Vector cleans up unused software

Vector Networks Inc. says its latest PC management package not only addresses the problem of “shelfware” in the enterprise, but also avoids adding to the undesirable phenomenon.

Vector in July unveiled PC-Duo Enterprise, a modular program that lets companies see just how much software they have and, ultimately, how useful it is.

Judith Drucker, a Vector spokeswoman, described shelfware as software under-used or not used at all: useless applications for which enterprises pay license fees.

The PC-Duo Enterprise application provides a “software metering” module, which searches computers on the LAN for unused software licenses. It measures how often software is used and helps companies determine how valuable it is, Vector said.

PC-Duo Enterprise’s inventory management module lets systems administrators know what software licenses the company owns.

Vector’s product also offers a software distribution module for simple cross-enterprise installations of new applications.

PC-Duo Enterprise provides a remote control module so IT managers need not visit a PC’s physical location to diagnose problems.

As well, a separate PC-Duo Enterprise diagnostic module takes a snapshot of applications on the end user’s computer, making for a reference point when things go wrong.

Finally PC-Duo Enterprise offers “help desk issue tracking,” a Web-based module that compares incoming PC problems with those that have come before and, in turn, makes diagnosis that much quicker.

Vector’s reps point out that PC-Duo Enterprise is available in a variety of forms. Companies can purchase individual modules, mix and match or add modules later as they see fit.

According to Tony DiCaprio, vice-president of Vector subsidiary MetaQuest Software Inc. in Montreal, most PC management platforms offer “all or nothing.” Users must purchase every module available, whether they need them or not.

This all-in-one packaging actually creates even more shelfware in some cases, Drucker noted. PC-Duo Enterprise, she said, does not add to the glut of software it’s supposed to address.

This modular approach appealed to Chris Ford, systems analyst with the Department of Natural Resources in Ottawa. He uses the inventory tracking module to learn when software needs to be upgraded, how many licenses the department has and even to find rogue applications that simply don’t belong on government computers – programs users download from the Web, for example.

“This lets you track that,” Ford said, adding that the Vector program is light on network and hardware resources compared to Microsoft Corp.’s competing Systems Management Server.

But PC-Duo Enterprise’s quest to sniff out shelfware raises certain questions. For example, wouldn’t it be better for a company to apply diligence in software spending in the first place than purchase a program to clean up poor decisions after the fact?

Drucker said most companies act responsibly during software buys and Vector certainly doesn’t suggest otherwise. Besides, she explained, PC-Duo Enterprise is not designed as a digital broom but exists to help “companies be the most cost-effective…they can be.”

Ford agreed with Drucker’s assessments. “I can’t see why companies would buy software just for the sake of buying software,” he said, adding that PC-Duo Enterprise is less of a cleaning product and more of an enabling force in his department.

Since PC-Duo Enterprise is available in various combinations, Vector does not have a standard price for the product. However, Drucker said the cost for a 1,000-user implementation would range from US$11.40 per license to US$62.45 per license for the complete package.

For more information, consult Vector’s Web site,