by December 5, 2002 0 comments



One of the biggest challenges faced by IT managers is keeping track of all machines on their networks. Which machine is located where and its configuration? Are there any machines that need upgrading, and if so, how many and which components? Are users running software on their machines that they shouldn’t be? These are some of the questions haunting IT managers every day, and the tension is bigger with larger networks. To get rid of all this tension, what’s needed is a good PC-auditing software. 

PC-auditing tools simplify the task of tracking all computer hardware and software on your network and maintaining an inventory of the same. They help avoid manual checking of each machine thereby saving lots of time and administrative overhead. They help keep an updated inventory list that can be useful in making purchase decisions for the future, and avoid unnecessary expenditures. So if a particular PC is running very slow, and the user asks for an upgrade, a good auditing tool can tell whether the PC hardware is outdated, or the user is running unwanted software on it. Auditing tools are also useful from a security standpoint as they can track all changes in hardware.

With a good PC-auditing tool like
Track-it you can maintain an  inventory of all the hardware and
software on your network  

Setup
There are three basic components in any PC-auditing tool. First is the scanner, which accumulates all information about a PC. Second is a database that stores all client information, and finally, the third is the central interface, which allows you to view and analyze this data. The interface can also generate different types of reports on the inventory. While most PC auditing tools would have these components, the way they‘re implemented varies and determines the complexity of the tool. One type of tool would consist of a central management console and an agent that must be installed on all clients. This agent would then keep on passing all hardware information to the central console. Most network management systems work this way, and the protocol used is SNMP. These however can be very expensive to implement and usually suited for very large networks because they do much more than PC auditing. Another kind of PC-auditing tool would have a scanner kept in a central shared location, such as a file server to which all users login. This scanner would be made to run on all clients that login by putting it in their login scripts. The scanner then gathers all software and hardware information and passes it on to the database. This kind of a tool can be used by small to medium networks. Then there’s a third type of auditing tool that runs off a floppy. This is suitable for very small networks having just a few computers. 

Having said that, let’s take a look at some of these auditing tools, and how they’re setup. 

With Microsoft Software Inventory Analyzer, you can track Microsoft applications running on a machine

Asset and helpdesk management 
This is a complete help desk and asset management system that can keep track of all hardware and software resources being
used on a network. The software has lots of useful features, and meant for organizations having at least 100 PCs in a single
location. The system includes a detailed inventory system, which captures workstation configurations. It also includes a
purchasing section in which you can track down all outstanding purchase orders for your network. This software automatically
transfers all purchased items to the inventory section. There’s also a separate section called library for tracking items issued to
users, such as laptops, modems, and licensed software. The software also has a useful section on system training, which can
evaluate support cost against training cost. It tracks down the training history of users including internal and off-site courses. 

You can install Ez audit on any Win NT/2000 server, and get reports in HTML, simple text or Excel

Another useful feature in the software is an email based helpdesk system to solve IT related queries for the users. In addition to this, the software has some interesting add-on modules for doing various things. One module is Track-It! Web, which gives the software a browser based interface. Other modules can be used for remote application deployment, troubleshooting, etc. 

The software can be installed on a Windows NT/2000 server, and for running the auditing agent on clients, you need to create a shared directory on the server and install it there. Make a login script and include the command for the scanner agent in it.

Track-It! Is available in two editions, Standard and Enterprise, and the major different between the two being the database.

With Gaps you can audit both stand alone and networked PCs

The Standard edition is based on Access, while the Enterprise edition can work on Microsoft SQL Server 7.0/2000 or Oracle 8i/9i. The software works pretty well, and has another module to detect Apple Mac machines. 

Audit Microsoft  products
This is done using a freeware called Microsoft Software Inventory Analyzer. The software can help you track down all Microsoft application installations on your network. You’ll find a copy of it on this month’s CD. Using the software is very simple. It scans your network and identifies all Windows machines running on it. You then have to choose the machine you want to audit, select the Microsoft applications want to track, and it will do the rest. You must have administrative access to the machines you’ll be scanning. Once done, it can generate a report in HTML, TXT, or MS Excel formats. 

The Belarc Advisor can give a detailed hardware and software report in HTML format

Other auditing tools
Ez audit is a user-friendly PC auditing tool for networks. Some of the things it can detect are CPU make and model, BIOS info and installed applications. It can be installed on any Windows NT/2000 server and accessed by clients through login scripts. The software is capable of giving reports in HTML, simple text and Excel. You can download an evaluation copy from
www.ezaudit.net.

This is a regular PC auditing tool called Gaps, which can audit both standalone and network PCs. For standalone PCs, it let’s you create an audit floppy that has to be run on the standalone clients. For network PC auditing, you need to copy the setup file from this month’s PCQuest CD on your desktop and run it. Once the installation is complete, go to C:\Program Files\ and go to a folder called GAPSNET6. You now need to put it into a login script, for which you must share the folder and map a drive letter to it. Lastly, add the scanner command to it. The login script for Windows would like this:

Net use f: \\auditmachine\gapsnet6 
F:\gaps32w.exe

To get audit reports it has a separate report program.

Audit single PCs
This is a free personal PC auditing tool called Belarc Advisor, which installs on your local machine and gives detailed hardware and software info report in HTML format. 

To install it on your PC, just run the Belarc setup file from this month’s PCQuest CD. After the installation, a shortcut will be created on your desktop. Just click on Belarc shortcut to scan your PC, within few second a report will be generated that will pop up in your browser. 

Sanjay Majumder

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