Getting Inventory Data when Machines are Off

A few of the more recent posts have covered aspects of Asset Management, Configuration Management and the CMDB. This post is related to the series about Configuration Management for beginners because it discusses a very useful tool for gathering Configuration information.

This tool is a small software agent which is installed on a target machine and is capable of returning configuration information over the network ‘live’ - but what about those machines that are not switched on when this information is gathered?

Those of you who are Serio users will recognise this as the Serio Inventory Agent (SIA). The agent is installed on each machine and it's main purpose is gathering detailed Configuration information regarding the machine (which we all know by now is known as the Configuration Item or CI) over the network, on-demand.

These agents are great for helping to manage your network BUT if the machine it is installed on is not switched on or connected to the network, then none of the information it can provide can be accessed. This means you could try and gather information about your network on numerous occasions and still be missing vital information because some machines are not detected.

This is where the File based Inventory Agent mentioned in the title becomes important. This tool will gather all the same information from a computer and will save it to file in a specified location. Typically it is installed centrally on a server, and run as part of user login scripts (it completes its work very quickly). This information can then be accessed at any time and included in your network plans, giving a complete and detailed overview of your network whether the machines are switched on or not.

The type of information that can be gathered by the Inventory Agent is extensive and includes Software, Hardware and other miscellaneous information. Software could include installed software applications, information about the machine name and operating system, running processes and internet settings. Hardware information would include attributes like network configuration, display adapter characteristics, hard disc configuration and memory / CPU information.

The Inventory Agent would make all this information available to the Service Desk agents at the click of a button helping to deliver a better IT service. In addition to this the Inventory Agents can now be queried from a single location and provide detailed information about the computers on your network (we call this a network snapshot).

Having all this information stored in one location now gives you added control over your network. Any changes made on the network between each snapshot will be highlighted immediately (which can be a huge step in working towards proactive Problem Management). This will also help you to identify exactly which machines on your network are using a specific piece of hardware or software.

Tasks such as license reconciliation also become easier as it becomes clear how many of each licensed products are installed on the network, which can be compared to the actual number of licenses you have purchased.