As it sounds, ACMP is a package for managing the Windows-based PCs connected to your network. It’s a client-server system that, and in its “Base” form it’s free; there are various other chargeable components that you can then layer on top to provide extra functionality.

The server component uses a relational database as its information repository. If you have an existing SQL Server 2000/2005 database server, you can create a new database instance and point the Aagon installer at it. If you don’t, it will install MSDE and set it up for you.

The installer takes about five minutes or so to run on a middlingly-fast machine, and once set-up is complete you’re presented with a login box. Somewhat disconcertingly the text is in German, but it’s obvious where to type the “passwort” and how to switch the GUI to English (the pull-down language selector has flags on it - although rather oddly, the flag is British but the English is American).

On first login, the system checks to see if there’s an update on the vendor’s Web site - in our case it found an update and installed it in about a minute.

Next, you’ll be asked to point the system at the devices on the network you want to scan. It automatically found the Windows workgroup on our network, so we simply told it to scan everything. You can either use the ACMP client software (which will cause an applet to be installed on the remote machines) or the “OneScanClient”, which doesn’t cause anything to be installed on the client devices. Once you’ve specified computers and credentials, you’re asked some simple questions about the nature of the data that will be accessed and how you want it displayed, and once you’ve entered this (the defaults are pretty sensible, so you can really just hit “Next” through the wizard) you’re done.

Once set-up is complete, what you can do next depends on what components you have or haven’t bought. If you’re using the base system you can query and run reports on the version of Windows being run, service pack levels, chosen languages, attached hardware and so on. With ACMP Pro you gain client management facilities – more in-depth reporting, software distribution and “client commands”, which enable you to automate tasks on client computers. AVdetective is, unsurprisingly, a tool that checks the installed anti-virus software on all machines and alerts you to discrepancies such as the complete absence of AV on a host or, more commonly, an installation whose virus database is outdated. Finally, SWdetective is a comprehensive software inventory manager.

The GUI has the usual two-pane structure, and aside from the configuration section there are three main areas: client management, licence management and reporting. At the basic end of the range, Client Management lets you run queries on your clients (in the Base version you get to report on things like installed disks, OSs and video adaptors; in the Pro version you get a load of extras such as services, system updates and services). Each time you run a query it creates a new tab in the main pane, which is neat because it mean you don’t lose your last set of results when running a new query.