Symantec’s Altiris Client Management Suite is a remote administration and support solution designed for medium businesses and enterprises. Goverlan’s Remote Access Software solutions aim at the same administration and remote IT support market. Let’s take a look at the two products in comparison with each other.
“Goverlan matches the feature set of Altiris from a configuration management perspective, is easier to use on a daily basis, and is significantly less complex—and it rings in at a lower price point, too.”
by Jonathan Hassell
Author, consultant and speaker on a variety of IT topics. His published works includes Learning Windows Server 2003 from O’Reilly, and his work appears regularly in such periodicals as Windows IT Pro, PC Pro and TechNet Magazine. He also speaks worldwide on topics ranging from networking and security to Windows administration.
Both Goverlan and Altiris operate from a standard Windows console applications and both have themes similar to Microsoft Office, so learning to navigate around the various functions and topic areas of both solutions is intuitive and simple. Altiris also has a web-based console available for administering networks from machines not running Windows. Both solutions install agents on the client nodes that will be managed in order to perform a deeper, more transparent profile of the hardware, software, and operating system on the endpoints. In my personal experience, while both solutions purport to offer automatic agent installation, I had trouble with installing the Altiris agents automatically and had to resort to manual agent installation much of the time. In contrast, the Goverlan agent automatically deployed successfully on each client I tested.
Both products include a robust configuration management surface, and Goverlan and Altiris each offer a remote control solution so that desktops can be managed across the wire without having to get up and go to each station. The Altiris solution rides on top of Symantec’s ancient pcAnywhere technology, which I found to be somewhat sluggish. The Goverlan Remote Control tools worked well over a fast Internet connection and included more features for managing workstations with multiple monitors, administering multiple remote control sessions from a single console, and interacting directly with the user for help desk remediation situations.
I was most comfortable using Goverlan as a “daily driver” for help desk and machine administration needs. Goverlan was lightweight and not taxing on my system’s resources. Between the ability to drill down into a machine’s properties right from one console and the flexibility and power of Goevrlan’s Process Automation framework to build a complex workflow to manage patching and software deployment on a subset of machines at any given time, I found Goverlan’s system to be just right during my tests. In contrast, while Altiris is certainly powerful and rivals the configuration management feature set, deploying the solution required a lot of time and I found that automating procedures like I could do with Goverlan’s Scope Actions was not as easy to follow and took more time. In addition, the administration was very sluggish and slow, even on beefy hardware, and I found myself reluctant to keep it open all the time.
The heft and complexity of the Altiris solution is really there to support comprehensive software installation and deployment management, including installations, inventory of software usage, and dependency tracking; and provide self-service issue remediation and installation for end users. Goverlan does not provide these features. In most production Altiris deployments, you would find multiple servers, including a management server and a workflow server, in addition to your managed endpoints.
In comparison, Goverlan Remote Administration Suite is essentially one product that you install in minutes, and doesn’t require much hardware: the administration console can run on any Windows workstation even with modest hardware requirements involving single-core processors and 1 GB of memory (or even less), and no servers are required. The agents that Goverlan Remote Administration Suite installs are very lightweight and have absolutely no noticeable impact on performance.
Altiris Client Management Suite is able to manage not only Windows machines, but Macintosh, Linux, and Unix endpoint systems as well, whereas Goverlan manages Windows desktops and servers only.
Pricing and Licensing
The Client Management suite, which maps most closely to Goverlan’s features, rings in at $79.22 per managed node. The Asset Management Suite, which sits on top of the client management functionality and performs asset management and inventory-like tasks, is priced by concurrent user (in this case, a user is the administrator, not the employees at each client computer) and starts at $12,975 per user.
In contrast, Goverlan Remote Administration Suite is licensed on a per-administrator basis—you purchase one license for every administration employee that will use the product. There are no per-managed device client access license fees (what Altiris calls “managed nodes”) nor is the product licensed based on the number of processors or other hardware components in a given host. In addition, you don’t need additional hardware to run the product: its reporting engine and agents run fine on existing systems and don’t require expensive big-iron SQL database hardware for monitoring or logging.
The Last Word
Altiris is certainly a stalwart in the industry, and even if reports are true that current owner Symantec has put the Altiris unit up for sale, it is a product that is unlikely to go away anytime soon. But Goverlan matches the feature set of Altiris from a configuration management perspective, is easier to use on a daily basis, and is significantly less complex—and it rings in at a lower price point, too. For daily administration and remote control tasks, I found Goverlan to be a better overall product for the value.