Our IT department needs computerized help
September 22, 2008 12:26 PM   Subscribe

What is the best and most intuitive PC/Mac inventory management/software distribution solution available for a small business with around 250 users and six IT guys?

I am a Tier I/II technician in a small business with about 250 users and six IT guys. The company is growing quickly, and we have decided it's probably time to introduce some sort of system(s) that will let us remotely monitor, inventory, and distribute software packages to the systems in the building. We are looking for something that is intuitive for me, who will probably be using it the most, and for the administrators and IT manager. We have looked at a couple different solutions, but we have not really dug deep into any option because there are so many choices and we're too busy with day-to-day activities. (As a reference, we have taken a quick look at LANrev, GLPI, and OCS Inventory.)

Our ideal solution would allow us to easily and efficiently do at least the following things:

1. The ability to remotely monitor any system on the network. We want to be able to see if it's online, all of the hardware installed on it, the drivers it's using, the software it has installed, etc. We would love something that can remotely provide us with the wealth of info that something like SIW can show.

2. The ability to set up automated software distribution policies based on groups.

3. The ability to push out a single software package to a single system on-demand with as few steps as possible. (LANrev could do this, but it involved setting up system and software groups and it felt pretty convoluted.)

4. We are mostly PCs running Windows XP, but we have about a dozen or so Macs as well. We are ideally looking for a solution that will work for both without having to jump between two different systems.

5. Reasonable price for a small business. Our decision-makers are not frugal, per se, but they are extremely critical when spending money and want to make sure they're getting their money's worth for whatever we buy.

I have used Apple Remote Desktop a bit, and I was very impressed with how it worked and everything one could do with it. If there was some cross-platform solution out there that was similar to the way that system works in ease of use and functionality, it would be perfect.

So the bottom-line question is that I am looking for recommendations of systems that would meet our needs as outlined above. The best opinions would be from people in similar situations who have actually used these systems hands-on. If there's anything I left out in terms of important information, please let me know.
posted by joshrholloway to Computers & Internet (5 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Here we use Novell ZENworks which meets all of your needs, but only for Windows and Linux. We use FileWave on the Mac side of things. I think you'll find the cross platform bit is going to be a showstopper.

As it happens, we're in the middle of an RFP where we're assessing other products: Altiris and Microsoft SCCM (vs ZENworks) on the PC, and Casper (vs FileWave) on the Macs. So far, I'd still say ZENworks is best of breed for the PCs, but the other vendors have been closing the gaps slowly but surely.
posted by JaredSeth at 12:44 PM on September 22, 2008

XP has built-in remote desktop too. In IT environments you can also do remote support by IP or computer name to initiate a session if you want to help the user, instead of just logging into his machine.

I do roll-outs via batch scripts and group policy.

For everything else there's MS SMS.

I just use VNC on the macs and do everything by hand.
posted by damn dirty ape at 12:48 PM on September 22, 2008

For 250 or less machines, I'd say script deployment/patching for the Windows machines (VBScript/WMI/Psexec), and manually update the OS X machines.

I personally like Altiris (recently bought out by Symantec), but Microsoft ADS will do similar things.
posted by wongcorgi at 1:33 PM on September 22, 2008

I use OCS Inventory which supports Windows/Linux for inventory, and apparently there is a Mac client as well.
posted by SirStan at 7:44 PM on September 22, 2008

N-Able ? Might be a little too much for your needs, but worth a look.
posted by deezil at 8:01 PM on September 22, 2008

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