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Imagine you work as a systems administrator for a grocery store. The store has 24 point-of-sale computers, 14 inventory management systems, and 12 office workstations, all of which run either Windows Client or Windows Server.
The store manager asks you if there's any way you could schedule the shutdown and startup of most of those systems to reduce the business's electricity bill. While you're at it, you realize the need to lock certain systems manually and remotely from a central console. What do you do?
Well, you know me well enough by now to realize I'm leading you down a path. The above fictional scenario is an excellent candidate for EMCO Remote Shutdown. This software enables you to schedule and run several administrative tasks on remote systems. These tasks include:
- Send a network message
- Sign out the current user
- Lock the system
- Retrieve the system's MAC address
In this article I use EMCO Remote Shutdown Enterprise Edition, but most features apply to the Professional and Free Editions. We'll perform a feature/price comparison at the end of this review.
Installation and initial configuration ^
Go ahead and download the free, fully functional 30-day evaluation of EMCO Remote Shutdown Enterprise Edition. For the Free and Professional editions, you install the management client. The Enterprise edition installs a server that can centrally manage other EMCO Remote Shutdown instances.
The following screenshot shows the connection dialog that appears when you start Enterprise Edition. This client/server model reminds me a bit of System Center Virtual Machine Manager (SCVMM) or even SQL Server.
At first launch, all editions of EMCO Remote Shutdown walk you through a configuration wizard. It asks you to:
- Provide administrative credentials to authorize agent installation and remote operations
- Optionally specify an SMTP mail server to receive notifications
- Determine whether you will use the built-in SQLite database or a separate SQL Server database
At this point, you're ready to run a network scan called an enumeration to detect all compatible Windows systems in your network.
That brings up an important point, actually. To make EMCO work, you'll need to ensure all target machines meet the following requirements:
- They run some client or server Windows version
- NetBIOS over TCP/IP is enabled
- Server Message Block (SMB) ports are open
- File and Printer Sharing service is enabled
- Target system BIOS/UEFI and network adapters have Wake-on-LAN enabled
Personally, I am not thrilled about the heavy reliance on NetBIOS here, but you do get a lot of convenience and functionality in exchange. You can't beat the price of the Free edition either.
The following screenshot gives you a taste of the EMCO Remote Management user interface and the look and feel of the Enumerate Machines Wizard.
As I mentioned, EMCO Remote Shutdown uses an agent to do its work. Specifically, each target node will have a new service that runs under the local System identity called EMCO Remote Shutdown. Curiously, the agent installer does not appear in the node's Programs and Features Control Panel item. Here's a screenshot:
Executing remote operations ^
In the EMCO Remote Shutdown Network pane, you can organize your managed systems into collections. The cool thing about collections is you can then issue a remote command against all member nodes simultaneously.
Speaking of which, the easiest way to issue a remote command is to right-click the target collection or node and select an option from the context menu. Here's a screenshot:
Each remote power, administration, session, or input device command has an associated wizard. For example, the Restart Wizard asks you to set the following options:
- Reason for the restart
- Scheduling when the restart should happen
- Pop-up notification message(s) on the target host
And off you go! The following composite screenshot shows you the Restart Wizard above the resulting client-side message.
Notice in the above screenshot that you can use a specialized variable syntax to customize (personalize) your messages with the user(s) operating the target node. Read the documentation for more details.
Other capabilities ^
You can schedule all of EMCO Remote Shutdown's management activities. In addition, you have them available for as-needed execution. Again, a wizard interface handles this process, as shown in the next screen capture.
EMCO Remote Shutdown Enterprise Edition gives you an IIS website to report on remote operation execution results. As you can see in the next screenshot, the web interface is spartan but functional enough.
Your network may require different credentials to access particular systems remotely. To address this problem, EMCO Remote Shutdown includes a built-in credential manager, accessible from the Credentials pane in the application.
Here you can scope a credential higher or lower on your computer hierarchy and make changes as your security needs evolve.
And speaking of credentials, EMCO Remote Shutdown uses role-based access control (RBAC) to manage which users can perform which actions in the tool. This capability is excellent for businesses that need to delegate some privileges (for instance, locking workstations) to help desk personnel without granting them all privileges. The following screenshot shows both the Credentials and Access Control panes.
You can check the EMCO website to read the comprehensive comparison, but the main limitations of EMCO Remote Shutdown Free Edition that differ from the paid editions are:
- Maximum of five remote nodes
- Maximum of two scheduled tasks per management action
- Advanced configuration of remote operations (custom messages and so forth)
- Client-server model
- Web reporting portal
- External SQL Server database support
Study their product pricing page to learn which paid edition might fit your company's budget.
EMCO Remote Shutdown is a much larger tool than I originally thought, and we covered only a portion of its feature set in this review. I encourage you to download at least the Free edition and consult the documentation.
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The price point seems a little high for smaller businesses, and larger enterprises may already have a configuration/power management platform like System Center in place. But for businesses who fit EMCO's target demographic, Remote Shutdown is a compelling product. And as I said before, you can't argue with the price of the Free edition.