On Guard: To Protect and Serve

On Guard Desktop and Network Security, from Power On Software, provides a solution for operating mixed system environments. First and foremost, it provides a security solution allowing users to control the environment for both Apple and Windows systems.

In addition, it provides a common user interface for the administrator; in fact, the On Guard feature set and appearance are nearly identical. It should be noted that if you are using a networked environment that contains both Windows and Macintosh computers, the administrator cannot export the On Guard settings between platforms. Windows computers must be configured with On Guard for Windows, while Macintosh computers must be configured with On Guard for Macintosh.

On Guard saves hours of support time by preventing changes to networked computers, eliminating the need to set up security on each computer. It allows me to configure one computer and save the settings to other computers on the network. Of course, it supports stand-alone systems as well.

For those of us who use Windows 2000 only, the importance of these tools may not be immediately obvious. On Guard adds to Windows 95, 98, and ME the features that make multiple users in a lab feasible, simplifying administration of a secure, reliable system.

Features

Installation for both systems is simple if one follows the instructions carefully. On the Windows side, I missed the fact that the system requirements were a minimum memory of 64MB and minimum of a 200MHz processor: While the memory was no problem in our laboratories, some of our older systems with 100MHz processors did not respond well to being overloaded.

Security

On Guard secures the system from power-up to shutdown. This is important in a laboratory of inquisitive Information Systems majors. As the administrator, I have full control of what each user has access to. For instance, I can lock out user ability to interrupt the boot sequence and aut'exec.bat files. The administrator can also replace the Windows/network login dialog box with the On Guard login dialog, which cannot be canceled.

The program allows the administrator to lock specific file types on a drive-by-drive basis. For example, I might want to give students in introductory classes complete access to tutorial files while advanced students might have more limited access. Clearly, neither should have access to the system drive.

The program's advanced security options for control down to the file and folder level allow me to control who can save files, and where. Of course, the greatest sanity-saver is that the administrator may prevent users from deleting or renaming files, folders, applications, disks, and system resources—no more "ost applications" or missing DLL files.

An unexpected benefit has been that by combining the features of On Guard, I have been able to set up configurations that allow me to give tests in the computer lab without worrying about students using electronic cheat sheets.

Configuration

The administrator can specify custom start menus, desktops, and personal folders as well as configure and control access to files and folders on the system. This is a useful feature in classes where I want to limit access to certain types of software at certain times—preventing students from surfing the Web while I am trying to talk, for instance. On Guard supports enabling and disabling of the Windows 98/95 standard policy set for greater flexibility.

Control

I cannot over emphasize the importance of the control features. As administrator who can control access to control panels, configuration files, and startup files will have fewer student-induced configuration failures. And control of what the user can launch, open, and save will mean fewer problems with viruses and unauthorized program installation. An administrator can prevent piracy by limiting what types of files can be saved to student-controlled disks, as well as direct saves and data fetches to a user's folder on the central server or to removable media.

Logging

For effective management of computer resources, On Guard tracks computer use, including user activities such as startup and shutdown, failed login attempts, idle time, and program access violations for all or specific users. In addition, On Guard's reporting capability shows who used the computer and the programs launched by the user.

Conclusions

While it would be an advantage if administrators could access portions of the profile/setup files in a mixed Apple Windows environment, On Guard is generally a good product for administration and security. It allows the inexperienced to be less paranoid. The use of building, campus, and school district licenses makes the product affordable for general use.

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