Active Directory mISV

Sunday, April 30, 2006

Marketing Plan

Now that I've release Active Last Logon I can just sit back and watch the cash roll in. Or not. I had a couple of days of sitting around with that now what feeling, so this morning I sat down and wrote the outline of a marketing plan. It isn't long, but I urge anyone who hasn't done so yet to write it down. Even if you have it all planned out in your head. I've come up with several ideas I wouldn't have had I left my marketing ideas in my head. I'll be blogging about some of parts of this plan as I start to implement them and give progress reports as I go along. So here is the outline of the plan. You might note that some of the things on this list may not be marketing strictly speaking, but they all relate back to it for me so they made the list.

1. Continue to improve the look of the website - A good looking website should be a journey not a destination, however at some point you need to move on and work on other things. I plan to bring in outside design help in the near future as well.

2. Continue to improve copy on the website - Same as above journey not destination.

3. Send out press release - This is done. Well the copy is written and it will be released May 1 through I'm still learning the process and hopefully future press releases will have a wider distribution.

4. Reviews, Reviews, Reviews - I really think this is the biggest key to the success of Active Last Logon. Right now I'm building a list of online and offline sites and magazines to submit copies of Active Last Logon to for review. I'm also looking for any information anyone has about how to get the best response from the editors(ie them deciding to review, not some trick to get a good review).

5. Google AdWords - Can't beat the price, but I just don't think my keywords get enough impressions to help significantly. I started running ads last week and I typically averaged 38 impressions and one click per day.

6. SEO - Currently my site comes up on the second page of results for my key words, and every once in a while the last result on the first page. Currently on the first page on msn, but virtually non existent on yahoo.

7. Free tools - I have ideas for a few Active Directory utilities that I'm going to release for free hoping to bring traffic to the site.

8. Articles - I'm planning to write some Active Directory articles. Mostly topics that relate to Active Last Logon, but some general Active Directory.

9. Become active in the Active Directory blogging, mailing list and newsgroups communities. Not spamming or astroturfing just joining in the conversation and giving a few tidbits about my product/articles/free tools in my sig.

10. Possibly run some banner ads on a few sites. The pricing is pretty good and sites are really targeted so it may be worth it.

I didn't really intend to have a list of 10, guess I've been reading Guy Kawasaki too much. :)

Monday, April 24, 2006

Active Last Logon Released

Sorry for the lack of posts lately, but it has been a busy month getting Active Last Logon out the door. It is now available for purchase. For those of you who missed earlier posts Active Last Logon adds another tab to Active Directory Users and Computers to display last logon information. For more information visit the product page or read this previous post.

Thanks to all who have given advice or tried out the beta.

Monday, March 13, 2006

When is a bug a bug

I've had a handful of downloads on the Active Last Logon beta, but so far not feedback. From what I hear that's typical. It's hard to get good beta feedback.

I have found one bug so far during testing, but is it really a bug? Let me explain, I was testing the case when a domain controller is offline. I've tested this case in previous builds and it has worked exactly as expected. This time it crashed. I was surprised since I believed I'd tested this case already.

Then I found the problem. Turns out that I found two bugs. The first was a bug in my testing protocol. Instead of taking a domain controller offline, I just manually edited Active Directory to add a fake one. Well the bug was I added the fake domain controller wrong. I neglected to create all the objects that should exist for a domain controller.

The second bug was that Active Last Logon crashes when there is a improperly added fake domain controller. :) So is this really a bug. I decided that yes it is. I don't want there to be any cases were things "just crash". Even though there is very little chance this would happen in the real world I decided to mark it as a bug and fix it. I can imagine a weird case were someone's domain gets messed up and could cause this crash.

So what am I saying with this post?

1. Automate or at least document the steps to your testing
2. A bug is a bug. If you can imagine it happening and it crashes the whole app fix it!

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

The beta is now available

Well it is late(the time and the beta) so here it is. I'll post more about it tommorow. Active Last Logon beta

Saturday, February 25, 2006

All about Active Last Logon

I'm sure many of you who see this blog aren't necessarily that familiar with Active Directory so I decided to post more about what Active Last Logon does and how the decision to create this product came about.

So in brief words Active Directory is a database of users, resources and ACL's giving access to the resources. It also handles Authentication and Authorization. Now there is plenty more to it such as workstation management, but for our purposes today that is enough.

Administrators typically use a tool called "Active Directory Users and Computers"(ADUC) to manage users, groups, workstations, etc. When you look at the properties of a user's account using ADUC you see mostly static data. The user's full name, group memberships, login script, etc.

Active Directory however does store some data that is more dynamic. One of these things is the last time the user logged on to Active Directory updated each time the user logs on. The catch is the "Last Logon Time" attribute stored in Active Directory is a non-replicated property meaning each domain controller has it's own copy of this property that only applies to itself. So the end result is a different value for the last logon time on each domain controller.

For the purposes of this post just consider a domain controller to be a server with a copy of the Active Directory DB and can authenticate users.

So to get the an accurate value for the last time the user logged on each domain controller must be checked. Here is were my product Active Last Logon comes in. It adds a tab to ADUC called Last Logon that polls all the domain controllers and displays the most recent.

The idea to create this product came about because of my background as an administrator on Novell eDirectory networks. In that environment the last logon time is displayed by the management tools by default. This is because the last logon attribute in eDirectory is a replicated attribute. I then found myself working on Active Directory networks and wanted to see this value, thus giving me the idea to create this product.

The differing philosophies regarding Active Directory vs. eDirectory is the subject for a later post.

I hope this post has helped some of you who may be reading this and aren't familiar with Active Directory to understand my product a bit.

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

First Screenshot

I finally got the first screenshot up on the website. The website is really ugly at this point, but I'm concentrating on the getting the beta done. The beta is complete including the installer, except for some internal testing.

On another note if anyone knows if this is a bad idea, the way the website is setup right now is dotnetnuke is installed to a subdirectory, then I put a default page at the root that does a redirect to the dotnetnuke directory. Is this a bad idea, I'm mostly thinking of in relation to search engines/crawlers.

I'm redirecting like this:

Response.Status="301 Moved Permanently"
Response.AddHeader "Location", "/dnndirectory"

Since I'm assuming most people reading this are not Active Directory admins, I'm going to have to start casting a wider net for beta testers, so if you know anyone who may be interested...

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Active Last Logon

So it is time to announce my first product. It is named "Active Last Logon". It adds an additional tab to Active Directory Users and Computers to view last logon information for a user. It polls all Domain Controllers in a domain and get the last logon info from each one then displays the most recent on the new tab.

I intended to have a screenshot to accompany this post, but I'm not blogging this from home so hopefully I'll get screenshots posted later tonight.

The company website is also running although it still needs to beaten with a pretty stick. I need to add the screenshots there also. The website is a work in progress and will be changing quite a bit over the next week or two.

Thanks to those who posted comments spurring me to get this announcement out since I had originally intended to post it last Friday.