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HelpStar 8.1 Makes for Smooth Support

It took an hour to install and configure HelpStar after downloading MSDE from the Microsoft Web site to a fresh Windows 2000 server. I manually created support-rep accounts for 10 users and imported more than 100 end-user records from a CSV file in my Outlook Express address book. The only time I had to consult the documentation was to format my user text file for import.

Importing Users

HelpStar excels at importing flat-file text data, which lets you create advanced import formulas to deal with multiline records in addition to conventional columnar data. However, HelpStar doesn't offer XML support. Moreover, it's unable to schedule customer data imports, so integrating it into an existing CRM (customer relationship management) application must be done at the database level. Since HelpStar doesn't include database-level import tools or table-design documentation, you're on your own if you want to build scheduled customer-data import routines.

Still, I was able to schedule automatic creation of new internal users through HelpStar's Active Directory import tool. AD imports can be scheduled daily or weekly. You can further customize daily schedules to repeat at intervals throughout the day or between certain hours. Although the software lets you schedule imports only from a single domain, I found it easy to refine the criteria so members of specific AD groups were imported.

I had difficulty mapping fields from AD to my HelpStar user profiles. After extensive troubleshooting, I created an administrative user in AD and another in HelpStar, each with the same name and password. I then logged in to HelpStar and selected the "use logged-in user's credentials" for the AD import. Trying to specify another user name and password as AD credentials failed to work as expected.

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