As you add more and more users to your network, administering user accounts can become a grinding, cumbersome chore. The ability to quickly template and build an army of user accounts and network resources with ease is a power that some network administrators dream about.

There’s a new tool that can help you manage your resources and users. Tools4ever’s UserManagemeNT Lite is a freeware utility that can help you create templates to build, manage, and remove user accounts and network resources from your network. In this Daily Feature, I’ll take you through the ins and outs of UserManagemeNT Lite.

What can UserManagemeNT Lite do?
UserManagemeNT Lite is very useful in a busy enterprise environment. While creating users and groups is the main focus of UserManagemeNT Lite, it can do much more. Used properly and exclusively in place of the Windows user account applet, it provides many more features and an easier interface for creating users. You can configure the same properties you could with the Windows tool, but with an ease that makes this utility a must-have in any administrator’s bag of tricks.

You can obtain UserManagemeNT Lite at the Tools4ever Web site. Download UMI.exe to a temporary location to your administration workstation. Because UserManagemeNT Lite is free, you don’t have pay for it. All you have to do is register with Tools4ever by filling out its online form.

Installing UserManagemeNT Lite
After you’ve downloaded UMI.exe, double-click it to start the installation program. The wizard-style installation method is easy to follow. Work your way through the wizard, paying attention to the various license screens and choices for file locations along the way.

During the installation, Setup will ask if you’d like to perform a network installation, as shown in Figure A. Since you’ll likely use this software in an enterprise environment, a network installation will probably suit you best. This allows the configuration files for UserManagemeNT Lite to be shared across the network.

Figure A
You can perform a network installation.

Assuming you’re opting for a network configuration, you’ll immediately see the screen shown in Figure B. This information lets you know that the software will use a shared directory. This is a good thing to make note of, since shares on a network can be a security risk.

Figure B
Making sure you know about a share

The next screen is the last special dialog box for installation. It asks you to specify the shared directory where you want the configuration information to be stored. You might want to put this on a network Domain Controller that is heavily trafficked so that this information will be replicated with Active Directory often. This will prevent the need for a special scheduled replication for these files. Figure C shows the screen that will ask you to specify the location of the shared directory you wish to use.

Figure C
Where do you want to share your files?

The installation will finish, and you’ll be prompted to run the software and/or view the readme file. The first time you run the software, you’ll need to configure it for your environment. The default template or templates you create here will be used in creating objects in the future.

Building the mold for great objects
The first time you run the UserManagemeNT software, it will ask you if you want to configure it. Clicking Yes will call up the dialog boxes you’ll use to create object templates for use in the future. If you click No, you can perform configuration tasks from the Configuration tab within the software.

If you click Yes, the first thing you’ll see is the Specify Domains And Users To Manage screen shown in Figure D. Here you’ll list all the domains on your network that contain user accounts. You should specify all the domains on your network that you wish to manage with UserManagemeNT.

You can also search for existing domains from this window. Simply click the Search Domains button to locate all the domains on the network. The User Manager will then connect to the Active Directory root to locate listed domains, placing all the found domains in the Domains And OUs In Network box. From there you can select the domains to manage by clicking the Add button.

Figure D
Which domains do you want to manage today?

After you’ve selected the domains you want to manage this way, the software will let you know that the configuration has changed. It will also remind you to synchronize the data and configuration information so that all the servers to be managed will have the up-to-date configuration information. Synchronization allows UserManagemeNT Lite to resolve conflicts that arise due to selections made in the software interface.

Next, the software will question you about servers on your network. Selecting servers on your network using UserManagemeNT Lite is only available to assist you in assigning a home server for the user accounts that you create. You can assign locations for home servers on your network. This will cut down the size of the list to peruse when creating user accounts. For example, you could specify departments or offices as locations.

In Figure E, I specified department names as locations and added servers to those departments. You can specify the location on the left-hand side in the New Location box. Then, on the right-hand side, you can enter a server name. When you add the server to the available servers list, you can then highlight the server name there and click the Add button to add that server to the location highlighted in the Server locations box. Keeping the location lists standardized will help you select a home server for each user account.

Figure E
Servers listed by location

Like most networks, your company’s network probably has many groups in use, not to mention masses of users. UserManagemeNT provides Units to ease the hassle of adding users to groups and managing multiple groups. A Unit is a collection of groups that users belong to, and it allows you to manage all the users that may be members of a given group.

For example, you could make a Unit called Information Systems, place a location of Technology building within it, and place the Information Technology department in that location. But when you add a group, you must specify a domain to which you can add a group to User ManagemeNT. This allows you to create a Unit containing related groups; for example, you could create a Unit called Admins and then add the administrator groups from each available domain to that Unit. Then, when you need to add a new administrator to all the domains’ administrators groups, you can simply add the user account to the unit, which will put them in all the groups within this unit.

Another option is the syntax for usernames. This will automatically create a specific style of username when you enter the new user’s full name. It will also allow you to specify the expiration of the account, the maximum length of the username, the username format, any separator characters used, and the case of the username.

The general settings for accounts under Windows NT/2000 contain many subsettings that you can also configure in User ManagemeNT. The general settings are:

  • Description
  • Password and Expiration
  • Home Directory
  • Permissions
  • Home Directory Drive
  • User Profile Path
  • Profile Permissions
  • Logon Script Name
  • Share
  • Share Path
  • Share Permissions
  • Run

Template management, i.e., specifying the global groups that are tied to a specific template, is also available here. This allows you to create a user account using a specified template and automatically tie this account to each of the global groups tied to them, making it extremely simple to grant group membership to a user.

UserManagemeNT Lite also allows you to configure the user managing software itself. You can specify things like templates, directories, and Exchange and Printer settings. These are found under the Configuration tab’s Configure Tasks button.

To gather network data for this software, click the Load Network Data button. This will collect all the domain information and other object information for use by the software. The information dialog box for loading network data is shown in Figure F.

Figure F
Start gathering UserManagemeNT network data

The last configuration option is Delegation. This allows an administrator to delegate tasks when creating an account. This makes administration even easier because you won’t have to worry about delegating tasks at a later date.

Some alternatives
If you want to speed up the process of dealing with large numbers of users, UserManagemeNT Lite is a good place to start. However, it’s not your only solution. If you want some alternatives that will cost money and do a little more than UserManagemeNT Lite, there are similar products for managing users and user accounts. Three of them are:

  • UserManagemeNT Pro—The paid version of the freeware covered here costs $595 for 0 to 250 users, and it offers more involved features.
  • Hyena—Priced at $199 for a single user license, this software package manages user and group resources on Windows networks.
  • DameWare—A British product priced at $213, this remote management utility for Windows NT handles remote administration tasks as well as user and group management.