Network management software

Desktop Authority is a little different from the rest of the products tested here as it relies on building Windows scripts to perform virtually all its functions (although you don't have to know scripting - it puts the scripts together based on options chosen through the graphical user interface).

The product offers desktop deployment, imaging and configuration and patch management, hardware and software inventory as well as anti-spyware capabilities. It also allows the setting of corporate policy through these powerful login scripts and is targetted at most sizes of company looking to monitor and control Windows-based computers.

Installation was a bit long-winded as we had to install a lot of other software to be installed first (for example Microsoft .NET Framework 1.1). It's also limited in the type of environment into which it can be deployed. You're very much tied to Active Directory with Desktop Authority and it will only really be of use in servicing devices that are part of such a domain.

The interface is standard fare. There's a tree view of different options on the left and a pane containing important information on the right. There is also a 'shortcuts' pane below the tree view that can be turned on and off. But it's what's behind the interface that's really interesting.

That's where the scripting element comes in. Desktop Authority essentially provides GUI-driven way of building complicated Windows logon scripts and this is what allows you to control and administer the machines on your network. It's extensible too and you can create custom features using the KiXtart scripting language.

This means that there are plenty of features available and a surprising amount of flexibility on offer. And though you're limited to Active Directory domains (if you want to use all the product's features) it will allow administrators to set clear policies for Windows machines. For example, policies can be set that target machines in a certain IP range, running a particular version of Windows or even employing a specific type of connectivity. And as long as there is an entry in the computer's registry for a given piece of hardware or software installed on the computer, the product can set policy based on the hardware or software installed on the endpoint. For example, if there is a registry entry for a modem, you can set up a script that will prevent that modem from dialling out.

It's not the perfect solution for every management scenario, however. We just about managed to set up a policy, for instance, to stop a user logging off our test client laptop until the machine was fully patched, ensuring that the machine was up-to-date, but it was over-complicated and we felt that the task could be achieved just as easily and much more intuitively using a specific patch management product.

The remote maintenance feature does work quite well though. We particularly liked the splash screen it displayed which summarised details of patches installed, OS version, and event logs - the kind of information that is invaluable to helpdesk staff trying to diagnose a problem.

There's no doubt that Desktop Authority is a very powerful scripting application and anyone that likes to set policies this way will find the graphical nature of the product takes a massive amount of work out of this task.


Doesn't quite cover all of the OS bases but it is cheap and surprisingly flexible

Rene Millman

Rene Millman is a freelance writer and broadcaster who covers cybersecurity, AI, IoT, and the cloud. He also works as a contributing analyst at GigaOm and has previously worked as an analyst for Gartner covering the infrastructure market. He has made numerous television appearances to give his views and expertise on technology trends and companies that affect and shape our lives. You can follow Rene Millman on Twitter.