The latest update to Nlyte's IT asset tracking tool, and software to shrink your Office files and hold meetings online.
Data Centre Infrastructure Management 6.0 POA
Nlyte's DCIM software provides a detailed analysis and reporting of the hardware and software being used in data centre facilities, framed by a browser-based interface.
Users of DCIM 5.3 will notice that the new DCIM 6.0 front-end has been rewritten to run in a single window in any standard Web browser, using standard browser navigational and print controls, and no software client is needed on the end-users' computer.
The most distinctive upgrade is an out-of-box analytics stack, based on ETL and OLAP, that provides multi-dimensional views of all the statistics in the underlying SQL database that stores information about data-centre assets, the relationships between them, and how they are used. This can be combined into KPIs which help data centres predict capacity provisioning and the lifespan of their equipment and facilities.
DCIM's own workflows have been augmented by improved integration with BMC Software's Remedy IT Service Management suite. This means that any alterations to existing IT or data-centre infrastructure recorded in Remedy, such as the introduction of new business applications or 50 new servers, can also be fed into DCIM 6.0: here the data can be used to update any data centre planning policies they may affect.
DCIM 6.0 uses visual dashboards to present the statistics it finds using graphical aids including gauges, charts, and maps, allowing users to drill down by clicking on individual statistics around component power usage or cooling, for instance. Some of these dashboards come pre-defined, but users can create and customise their own. You could build a network dashboard that looks at port usage in specific locations, for example, analysing Power-over-Ethernet statistics and capturing network asset information.
DCIM 6.0 has also dropped Crystal Reports as the default reporting tool, and now uses the Microsoft Reporting Services tool that comes free with an enterprise SQL Server license. A library of standard reports includes cabinet and data centre capacity utilisation, power and network cabling, and PDU and power infrastructure, among others; users can also create and schedule their own.
The dashboards and reports are not designed solely for IT and facilities staff; the idea is to give company executives enough information to help them see what is going on inside the business. The software also filters information according to individual contracts and customers, which can be used not only for billing, but also to forecast growth in capacity or services usage.
Permission layers control what each set of users sees: a hosting company could share one of its own reports with a customer, say, but the customer would only see a subset of the information.
File sizes remain as important on today's machines as they did on 1980s computers whose hard drives barely exceeded 1 megabyte.
This data reduction tool can shrink Microsoft Word, Powerpoint and Excel files, Adobe Acrobat (PDF) documents, and image files by as much as 80-90 per cent without actually compressing them, so they are still native files and can be opened by the appropriate application without decompression.
Where a compressed file once more occupies its full disk space when decompressed, the FileMinimizer version stays small. Not only is that good for saving disk capacity, but files load faster, and in these days of Google Apps and Office Live it is useful online too as it means faster uploads and downloads.
It works by shrinking the graphical elements within a file. That means a text file will not shrink, but a text file will not be occupying much space anyway; what really bumps up file sizes is the pictures and visual elements.
The software's compression algorithm analyses each image to strip out unused colours and optimise repeated pixels. It will also convert file formats and resize pictures if appropriate – for example, there's no reason for a presentation slide to contain a high-resolution TIFF image when a JPEG is just as good. You can also tell it not to resize images or change formats, or have it output lossless image formats only.
The savings are impressive. It took a 1.6MB JPEG to just 200kB with no resizing and no loss of resolution or visible quality, and a 6.9MB TIFF became a JPEG of 677kB – a reduction of over 90 per cent. Those reductions carry through to the file they are embedded in, so an 11MB Powerpoint deck was just 2.5MB after minimising.
The downside is that, unless you buy the appliance version – a box which sits on your network and automatically shrinks files for you – it's a manual process, so you must specify the files to minimise – a process that takes time. The software can work as an add-in for Microsoft Exchange and Sharepoint, and Lotus Notes though, minimising file attachments automatically.
It is not perfect; for example, fine text on one Powerpoint graphic was noticeably fuzzier after minimising. Of course, fine text should be text, not a graphic, but people do it anyway...
In the vast majority of cases though, this Swiss software does what it says on the tin. If you are short of disk space or bandwidth, or simply appreciate the efficiency it brings, it could be the answer you are looking for – and there is a free 30-day trial.
LogMeIn, Free/£19 per month
Want to show someone else a document or spreadsheet over the Internet, or help them troubleshoot or figure out how to use a new application?
Or perhaps you want to conduct an online seminar without the added expense?
Screen-sharing has typically been one-to-one, or has required specialist software designed for giving presentations.
But there several Web-based systems are now available, and now the creators of Logmein has created a version available for Android and iOS (iPad/Phone) devices. Only the Windows and Mac OSX versions can share their screen, the mobile apps and other browsers (eg. Linux) are view-only, with no remote control.
Join.me is, in effect, a Web-based version of LogMeIn's eponymous remote control software. It allows up to 250 other users to view your screen.
Simply go to the join.me website and publish your PC or Mac screen – the mobile versions are viewers only for now. The website gives you a unique code which you send to your viewers by email, text, phone or whatever, they type this to their browser or mobile app and can now see your screen. A list of viewers lets you give any one of them control of your desktop or take control back.
The free version needs no registration and includes screen sharing with remote control, text-based chat, and one-to-one file transfer. One caveat is that if you use the free version, anyone with the meeting code can see your screen, although they cannot take control unless you give it to them. There is also a paid-for version for screen sharers which adds user management, scheduling, and the ability to control who has access to your meeting.
For audio, the company automatically enables a free conference bridge that participants can dial into, with access numbers in half a dozen countries including the UK and USA.
TeamViewer, Free or from £439
Remote control software for PCs often require installation on the PC and the mobile deivce, but TeamViewer doesn't need software on the controlling device.
It was developed in Germany and now runs on Windows, Mac OSX, Linux, iOS and Android.
Rather smartly, TeamViewer's developers have created the 32-bit and 64-bit Linux versions by using the WINE Windows emulator to repackage their Windows app.
Teamviewer is not on the Android market, but is easy to install by scanning the QR 2D barcode on TeamViewer's website – once you realise that you have to 'mouse-over' the greyed code to make it jump into focus and contrast! Your device needs to be enabled for app installs from 'unknown sources', of course.
It is clean and pretty intuitive to use – we did find it a bit odd that to scroll around the PC screen on a smaller device you have to move the pointer with your finger, as it is the opposite metaphor to the usual one where you drag the image the way you want it to go, but it quickly became comfortable.
The free version supports remote control, for example for tech support, file transfer, including through firewalls, and a presentation mode, all for non-commercial use only.
You do have to have the viewer program ready and waiting for an incoming connection – the idea is that you email or text your partner your session ID and password; they can then log into your system over the network.
If you are going to leave it running so you can log into your own machine remotely, you should go into the advanced settings and create a strong permanent password to replace the four-digit default. For sessions it uses 256-bit AES encryption which ought to be safe enough.
This level of encryption won't compromise on speed – crucial for the realtime virtual world.