by November 1, 2004 0 comments

System administrators in large organizations find it difficult to track and counter issues such as hardware or component thefts, install more authorized software than the number of licenses that the company holds and install unauthorized software (pirated, cracked applications or hacking tools). However, you can easily do this by using Microsoft’s SMS (System Management Server) 2003 on the network. 

SMS 2003 is a network-management software that gels well with Active Directory and works in sync with other Microsoft software. That is, if your network uses AD and runs Windows clients, SMS is probably a must for you. Asset management involves both inventory control and license management. While this article delves into the inventory control solution using SMS, we’ll look into license management in the next issue.

Direct Hit!
Applies to: Network administrators
USP: Trace hardware and software inventory on your network and view it through a Web browser

To set up inventory control on an SMS server, perform the following steps. Open the SMS Administrator Console on the SMS server. Go to Site Database>Site Hierarchy>(Local Site)>Site Settings> Client Agent. This gives you a list of different agents that need to be enabled and configured to run on the client machines on your network.

First, select the ‘Hardware Inventory Client Agent’ and select Properties. Turn on the option ‘Enable hardware inventory on clients’. Check to see if the schedule is okay or you need to make it more comprehensive. Then click on OK. 

Similarly, go to the ‘Software Inventory Client Agent’s’ properties and enable the option. If the schedule is okay, go to the ‘Inventory Collection’ tab. Now specify the type of software inventory you wish to collect. (Delete the default setting if you are specifying your own inventory filter.) For instance, if you want an inventory of all EXEs in the Program Files folder for each client computer, click on the New (*) button|Enter the file name wildcard (in our case *.exe)|. Set the path to look in to %programfiles% (which is an environment variable that points to the Program Files folder on that machine). |Turn ‘Search Subdirectories’ On|. Turn ‘Exclude encrypted and compressed files’ Off. This scans the client computer’s Program Files folder and all subdirectories, even within encrypted or compressed folders, for all EXE files. 

To test the SMS client software on your network, go to one of the machines where the SMS client is installed. Login as administrator and go to Control Panel>Systems Management>Actions>Machine Policy Retrieval & Evaluation Cycle>Initiate Action. This immediately forces the computer to contact the SMS server and download the latest policies as set by the administrator. Since we’ve just enabled hardware and software inventory collection at the server, the policies for these will be downloaded and enabled on the client. You will be able to see this within a couple of minutes in the list. You can also go to the components tab and see that the hardware and software client files are installed and enabled on that computer. 

Setting up the Software Inventory Client Agent

The Systems Management client configuration

During this synchronization, the client also sends all the information it has been asked for. You can see this information on the SMS server. For this you need to do the following.

First, enable the server to become a ‘Reporting Point’. This further enables the SMS server to also serve reports rather than just collecting information. For this, go to SMS Administrator Console>Site Database>Site Hierarchy>>Site Systems. Enter the properties of the local server and go to the ‘Reporting Point’ tab. Turn the ‘Use this site system as a reporting point’ option On. Also, check the name of the reporting folder. You can keep it as default. This is the place where the reports are published by

SMS 2003 comes with over 150 pre-configured reports that can be used very easily. To do this, go to SMS Administrator Console>Site Database>Reporting>Reports. The huge list of reports appears in the right side of the pane. You can right click on and run any of them, assuming that the server has picked up the data. 

In our case, we want to see the hardware and software inventory collected by the server from the different clients on the network. For this, select a report called ‘Computers discovered by a particular site’, right click and run it. This opens up Internet Explorer that asks the name of the site from where to get the data. Enter the url here and press ‘Display’. 

Once this is done, you will be shown a list of computers that have returned data you asked for. Clicking on the little arrow image next to each computer name shows its details. That is, it opens a new window which has a hierarchical list of reports based on the data collected. In this case, all hardware and software information categories with detailed reports are available.

Clicking on any of these will show you the actual data collected immediately. For instance, you can check the installed memory in a machine, the processor speed the OS, version, executables in the Program Files folder and so on. 

As you can see, SMS 2003 gives you an extremely granular control over the hardware and software inventories of the machines on your network. You can quite easily monitor for certain filenames which you wish to prevent and set a filter for the same. It also notifies you of the changes occurring in the hardware. Having learnt about inventory control, next month we’ll take a look at managing your software licenses using SMS 2003.

Vinod Unny

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