Testing for Year 2000 compliance
- By Paul Ferrill
- Sep 27, 1998
Although most federal agencies are now well on their way with replacement or remediation of Year 2000 code problems, there may still be issues with PCs and office applications. Two recently updated packages from BindView Development Corp. and WRQ are designed to help agencies test for Year 2000 compliance on the desktop.
These products will scan each PC on your network to determine if the lowest levels in a PC that must comply with Year 2000 data changes— the real-time clock (RTC) and the Basic Input/Output System (BIOS)— are Year 2000-compliant. They will look at the commercial software installed on the local hard drive to determine if any detected applications have known problems and will present their findings in easy-to-read reports.
Some older PCs will literally stop working if you try to operate them without fixes when the new century rings in. Others will simply report a wrong date, such as Jan. 1, 1900. Commercial software packages also bring potential problems. For example, if you have applications developed around Microsoft Corp.'s Access 2.0, you may have a Year 2000 problem.
BindView's EMS NETinventory 5.2
BindView Development has offered network monitoring and reporting software for several years. The latest enhancement to the company's NETinventory module gives it the ability to gather information about the Year 2000 compliance of each computer on the network.
Because the NETinventory module is part of the BindView Enterprise Management System (EMS), you have to install the entire package to get the Year 2000 features.
If you're just looking for a tool to help with your Year 2000 assessment process, the BindView EMS product suite may be overkill because it is targeted at the broader network management and reporting market. However, if you can put the additional capability that this software offers to use, then this product deserves a good look.
To run this package, you must have a server that runs Novell Inc.'s NetWare 3.11 or higher because the package depends on the Btrieve database engine built into NetWare. You'll also need to load a Query Engine module on a Windows NT server in each NT domain that you wish to track.
The installation program runs automatically from a CD-ROM and uses a standard automated setup process common to most 32-bit commercial software. The setup wizard gives you the opportunity to specify the target installation directory and choose the components you want to install. A sample database of NETinventory data lets you see what kind of reports you can generate before you actually gather any information about your network.
BindView EMS uses a licensing-key approach to authorize the modules and options available, and you must enter these keys before you can use the product. We were able to get the entire suite running in a short time with no trouble.
If your installation already uses NetWare servers, you probably use log-in scripts to define default drive assignments and the like. The BindView inventory program runs from the log-in script each time a user logs into the network and will perform different tasks depending on how you configure it to run. The first time the inventory program runs, it gathers an extensive amount of information about the PC, including all the data necessary to determine Year 2000 compliance. One negative is that the BindView scanner program cannot scan the BIOS of any machine running Microsoft Corp.'s Windows NT. This is a function of the operating system and not the BindView inventory scanner.
The main EMS console presents the available modules on separate screens with tabs across the top, much like a file folder. On each screen you "drill down" to the information behind each report by double-clicking on the item. You can view the data returned either in tabular or graphical form. Each report is created by a simple database query that you can modify to suit your needs.
The latest version of NETinventory includes eight pre-defined reports to help you view the results of the data gathered from your network. To determine application vulnerability, the program uses a database, which is continually updated, of hundreds of common software applications. The most current master software list can be checked at the company's World Wide Web site, www.
bindview.com. The Year 2000 tools in this package include four reports designed to help you generate letters of compliance for your network. All BindView data can be exported to spreadsheet or word processor programs for further processing, if needed.
The performance of the product was very responsive, even on an older 386-based NetWare 3.12 server. The management console's performance will depend on the platform that you use; ours was a 133 MHz Pentium system running Windows 95.
WRQ's Express 2000
WRQ has long been known for its PC-to-host connectivity software, but the company recently entered the software-metering market with the acquisition of Express Systems. The new offering, WRQ Express 2000 Suite, combines WRQ Express 2000 and its testing features with WRQ Express Meter, which offers a full-featured software-metering solution. The company emphasizes that these are separate products that work cooperatively to monitor software usage and to ensure that your PCs and desktop applications are Year 2000-compliant.
For the purposes of this review, we installed just the Express 2000 product. We found that it was a flexible Year 2000 compliance testing tool that works in any network environment. Generating reports is a snap. If you're looking for a testing tool that will help you get a grip on your Year 2000 problems, this product is worth a look.
The documentation is very specific about installing the products in the proper order, stating that you must install Express Meter 3.6 before installing Express 2000, should you choose to use both. The documentation also suggests that you put the Express 2000 software in a shared network folder on a server accessible to all the systems that you wish to test for compliance. We installed the Express 2000 files on a Windows NT 4.0 server without a problem.
Express 2000 will scan the BIOS of a machine running Windows NT for known identification strings, but it can't actually test the BIOS for Year 2000 compliance.
Express 2000 uses Microsoft Access as its underlying database and reporting engine. The installation program will install a runtime copy of Access if you don't already have a copy on the machine from which you wish to generate reports. If you choose to keep your Year 2000 information segregated by department or some other grouping, the software will consolidate multiple databases to allow you to report on the entire organization.
Upon completion of the installation and configuration of the program, all that's left to do is gather the data and generate some reports. When you execute the Express 2000 program, it prompts you for the location of the Applib.lib file. This file contains all the information gathered about the PCs on your network and by default is stored in the same directory in which you installed the Express 2000 programs.
Once the file has been processed, a dialog box with the different canned reports pops up. At this point, you can open the report and view it just like you would any other Access database. You also can filter the data based on a user-defined query.
We found the performance of the inventory audit agent acceptable on a mix of workstations. The report-generation program will be greatly affected by the size of your database. Microsoft Access handles small to medium-size databases very well but tends to get bogged down with large databases. For the small network on which we tested the program, Access worked fine.
The Express 2000 documentation is complete and well-written. The book includes ample screen shots to help guide you through all the critical features of the product. There's also an online help facility as well as online manuals included on the CD-ROM in Adobe Acrobat format. The only addition we'd like to see is a better description of how to generate custom reports using Access.
Ferrill is a principal engineer at Avionics Test & Analysis Corp. He can be reached at [email protected]b.gulf.net.
AT A GLANCE
WRQ Express 2000 Suite
Price and availability:
Available on Sylvest Management Systems' General Services Administration schedule for $45 for a single workstation license. Call Sylvest at (888) 321-6736 for more information.
The Express 2000 suite offers a network operating system-independent tool to test the computers on a network for Year 2000 compliance. It uses Microsoft Access for its database and reporting engine let users customize the output if needed. The product ships with a number of pre-defined reports to help users ascertain the aspects of compliance covering hardware and software.
AT A GLANCE
BindView EMS NETinventory 5.2
BindView Development Corp.
Price and availability:
Available on ITA Corp.'s General Services Administration schedule for $1,649. For more information, contact ITA at (800) 777-7118.
BindView's EMS NETinventory 5.2 product enables users to assess the vulnerability of PCs on their network to the Year 2000 problem. Essential information is gathered when a user logs in to the network and is reported through the master console program. The system requires a NetWare server.