HFNetChkPro might well suffer from having a dreadful name, but it boasts a top technical pedigree. It was developed from Shavlik's HFNetChk (Hotfix Network Checker) software, first distributed by Microsoft as a free command line tool and now part of the Microsoft Baseline Security Analyzer and the Systems Management Server SUS Feature Pack.

Originally a checker for patches, the Pro version adds a graphical interface and features to make it a standalone management tool. In tune with Microsoft, it is based on XML and the .Net Framework. When initializing, it checks to see if these and other features are supported. If not, they are provided on the disk and loaded on demand.

The application is agentless, which makes setup easy and fast and does not present problems when an upgrade is necessary. It means care has to be taken when setting up because the client discovery process can impact network performance. Shavlik provides throttling to hold back the activity.

There is a command pane on the left hand side of the interface and an information area on the right. It makes the software easy to use and has a Windows influence with scans tabulated as My Machine, My Domain and My Test Machine. Another option is an Entire Network scan that will find Windows versions and key Microsoft applications such as Office, Outlook, SQL Server, Exchange Server, and even includes Java Virtual Machine. Although there are plans to support other operating systems (Linux next), initially these will be separate applications.

A useful tool is that Microsoft TechNet information pages are accessible and supplemented with pages from the TruSecure site, which evaluate the importance of the patch. These can be annotated by the administrator with notes about the patch and a setting can be made to denote how critical it is.

Discovered clients can be grouped, and scan or deployment templates created to set operational parameters. The templates have throttles to control network loadings.

Product title
Product info
Name: HFNetChkPro (Patch management group test) Description: Price: $2,080 for 100 seats
: Clear, easy-to-follow interface. Plenty of controls and excellent patch information.
: Does not support any non-Microsoft products and lacks patch testing facilities.
: This was the easiest product to use, but it lacks non-Microsoft product support.

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