David Szpunar: Lead Engineer, PC Help Services

David's Church Information Technology

April 12th, 2007 at 2:01 pm Print This Post Print This Post

If only Tony had my inventory software ready

Tony Dye has an excellent post that is along the lines of my own posts here and here regarding hardware inventory. His wish list seems to communicate even better than my posts what I’d like from the inventory side of things, but I still want a helpdesk to be integrated into the same system. Some of the software I’ve looked at, including Spiceworks which I’m currently re-testing since they released their Helpdesk feature (and the ability to add non-discovered devices manually), will do some of this already. Most of the software I’ve seen will do a lot, but Tony hit on some killer features that I haven’t seen. Maybe I’ve missed them, maybe I haven’t found the software and it does exist, or maybe it doesn’t exist.

One thing I’d like to see is the physical tracking to go along with the network tracking. What network port (assuming managed switches that the software knows about and can talk to) is connected to what wall outlet (obviously this match has to be input manually)? What are the MAC addresses (and from that, the rest of the inventory information) of the attached device(s), or is the port even active? What physical office is a machine associated with, at least primarily? (Laptops may roam, but most laptop users have an office they’re usually in.) What user?

Tony also brings up searching and historical information. Searching is the key here I think; if I want to know (to use Tony’s example) how much memory Bob Jones has on his machine, I want to locate this information without having to first find Bob’s machine, look it up, and then find the specs. I want to search for “‘Bob Jones’ RAM” and have the system know that obviously I’m talking about his machine, not the person. That’s an easy context, but add enough “easy” things and maybe some harder ones, and the software becomes a lot more user-friendly.

Same goes for the historical information, being able to track a machine from one office to another, from one user to another, or even tracking when RAM was added to a particular system would be helpful! Or when Windows was reinstalled. or other software added or removed. Or how about a history of what network ports a machine has been plugged into?

When we get new equipment, how about a New Equipment Wizard that lets us add basic info (office assignment, user assignment, MAC address, serial number, date of purchase, name of person who initially configured it, maybe more) and then, once it’s on the network (assuming it’s a network device, I’d like this for printers and other equipment that IT uses but may not be on the network) the software would see its MAC address, notice we’d already added it, and tie in scan results with the manually entered data. Having this pre-deployment wizard would help make sure a routine was followed of recording all of this information rather than having it tracked down later, if ever.

I see a lot of good things in Spiceworks, and that’s just because that’s what I’m playing with now. I’ve seen some other good information out there as well. There are plenty of features above that I haven’t seen in any of the limited number of software choices I’ve seen. And the ones that have more than others, don’t seem to integrate everything or make it as easy to use as I’d like. Because ease of use and cost are the two biggest factors. Spiceworks is free, supported by Google ads. That’s okay with me, the ads are unobtrusive and with my current budget (or any budget, really), free is as good as it gets :-) Regardless of the cost, I just want the kitchen sink (as described above) to come with it.