Hardware

Review: SmartCode VNC Manager Enterprise

Busy system administrators who manage a large number of systems that use different remote access methods will appreciate VNC Manager.

SmartCode's VNC Manager application provides a consolidated point of access for all of your systems which can be remote administered. In addition to remote connectivity, system monitoring and management operations are supported as well.

Note: This review was performed with a publically available trial version of the application.

Specifications

  • Product: SmartCode VNC Manager Enterprise
  • Cost: $128.75 for license and 1 year support, discounts and site licenses available
  • Supported Protocols: VNC, RDP, Citrix ICA, Hyper-V, Virtual Server 2005, RAdmin, SSH, Telnet
  • Additional Information: Product Web site
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Who's it for?

Busy system administrators who manage a large number of systems that use different remote access methods will appreciate VNC Manager. Its built-in monitoring and management tools can also fill a tools gap for shops that have not implemented other solutions. Desktop technicians and help desk workers can use it to provide support to users as well, provided their systems allow remote access.

What problems does it solve?

As you add more and more servers, it is a large headache to try to manage all of the various remote connections to them, especially if different servers use different connectivity applications. VNC Manager allows you to consolidate all of these access methods in one place, making it easier to work with a large number of remote systems.

Standout features

  • Protocol Support: You can connect to every OS out there, one way or another.
  • Management and Monitoring: The most common WMI tasks like system shutdown/reboot, Event Log viewing, printer management, etc. can be performed.
  • Can Control VNC Settings: A useful feature is the ability to control the VNC server application without logging into a computer, in case it has problems.

What's wrong?

  • Lack of X11, PowerShell support: While you can access *Nix servers via SSH or Telnet, you are unable to connect to them via X. Conversely, PowerShell is not supported so if you are using Server Core (or just like PowerShell) you are also out of luck. Editor's note: According to SmartCode representatives: The Remote Exec feature can be used to execute PowerShell scripts on a remote computer and to see the script's output.
  • Complicated UI: For an application which is supposed to simplify one's life, VNC Manager is extraordinarily complex; most of the added complexity could be removed with little loss of overall usefulness.
  • Licensing Terms and Cost: The licensing is fairly expensive, and you need support for upgrades. More disturbing was a warning during installation that use a purchased license, the license needs to be from the last year.

Competitive products

Bottom line for business

SmartCode VNC Manager looks to make life easier for the busy systems administrator, technician, or help desk worker who needs to work with a large number of systems remotely. In addition to acting as a locus for remote control functionality, many standard WMI functions are rolled in as well. The big problem is that VNC Manager combines a poor UI with a lack of application intelligence and the result is an overly complex product.

For example, out of the box, it is configured to have VNC be the default protocol, and every registered device (which can be pulled from Active Directory, a nice touch) is set by default to use those default settings. This creates a scenario where, if you have a wide variety of access mechanisms in use, you have to manually change them for each registered system. It would have been much better if the application simply made a test connection to each device through each protocol, and if only one protocol responded, set the device to use that protocol instead of the global default.

The value-add functions are nothing special. They are all basic WMI functions and you can actually access nearly all of them through MMC or RSAT with a touch of effort. If you have a really large environment it will save time for you to have them all easily accessible from the same place. At the same time, you probably have a more robust management and monitoring system in place as well. The thumbnail view is pretty neat, though, and useful as well.

I think that some more thought needs to be put into the interface. Once the application is easier to use, it will be a real time saver in the large environments that it is targeted for. As it stands now, while it is very useful, expect to spend a bit of time wrestling with the UI and configuring systems properly before you see time savings.

The biggest disappointment has to be the lack of *Nix support. Yes, it supports SSH and Telnet, but most *Nix admins are not as CLI focused as they once were. In addition, because the extra functionality is being provided via WMI, it does not work on non-Windows systems. Yet, PowerShell is not supported so you won't be able to work with your Server Core installations. All the same, if remote access to systems is a regular headache for you, VNC Manager Enterprise might be the cure you need.

User rating

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About

Justin James is the Lead Architect for Conigent.

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