Famatech Radmin 3.0
Strengths: Simple to use, the new features will appeal to support staff
Weaknesses: The lack of centralised software installation could be a problem on large networks
Verdict: Improved performance and security, and the additional features, make this an attractive proposition
Version 3.0 of Famatech's Radmin software builds on the successful client-server architecture used in the earlier releases and includes a number of new features. The installation process has been improved and now offers the server and viewer software as separate components, so that systems can be configured as required. But there is no centralised installation system and rollouts to large networks will be tedious.
The documentation, available in the shape of the standard Windows help system, is well designed and covers the ground effectively.
Security options have been strengthened. The software's own security system can now maintain individual user passwords and permissions, a big improvement on the "one password fits all" approach of the earlier release. The new authentication method is based on a Diffie-Hellman key exchange algorithm using 2048-bit keys. User login names and passwords are stored on the server systems for additional security. The software can still use Windows' own user authentication services, avoiding the need to maintain separate sets of user security data, with Kerberos support available as well.
The server component offers a "connect through" feature, which allows the viewer software to access Radmin servers running on remote computers using an intermediary server. Running as a Windows service, the server software can start automatically when Windows boots up. It can also be started manually, which may improve security in some situations.
Further security options include the ability to disable features such as Telnet or file transfer, and prevent a remote viewer from initiating a server shutdown. Access to a server can be restricted by IP address ranges, and the default connection port can be changed.
A number of additional server options are available to support the new features. The chat options will be familiar to anyone used to IRC software, and the support for both public and private channels in both text and audio modes is welcome.
The viewer component retains the full control and view modes from the earlier version, while the phonebook now offers folder support and desktop shortcuts. Phonebook settings can be imported from earlier versions. You can make a connection to a specific server if you know its IP address, or you can set the viewer software to scan for active Radmin servers on the network. Connectivity is not restricted to the LAN. It can connect to a remote system over the web or through a dial-up connection, and can even use a direct cable connection between two systems if necessary.
Once a session is established, further features, such as chat sessions can be activated using the existing security settings, obviating the need to enter login data each time. Telnet sessions give access to the server system's command line via the server software's encrypted connection. They will therefore be available even when the Windows Telnet service has been disabled, and will be more secure. The new chat feature can operate in multi-user mode, and will support audio as well as text-mode chat.
File transfer has been much improved over previous versions. Transfer rates are respectable, copying a 332MB file in 5 minutes 53 seconds over a 100MB ethernet connection. While this is slower than a normal Windows network copy, all Radmin transmissions are encrypted using 256-bit AES encryption, which imposes an additional processing overhead. A further overhead comes from the use of "delta copying" techniques, which allow it to recover from failed or interrupted transfers.
The standard support options include a forum website and technical support via email, which should be enough for most users. If not, £116 a year will buy you Radmin's standard support package, providing a guaranteed 24-hour response.
The new software will operate alongside version 2.2, as long as you install them in different directories. The Radmin 3.0 viewer can also operate with the earlier 2.2 server software, although some new features such as chat will not be available. This backward compatibility helps to smooth out any migration issues and allows a gradual rollout of the new software.