Management made easy

If your organization uses Microsoft Corp. Windows-based systems and you want to make the lives of your systems support personnel a bit easier, take a look at Cognet 3.5. Cognet Corp.'s automated software management and distribution solution enables systems personnel to centrally manage desktop and notebook configurations, which is more efficient and cost-effective than running around the building to manage those assets manually.

The Cognet solution supports end-user software customization, packaging of Windows-based software for distribution and installation, and transmission of software to remote Windows servers for localized distribution — and it reports on the results of the operation. Administrators can centrally manage the process, and end users do not have to do anything to facilitate the activation of software. Network managers can also remove applications for one user or many users, as needed.

In the 3.5 release, the company has focused on supporting the latest Microsoft Windows 2000 and Office 2000 applications. Cognet can accommodate a departmental group of about 25 users or a group of several thousand users that might span an agency. And new agent technology enables mobile users and remote agency workers to receive software updates with ease.

Cognet can be set up in either of two ways, depending on the size of the organi-zation. A file-sharing mode can be used for groups with fewer than 250 users, while a Tier-3 mode is better suited to groups of more than 250 users. In file-sharing mode, a dedicated Cognet server is not needed, but larger groups may need Microsoft's Transaction Server and SQL Server to use Cognet effectively.

We installed Cognet on a 1.4 GHz Windows 2000 Server platform with 2G of RAM and a 120G hard drive, without incident. Cognet supports installation on any desktop or server-class machine that runs at 350 MHz or better. The company recommends 128M of RAM and a 1G to 10G hard drive for smaller set-ups. Large sites will probably need 256M of RAM and at least an 8G hard drive. The company also recommends that agencies with more than 1,000 Windows-based users set up a dedicated Cognet server to manage software distribution and installation.

Once installed, Cognet is easy to understand. We found it simple to package several Windows- --based applications and an Office 2000 upgrade. We then distributed the software to Windows-based desktop and notebook computers on the test network. The process did not seem to add any great overhead to the network.

Next, we tried using Cognet's remote agent technology to create a CD with the same software packages for distribution. This, too, worked well, and we were able to update some notebook systems that were not directly attached to the network.

The process worked equally well for software removal, whether on networked or notebook computers. The administrators of Windows-based systems will gain the upper hand on desktop management with this Cognet release.

Although Cognet fulfills its stated mission, it is intended for traditional client/server settings. It does not support platforms other than Windows 95, 98, NT and 2000 and No-vell Inc. NetWare.

Cognet also does not support Web-enabled wireless devices, such as smart phones. You'll want to turn to Web-based technologies if your agency is running mixed platforms or non-PC applications.

Cognet is already supporting some federal government organizations, including the Internal Revenue Service and three departments within the Army.

If your agency uses a Windows-based system and you want better control of desktop and notebook management, Cognet is worth a look. Your systems administrator and support staff might even smile a bit more.

Biggs has more than 15 years of business and IT experience in the financial sector.


Cognet 3.5

Score: B+

Cognet Corp.
(888) 264-6381

Price: Cognet 3.5 costs $75 per seat for workgroups of up to 250 users, and $95 per seat for Tier-3 configurations of more than 250 users.

Remarks: Cognet 3.5 offers agencies using Microsoft Corp. Windows-based systems an easier way to distribute software and manage the configuration of end-user systems. Administrators can expect a reduction in the amount of time and money needed to maintain standard desktop and notebook computers. In addition, Cognet is a useful mechanism for simplifying Windows 2000 upgrades. On the other hand, agencies with standardized Web-enabled wireless devices or sites that run mixed platforms that include operating systems such as Apple Computer Inc.'s Macintosh, Sun Microsystems Inc.'s Solaris, and Linux will find that Cognet does not yet support those platforms.


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