David Szpunar: Lead Engineer, PC Help Services

David's Church Information Technology

April 9th, 2007 at 12:54 am Print This Post Print This Post

Hardware Inventory and Tickets: Tried and Trying

I’ve been looking for a good hardware inventory and helpdesk ticket solution. I got two suggestions, OCSInventory and ManageEngine OpManager. I also found a post by Jason Powell about switching to ManageEngine Service Desk Plus. I have a huge amount of respect for Jason and his team, so I’ve tried out the free trial of Service Desk Plus. Here are my thoughts so far after trying some, but not all, solutions:

Service Desk Plus is actually excellent! The free version only allows one administrator and 25 network devices to be tracked for inventory and ticket purchases. However, running with my desktop as the server, it was a bit on the slow side as far as responsiveness. I would need to test that it ran faster on a server, and also have that server available. I also think that while we may grow into it, it might be a bit too complex and high-end for our needs right now.

Most of the features really need multiple administrative users to take advantage of the full power, even if those users are just volunteers for us right now. I like the help desk with the user-created ticket submission interfaces via web or email. The ability to link logins to Active Directory, have a dedicated, fully-tracked helpdesk email conversation is awesome, along with the option to link requests with the hardware assigned to the submitting user (their workstation or laptop, for example) makes this a top-notch operation in my book. I also really like the software license and support agreement tracker, and the purchase order creation and generation tools for working with vendors! But the limited inventory items makes this hardware tie-in useless for our network in the free version. And free is all the money I have to spend at the moment. Plus the time required to enter details for our existing agreements and hardware we buy to create quotes is more than I have time for right now. Maybe down the road.

OpManager, also from ManageEngine, I haven’t tried yet, but it appears to either connect to or overlap some Service Desk functionality, and is limited to 20 nodes in the free version, also too few to be useful.

I have not tried OCSInventory yet, but I intend to when I find the time. I’ll report back then. I realize that an integrated helpdesk is a real key here, and I need to find out if OCSInventory does this–from my last visit to their site they may integrate with another package, but I’ll have to do some more research.

Currently, I’m trying out Spiceworks. Again. I’ve been using Spiceworks since it was early Beta months ago, and I was impressed with a lot of what it did at the time but it has been improving, and in its most recent incarnation has also added a helpdesk, more limited than Service Desk Plus to be sure, but a helpdesk nonetheless. Or at least a ticket system. Mark Bailey even mentioned Spiceworks with OpManager in his comment on my original post. I’ve had mixd results with Spiceworks; at Lakeview I haven’t really had any WMI issues with scanning the network, including Windows machines. On the other network I work on one day a week, I can’t get any of the Windows machines on the domain to work with WMI scanning, after extensive troubleshooting and some posts in the Spiceworks forums trying to resolve the issue. I ran out of time and haven’t revisited it at that office

But the new helpdesk features are simple, user-friendly, and do support email tickets. I don’t know if it tracks full email conversations, but my guess is not yet. It ties tickets to specific hardware, which is great, but I don’t see a huge focus on helpdesk statistics over time (unless I’m missing it) and it looks like most tickets are meant to be opened by the technician directly, after a problem is reported or discovered. No web-based submission interface for users For a one-man shop, this might work fine. I’m trying it out now, and we’ll see how fruitful it becomes. It does now support multiple technicians, and each tech can claim tickets that they are working on, and save public and/or private responses (does public mean it’s emailed to the owner of the affected equipment? I don’t know, I haven’t had time to play in enough detail yet). The newest version of Spiceworks also allows manual entry of assets that aren’t on the network or aren’t found via scanning, one of my prior complaints!

The search continues. But my original post on this topic is my top result people find on search engines, so it appears to be a popular topic others are working to solve. Anything I’ve missed? Are you successfully using these or better tools? Should I stay away from anything other than Track-It, which Jason has already warned me away from? Do Excel spreadsheets work fine for you and you wonder why this is so important, anyway? :-) Just wait ’til I start talking about network mapping and documentation!! It’s coming…