetch this information.
The Exchange tab allows UltraAdmin to create mailboxes in Exchange. This will eliminate the need to use a second interface to create mailboxes. The required components for Exchange mailboxes are:
- Exchange Server—the NetBIOS name of your Exchange server
- Exchange Organization—the name of your Exchange organization
- Exchange Site—the name of the site to which your Exchange server belongs
- Email Domain name—the e-mail domain you use for your company (for example, xyzwidgets.com)
You can choose to delete the mailbox when the user account is deleted. Keep in mind that Exchange has special parameters (configured with System Manager) with regard to mailbox deletion. This Exchange feature could save you a lot of grief when enabling mailbox deletion.
The Domain Chooser tab of UltraAdmin will allow you to configure the network or the computers/domains view. By selecting only trusted domains, you'll see only domains on your network that have trust relationships to your domain. In a Windows 2000 domain, this would be all domains in your organization's forests. By default in Windows 2000, domains in an Active Directory forest have two-way, or transitive trust, relationships within the forest. If your company has a network with multiple Active Directory forests, you'll need to create trust relationships between them in order for this view to work. You can also set this screen to display all domains on your network, which is the easiest way to manage the whole thing.
The Domain Chooser tab also contains a box allowing you to specify the default startup workgroup or domain. By setting the default workgroup or domain, you don't have to choose it every time you run the program.
The Advanced Options button lets you list the domains you want UltraAdmin to work with. You can list them manually or let UltraAdmin perform an Active Directory query to get the domain information. To allow Active Directory to provide this information, you'll need full administrative rights to Active Directory. Assuming this software can browse all the domains in the forest, it seems logical that you would need enterprise admin rights to have all the domains in the forest detected.
On the Toolbar tab, you can tell UltraAdmin to hide or dim toolbar buttons that are not available, with the default being to hide them. This takes away buttons that do not apply to the objects selected or displayed. You can also adjust the size of the toolbar buttons. The choices for button size are normal (or relatively small) and large.
On the Users tab, you can configure the actions available when adding or working with user accounts in your environment. The first option allows you to choose which information you want to preview in UltraAdmin's status bar when the user object is selected. The Default Password For New Accounts lets you set the default password when creating a new user object. The Auto Create Home Directory check box allows you to configure a home directory and the needed access rights for the user object when that object is created. The Other Default Settings For New Accounts provides the following account object options:
- Account Is Enabled turns the user object on when it is created.
- Prevent Password Modification makes the password for this object unchangeable by the user.
- Prevent Password Expiration sets the password for the object to never expire.
- Require Password Change forces the user to change the password at the next logon.
- Require Smart Card Authentication requires the use of a smart card to access the network with this user object (works only on Windows 2000 domains).
- Trusted For Delegation allows the user to subassign administrative responsibility for the Active Directory objects managed (allowed only on user objects in Windows 2000 domains).
- Cannot Be Delegated disallows this account to inherit rights delegated by an object that is trusted for delegation (applies only to Windows 2000 domains).
- Use Reversible Encryption On Password allows the password for the user object to be reversibly encrypted for greater security (available only on Windows 2000 domains).
- Use DES Encryption is allowed only on Windows 2000 domains. If any form of DES encryption is needed, check this box.
- No Kerberos Pre-Authentication should be checked if you don't want this object to use standard Kerberos encryption. This, too, is available only on Windows 2000 domains.
On the last tab, Shares, you can specify the action to take when a shared resource is double-clicked. You can browse the share, which opens an Explorer window allowing you to view the contents of the share, or you can begin editing the share, which allows you to open and edit the share in Explorer.
The SID Wizard
Now that we've looked at all the configuration options for UltraAdmin, there is one other cool aspect you should be aware of. There's a wizard included in the UltraAdmin package that lets you look up the Security Identifier (SID) for a user account or look up a user account if you already know the SID. This can be useful in updating inventory and other items. Each of these options has its own tab under the Wizards menu. The default option is to search for a SID by account name, as shown in Figure E.
|The SID Wizard can help you find computers on your network with their SID.|
What's it going to cost me?
Overall, this tool is an excellent choice to have in your administrator's kit. The licensing on UltraAdmin is per administrator, so you won't have to license it based on the size of your enterprise. The starting price for one administrator is $175 and it goes down as the number of users goes up. The tool is well written and worth the investment if you manage a large networked environment or perform the usual and time-consuming general administration tasks every day.
Derek Schauland has been tinkering with Windows systems since 1997. He has supported Windows NT 4, worked phone support for an ISP, and is currently the IT Manager for a manufacturing company in Wisconsin.