In search of a Windows network management tool but don’t have a ton of budget to spare for enterprise-class solutions? Both Goverlan’s Remote Administration Suite v7 and DameWare’s Remote Support v9 work within the sphere of small to midsize networks that require administrative help beyond the capabilities of the built-in tools within Windows, but are of insufficient size and resources to warrant paying thousands of dollars for large system monitoring and configuration suites like Microsoft’s System Center. From a unified console, the premise of both products is to provide administrators with access to common administrative tasks to perform either on a single machine or, more likely, groups of machines, and to enable remote control of machines for troubleshooting and maintenance support. Let’s look at each product against the other.
Both products present a unified view across your Windows-based network of client computers and servers from a single console, including Active Directory-based clients and servers as well as users, groups, and other directory objects. Both products support Windows 2000 clients and later.
I found Goverlan’s interface to be more intuitive and powerful than the DameWare interface. Goverlan has updated their Suite’s interface to the Office 2007/2010 look, with a task-based ribbon and logical organization. What I found most powerful about Goverlan’s interface is the ability to both find users and computers quickly as well as to perform functions on multiple machines or users simultaneously, right from within the console. You can define and save scopes of users, computers, and groups, and regularly perform actions on them—such as searching for low disk space or listing local administrator group membership. In contrast, DameWare uses a console full of tabs that, while exposing functions well for single machines, doesn’t do a great job of making it easy to perform tasks on groups of machines. The search function in Goverlan works better and faster. Also, I did not see a simple way to save actions for repeated use within DameWare like I did in Goverlan.
“I found Goverlan’s interface to be more intuitive and powerful…”
Both products also offer remote control functionality over Remote Desktop Protocol, Citrix ICA, and VNC in addition to their proprietary protocol. Each product can remotely control Mac OS X, Linux, and Windows computers from their console; the remote control functionality allows administrators to control the keyboard and mouse of the target computer as if they were present at the machine, which is useful for troubleshooting or training purposes. Goverlan has the additional, useful feature of being able to mask a user’s screen while you are performing functions remotely, and it does a much better job of organizing remote control targets in its interface. Goverlan also offers a monitoring view not found in Dameware which allows administrators to observe the screen activities and performance counters of a set of machines very easily. While both Goverlan and DameWare support multi-monitor viewing, only Goverlan allows you to see multiple monitors in one single view. With DameWare, you have to toggle between monitors and you can only see one monitor at a time. Finally, Goverlan provides better screen capturing options including video recording, and supports virtual desktop infrastructure sessions very well—an administrator can shadow multiple client sessions on a single virtual host that uses Microsoft’s Terminal Services and Remote Desktop Services as well as Citrix’s Xen line of VDI products, just as simply as a console session on a physical computer.
“Goverlan also offers a monitoring view not found in DameWare which allows administrators to observe the screen activities and performance counters of a set of machines very easily”
Both products work with a set of client-based agents that are able to receive commands and requests pushed out through the administrative consoles of both products. The DameWare installer is an MSI file that weighs in at 4.3 MB for 32-bit clients and 4.4 MB for 64-bit clients, whereas Goverlan’s agents are under 5 MB as well. Both products’ agents can be pushed to clients over the network without requiring a separate installation sequence. The Goverlan agent is light enough to have no impact on system performance and the installation and uninstallation of agents from systems is very snappy—in some cases, I was able to remove and then redeploy agents in under five seconds.
“The Goverlan agent is light enough to have no impact on system performance and the installation and uninstallation of agents from systems is very snappy.”
Both products support the Windows Management Instrumentation (WMI) query language throughout and allow WMI to be used to target administrative actions. Goverlan, however, does a better job of helping administrators create custom WMI queries through its WMIX utility. It includes a WQL wizard that makes quick work of customizing WMI queries, and allows you to access even obscure classes and properties with a query that you can then export to other Windows administrative tools, like the Group Policy Management Console and Group Policy Object Editor. This can be a real boon to speeding up the creation of policies, and while DameWare supports WMI property searching for selecting machines, the Goverlan WMIX utility is much more full-featured and useful over time.
DameWare appears to tie in better with other server products like Microsoft Exchange. From within the Remote Support console, an administrator can create an Exchange mailbox. Goverlan’s product suite works very well with Active Directory and Group Policy, but the product does not extend its functionality to simple Exchange mailbox property management.
“DameWare appears to tie in better with other server products like Microsoft Exchange. […] Goverlan’s product suite works very well with Active Directory and Group Policy.”
Pricing and Support
While Goverlan’s Remote Administration Suite is priced at $699 per administrator with no client node fee, DameWare is priced at $349 per administrator, also with no additional fees for managing clients. Goverlan provides bulk discounts off list price for their Suite whereas DameWare publishes increasingly less expensive licenses per administrator, particularly above ten.
DameWare includes one year of technical support, including product updates, from the date of purchase of any license. Additional years of maintenance are available for purchase. Goverlan provides 90 days of maintenance support with every license, and you can purchase one or two year maintenance package extensions.
I believe that if you manage a small network with very simple administrative needs, DameWare represents a good value for your money at its less expensive price and longer support period. Goverlan, however, wins for networks with complex Group Policy deployments and multiple variants of machines, as it is better at managing multiple machines at once, controlling them remotely, and extending powerful WMI queries and result sets into standard Windows administration tools.