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If you own or are involved with a small business with a peer-to-peer network, you need help. You'd rather run your business than get bogged down with network administration--and you most likely don't have the tools for administering your network. That's where Cisco Network Magic Pro ($50, 7-day free trial) comes in.
Network Magic Pro is an excellent, comprehensive tool that allows anyone to manage and troubleshoot a small network, including devices attached to it (such as printers). You don't need to be a network pro to use it--in fact, it's designed for those with little or no network experience.
Install Network Magic Pro, and it automatically detects all computers and devices attached to your network. The main screen, Network Tasks, displays all the jobs that the software does. If you have any issues that need immediate attention, you'll see alerts at the top of the screen. Click to get more details, and to run a wizard-style solution that will solve the problem for you. Even more useful is the Status Center that displays the current state of your network at a glance.
In addition, a network map displays every device on your network, and gives you plenty of details about each, such as device name, hardware and software configuration, IP information, what security software it uses, and more. There are also excellent troubleshooters that anyone with a small business network will appreciate, particularly for setting up network security. Also useful is a network history report that shows bandwidth use by computer, so small business owners can see if there are any bandwidth hoggers. Even better is the ability to create comprehensive reports about each computer on the network, including Internet use, what programs have been run, what Web sites have been visited, and more. There are plenty more tools in Network Magic Pro, such as connection troubleshooter, bandwidth tester, and tools for sharing files, folders, and printers.
The $50 registration fee may sound high, but it's a small price to pay for a small business that needs network help when you consider the price of IT talent--and the potentially higher cost of having network problems. Network Magic Pro is a must-have for any business big enough for a network but too small for a network administrator.
Note: There is also a $30 version of the program, Cisco Network Magic Essentials, designed for home users. Essentials doesn't support as many PCs, work with network-attached storage devices, or offer Internet access controls. Cisco Network Magic Pro and Cisco Network Magic Essentials are the same download, which times out after seven days. To use either version the program after that, you'll have to pay the registration fee for one version or the other. Also note that if you have a Linksys router but you don't register within seven days, you can use the software as Cisco Network Magic Basic, which includes the network map, some security features, and several other useful tools, but not nearly as many as for Cisco Network Magic Pro and Cisco Network Magic Essentials.