Change is inevitable - but keeping track of all the changes that take place in within a complex IT infrastructure can sometimes seem next to impossible. Impossible or not, it's no longer optional for companies in many industries, because tracking changes is crucial to proving compliance with regulations imposed by industry or governmental bodies.
Even if it's not mandated, change auditing helps organizations maintain control, better secure their valuable assets, and avoid the high costs that can accompany a security breach or network downtime caused by undocumented or unauthorized changes to mission-critical servers and the virtual and physical infrastructure.
There are many change auditing products on the market, but the NetWrix Change Reporter Suite stands out for its easy deployment and usability and its comprehensive coverage of every change made within a network.
- Manufacturer: NetWrix
- Product: Change Reporter Suite
- Hardware Requirements: Capable of running supported operating system and software; at least 2GB of free space
- Operating System/Software Requirements: Windows XP SP2 or higher; must belong to the managed domain; .NET Framework 2.0 or later; Windows Installer 3.1 or later; Microsoft Group Policy Management Console; MMC 3.0; Requires SQL Server 2005 or 2008 with Reporting Services for advanced reporting
- Required Rights and Permissions: Domain admin account that is a member of the local Administrators group
- Licensing: Volume licensing available
- Pricing: Call for a price quote
- Vendor Website: www.netwrix.com
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Who is it for
Companies that need an effective and affordable way to keeps tabs on who changed what, and where, and when the changes were made, will find the NetWrix Change Reporter Suite does exactly that. It's especially useful for medium or large organizations that run complex Active Directory domains, their own Microsoft Exchange servers, and SQL Server databases, and need a consolidated, centralized auditing solution with detailed information that doesn't require spending hours to decipher the reports or slog through a lot of data to extract the important information.
What problem does it solve
In any but the smallest and simplest network environment, changes get made on a regular basis. Some are necessary, proper and authorized - but go undocumented. Others are made inadvertently, while sometimes deliberate unauthorized changes are made. These changes can include things such as the creation of new user accounts, addition or deletion of users to/from security groups, delegation of management rights, changes in access permissions, deletion of files from a server, changes to Group Policy settings, changes to Microsoft Exchange policies, mailboxes and information stores, changes to SQL Server table structures, and much more. Today's typical business network is anything but simple. In many cases, a virtual infrastructure sits on top of the physical one, and you also need to track creation of and changes to virtual machines, resource pools and so forth. The NetWrix Change Reporter Suite handles that.
Ultimately, though, a change auditing system is only as good as its reporting functionality, and that's an area where Change Reporter Suite has it covered. The reports are detailed, but not full of extraneous information that slows you down. They're well organized and make it easy to see, at a glance, what changes were made, by whom and when. There are a number of pre-defined reports for each module and you get reports by email or can view saved reports via the Web interface, which allows you to filter the view. A nice touch is the color coding in the reports, which makes it easier for you to quickly find particular types of changes. The Report Viewer makes it easy to generate a report on selected sessions.
- Active Directory Reporter: tracks changes made to the Active Directory and delivers a daily summary report
- Active Directory Object Restore Wizard: Lets you undo changes quickly and easily; you can restore the entire Active Directory or selected objects or attributes from rollback points (created from automatic regular snapshots) or the AD tombstone.
- Change Reporter for System Center Virtual Machine Manager: reports changes made to VMM configuration.
- Exchange Change Reporter: Reports changes to Exchange server configuration and permissions.
- File Server Change Reporter: Reports all changes to files, folders, shares and permissions on file servers.
- Group Policy Change Reporter: Reports changes made to Group Policy.
- Privileged Account Manager: Enables centralized control and auditing of all privileged accounts in the organization.
- Server Configuration Monitor: reports changes made to server configurations, including hardware devices, drivers, software, services, networking settings, and so forth.
- SharePoint Change Reporter: reports changes to SharePoint administrative settings and permissions.
- SQL Server Change Reporter: reports changes to SQL servers' configurations and databases.
- VMware Change Reporter: Reports changes to VMware Infrastructure 3, vSphere, ESX/ESXi, including creating of new virtual machines.
No product is perfect, and there are a few things that could be improved with the Change Reporter Suite. Installation and configuration are straightforward for the most part, but if you choose to use SQL Server Express, which comes with it (instead of an existing SQL Server), you may encounter some problems. SQL Server Express has "known compatibility issues" with Windows Server 2008 R2 and you have to apply SQL Server 2005 Service Pack 3. Configuring SQL Server Express to allow remote connections is a fairly complex, multi-step process, as well.
Another quibble I had was with the NetWrix Web site, which doesn't impart as much information as I'd like. The Quick Start guide on the Web site is very sparse; it would be nice if there was a more detailed product manual readily available.
I like that the product is modular, so that you only pay for what you need. However, pricing can be a little confusing because of that.
- Ecora Auditor Professional
- IBM Tivoli Change and Configuration Management Database (CCMDB)
- Oracle Enterprise Manager/Configuration Controls Governor
Bottom line for business
Keeping track of configuration changes to the IT infrastructure and access to critical files are two tasks that, in today's complex network environments, requires an automated solution to be effective. NetWrix Change Reporter Suite does both, with separate modules geared toward different servers and infrastructures, including your virtual infrastructure. The modular design makes it easy to customize to fit your company's needs without paying for more than you need.
Busy administrators want management software that's easy to deploy and use without a steep learning curve, and Change Reporter Suite gives you that, while at the same time providing comprehensive coverage of the data that you need to stay on top of what's happening within your network and maintain compliance with regulatory requirements.
Have you encountered or used NetWrix Change Reporter Suite? If so, what do you think? Rate your experience and compare the results to what other TechRepublic members think. Give your own personal review in the TechRepublic Community Forums or let us know if you think we left anything out in our review.
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Debra Littlejohn Shinder, MCSE, MVP is a technology consultant, trainer, and writer who has authored a number of books on computer operating systems, networking, and security. Deb is a tech editor, developmental editor, and contributor to over 20 additional books on subjects such as the Windows 2000 and Windows 2003 MCSE exams, CompTIA Security+ exam, and TruSecure's ICSA certification.