Review: Log Explorer 2.1

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Log Explorer

Rating: 4 Stars

I downloaded and installed v2.10 of Log Explorer to review the changes that have occurred since

last fall when I examined v1.5. I was excited about this product last year, but it was a fairly unpolished

application and did not support SQL Server 2000 initially. When v2.0 was released, I wanted to take another

look, but have been busy until recently.

The Installation

The downloaded file was a self-extracting executable that started the installation. I choose

the enterprise version, and since I did not have a key, the 30 day evaluation version, which does

not require a key. I choose my local SQL 2000 server, and NT authentication( Shouldn't that

be Window Authentication? With Windows 2000 and XP coming, I think the NT is dropped.)

I finished and viewed the release notes. It's nice that there is an upgrade option

for the evaluation to the full version. Every software should have this.

During my evaluation, I also received a service pack for v2.1 that installed with the same ease

as the initial product.

Soap Box

Before I look at the product, a couple of initial thoughts. I like the two versions that Log

Explorer is packaged in. There are lots of cases where you might want to allow

someone to view activity (for auditing), but not want them to be able to

undo changes. Having the two versions with different price points is nice. After my

last review of v1.5, I had said this represetned a good value. One of my readers

pointed out that at $1500 / server, his 20 servers would not be able to be licensed. Also,

by purchasing a single copy or two, he did not easily have the option of moving this among

servers as the need arose. He wrote a letter to Lumigent and cc'd me noting that a site

license or discount for multiple copies would be nice. Since I have only 2 production

servers, licensing two copies wouldn't be a big deal, but having the audit capabilites

for my development boxes could help solve some problems. I wouldn't really need the rollback

capabilities since we move the production databases back to development on a regular basis.

The pricing for v2.x is $995 for the full version and $395 for the Professional edition (These

prices are are of 07-01-2001). The differences are that the professional version does not have many

of the rollback and undo options, including the recover dropped table. For most of my purposes (auditing),

the Professional would suffice. There are discounts available for 5 and 10 copies and Lumigent has

mentioned there are more aggresive discounts for 20 or more copies.

The Product

In reviewing the release notes, I noticed there are a number of known issues listed. This is

nice in that I can refer to this list when something doesn't work before I contact the

company. Having this info is handy and I wish more software would do this.

Lumigent sent me a reviewer's guide and some sample SQL data. I decided to start the product

first to see how intuitive it is before reading the guide and installing the sample data.

I started the product and connected to my local server using Windows Authentication. After

making sure I had the "Full" recovery model, I added a row to a table and "browsed" the log

records. I saw my insert statement listed with the appropriate detial. It worked pretty easily.

Now on to the reviewer's guide.

This is well written and includes a small app that acts like a mini-Query Analyzer. It has

preloaded scripts you can select from and run and then check the results in Log

Explorer. This actually covers some great scenarios and is a good tutorial for getting

started. I'd highly recommend everyone downloading this guide along iwth a 30 day evaluation

and using it on their local SQL Server. While running through the guide, I switched over

to Query Analyzer and dropped a table. Log Explorer found the deleted records and

reconstructed the table. Outstanding!! If I'd had this for everytime I ran a

delete

without a where clause, I'd have saved quite a bit of

face in the past.

While using the reviewers guide and experimenting, I performed the following tasks:

  • Browsed the existing log - Saw all my transactions. I could right click on transactions

    and "undo" them. The undo generates a SQL file and then displays the file in the product. At

    first I found this annoying, but after fat-fingering a thing or two, I realized this is actually

    a nice safety feature.

  • Ran some insert statements and verified them in the "browse" view.
  • Ran the real time monitor - Viewed this in one window while running transactions from

    Query Analyzer. This was really neat as I was able to monitor transactions in a way that is easier

    than using Profiler.

  • Deleted all rows from a table (unqualified DELETE) and then recovered the table from

    Log Explorer. This alone is a great justification for purchasing this product!

  • I ran a log analysis to see if it worked. Not sure if I would use this, but it's there. If

    you need this, be sure you apply the service pack.

  • Set a filter on the log records and then "browsed" the log again. The filter worked as expected.
  • Undid my filter and then exported records to XML, HTML, and comma delimited file. This is

    probably more of an auditing tool, and it worked as expected. Once the file is exported to XML or

    HTML, it automatically launched my browser and displayed the file. Not sure if I'd want this to

    happen on a large export, but the capabilities worked as expected.

  • Loaded a SQL Script into the product and ran it. There are some nice options here for viewing the

    script, setting a single transaction, etc. Thse are basic features, but they could have

    easily been left out.

The list of features with the product is impressive. The ability to selectively undo operations or

transactions is extremely handy and one of the main reasons I would purchase this product. The

second most important feature to me is the ability to recover deleted tables. I've needed this one

more often than I would care to admit. You can browse a list of the new features at

http://www.lumigent.com/LogExplorer/new20.htm.

My Issues

I noticed a number of items changed from v1.5, but there are still quite a few user interface

issues that annoy me and make Log Explorer seem like an unpolished application. First of

all, I assume that most users of this product would be somewhat experienced individuals. Therefore,

I would expect that most standard Windows keys and shortcuts would work. A prime example for

me is F5. In most applications, this refreshes the screen. However, not in Log Explorer. Actually

I had to dig into the menus to find "Refresh" in the Tools menu. In Tools there are

quite a few commands like Refresh, Prev/Next, etc. that are better suited to

a "View" menu (IMHO).

Another issue is that I backed up my log and then reattached to the log. The

program informed me there were no log records and asked if I would like to view

recycled data. I answered yes, but instead of taking me to the default view with recycled

data, I was taken to a tabbed dialog where I could select "Skip" or "View" recycled data.

I had already answered yes, but the "View" recycled data option was not checked.

There are

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