Netwrix makes a freeware version of their visibility platform for data security and risk mitigation available to any organization.. Learn how you can use this software to increase your business' security awareness.

Timothy Warner

Timothy Warner is a Microsoft Cloud and Datacenter Management Most Valuable Professional (MVP) who is based in Nashville, TN. Check out his Azure and Windows Server video training at Pluralsight, and feel free to reach out to Tim via Twitter.

If your IT department needs better visibility into changes, cpnfigurations and access in Active Directory, Exchange, Windows Server, Azure AD and other systems, , then Netwrix Auditor is a fine choice. To be sure, I've reviewed their solution many times here at 4sysops:

Today I want to show you the freeware version of the product: Netwrix Auditor Free Community Edition. It is popular in the small- to medium-sized business (SMB) market where companies need basic auditing and monitoring but not extended, enterprise product functionality. The freeware seamlessly upgrades to the full version of Netwrix Auditor with no need to deploy additional applications or tools.

Let's take a look at what Netwrix Auditor Free Community Edition has to offer!

Obtain the software ^

The way to obtain Netwrix Auditor Free Community Edition is to download the 20-day full-version evaluation. After 20 days, you'll see the following dialog box at product launch:

Transition to the freeware version

Transition to the freeware version

One suggestion I have for Netwrix in their Netwrix Auditor Free Community Edition product is to hide product features that do not apply; this is a technique called security trimming. Of course, Netwrix wants you to be able to see what full-version features are available. However, receiving error dialog boxes like the following when you click visible interface options can be disconcerting:

The freeware version displays this dialog a lot

The freeware version displays this dialog a lot

On the other hand, nag screens are a small price to pay for a dramatic improvement over Windows Server's built-in Group Policy-based auditing and non-existent reporting! After your 20-day trial ends and Netwrix Auditor converts to the freeware version, the product will run at the freeware level indefinitely.

If at any time you want to upgrade to the full version, simply open the Netwrix Auditor console, navigate to Licenses, select a data source, and click Update. I show you this workflow in the next screenshot.

Upgrading Netwrix Auditor to the full version

Upgrading Netwrix Auditor to the full version

Freeware core functionality ^

You should check the Netwrix Auditor product comparison page to see the details, but let's run through what auditing actions you can and cannot do with Netwrix Auditor Free Community Edition.

The biggest limitation is the reporting scope: Netwrix Auditor Free Community Edition provides auditing and reporting only for the past 24 hours. Therefore, this product fits the use case of businesses requiring ad-hoc resource monitoring and not long-term reporting to meet compliance certifications.

Netwrix Auditor Free Community Edition provides the what, when, and where details for each reported event, but only the full version provides the who. By the way, these auditing details work for the following data sources:

  • Active Directory
  • Group Policy
  • Azure AD
  • File servers
  • Logon activity
  • Oracle Database
  • SharePoint
  • SharePoint Online
  • Exchange
  • Exchange Online
  • SQL Server
  • VMware
  • Windows Server

The full version of Netwrix Auditor grants access to the following (and more):

  • Alerts on threat patterns
  • Ability to customize reports
  • Out-of-the-box compliance reports
  • Interactive search
  • Inactive AD user tracking
  • Password expiration notifications
  • User activity video recording

The following screenshot displays part of an AD daily activity summary report from the Free Community Edition:

The freeware edition provides what, when, and where details (image credit Netwrix)

The freeware edition provides what, when, and where details (image credit Netwrix)

You can configure sending the daily activity summary to a single recipient automatically. In summary, Netwrix Auditor Free Community Edition provides reporting on changes, read attempts, and logons. It also shows you before-and-after values for every modification within a data source.

For instance, in the sample daily activity summary report, we can see that access to the Exchange Server user Phill Johnson's mailbox has been granted to the J.Carter user:

Netwrix Auditor change management

Netwrix Auditor change management

Wrap-up ^

The key value proposition behind Netwrix Auditor Free Community Edition is that you can, for no cost, aggregate auditing and monitoring data across multiple data sources and view the data simply from your mailbox.  Almost inevitably, you may find yourself wanting the "who" piece of the auditing equation, compliance certification, and longer data retention. In that case, you can seamlessly upgrade your license without losing any of your current configuration data. Check out Netwrix' pricing page for cost details, and make sure you spend some time studying their documentation library.

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  1. Phil D 1 month ago

    Looks really interesting, I'll look to deploy this over the weekend. Thank you for the article.

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