Hardware inventory and asset management has never been an administrator’s favorite task. In small to mid-sized IT shops, or those with limited budgets, administrators often get by with ad hoc scripted solutions using Windows Management Instrumentation (WMI) and a hodge-podge of spreadsheets, text files, and duct tape.
However, Neutex Systems offers a more cost effective and easier to use solution called NetPoint Pro. This agent-less solution leverages existing Windows technologies such as WMI and Active Directory (AD) that you already know and trust.
NetPoint installs on just about every Windows OS. But because it requires IIS, you’ll most likely install it on a server. It also requires a Microsoft SQL Server backend, but this can be one of the free express editions of SQL Server 2008 or 2005.
You don't need to run the web server on the database server, but for my small scale test I elected to use Windows Server 2008 R2. During setup, you can specify what database server to use. If you want to use the included Windows PowerShell snap-in, you’ll need PowerShell 2.0.
NetPoint ships 32 and 64-bit versions that install with minimal configuration. The current version is limited to managing computers in a single AD domain.
Future versions should support querying a global catalog server, which will simplify configuration for more complex environments.
My installation, using an existing SQL Server instance, took only a few minutes. After it loaded, I configured NetPoint through its web interface.
There I added my license file and set up my polling schedule. The server will poll all computer accounts it finds in the current AD domain for hardware and software inventory information. I quickly inventoried items like memory, disks, printers, drivers, and OSs.
Uses Existing Technologies
NetPoint uses WMI primarily for its inventorying. In almost all Windows-based networks WMI is enabled and accessible, which means no agents to install. Because it uses WMI, your computers are most likely already properly configured.
You don’t have to worry about what WMI class to use. All results are stored in the SQL Server database. NetPoint also tracks when components are added or removed, such as memory or disk drives.
You can even subscribe to an RSS feed to alert you when a change is made. Email alerts aren't supported in the current version.
NetPoint utilizes AD to discover computer objects and can't manage non-domain and non-Windows computers. You can configure a standard polling schedule for all computers, perform on-demand polling, or use an included VBScript as a computer start-up script to provide auto-polling.
Asset and System Management
The web interface is easy to use and querying systems couldn’t be simpler. Need to know what OSs are deployed? A click or two provides the answer. (See Figure 1).
You can also supply non-WMI information such as purchase order and procurement dates, making this a basic, yet effective, asset management system. NetPoint Pro includes a great set of PowerShell cmdlets for managing inventory information.
Another terrific feature is the ability to track application licenses. You define the application by associating one or more queried products with a license count and purchase information. You can then tell at a glance if you're in compliance or not.
NetPoint Pro is licensed per inventoried computer on a sliding scale starting at $5.00 per computer in 25 unit bundles. Neutex also offers a free version, NetPoint Essentials.
You can inventory (hardware-only) an unlimited number of systems for free. But you miss out on other features like PowerShell support, license tracking, remote desktop, and on-demand polling. You can unlock these features by installing a NetPoint Pro license.
Great for Small Shops
For large and complex enterprises, I don’t feel NetPoint Pro’s feature set is mature enough to meet their needs. For example, multi-domain environments require a polling server in each domain and some tweaking via scripts.
But for small to mid-sized shops lacking an affordable, easy-to-use inventory and asset management solution, NetPoint Pro is the solution you’ve been looking for.