How to deal with device sprawl… the easy way

Tips for a perfectly maintained configuration management database

You cannot manage your IT estate if you don’t know what you’ve got in it. However, compiling a comprehensive configuration management database is easier said than done… until now.

Key facts about Cockpit ITSM Inventory Agent:

  • Ideal for building up current overview of IT assets within an organisation.
  • Cockpit ITSM Inventory Agent is a Windows service.
  • It communicates with Cockpit ITSM using API REST protocol.
  • Synchronisation is automatic; no scheduling required.
  • Available for Windows operating systems only at present.
  • Existing Cockpit ITSM users with access to the Office module can use Cockpit ITSM Inventory Agent at no extra charge.
  • No limitations on the number of assets on which you can install the Cockpit ITSM Inventory Agent.
  • The easy way to ensure key information about Windows workstations and laptops is recorded and kept up to date.

Having a comprehensive overview of the hardware items on your network is vital for many reasons. First, it is absolutely essential for good security management. Second, it is necessary if you are audited for licences, by Microsoft for example. Third, it is the first step in problem analysis and for identifying repeat issues and trends in a support context.

Gaining this overview is usually achieved by creating a comprehensive configuration management database (CMDB). Your CMBD should include a list of all the configuration items (CIs) granted access to your network, e.g. workstations, laptops, mobile devices, servers, network equipment, disk arrays, etc. The CMBD will also include important information about each item, e.g. the owner, the chipset, graphics card, hard drives, operating system, software versions, etc.

A perfectly maintained configuration management database

If an organisation has a perfectly maintained configuration management database, the support team can link problem tickets to configuration items. As well as helping with problem analysis, this has wider importance.

Support teams can use the CMDB to identify repeat issues and trends. Let’s consider an example. You have a reoccurring problem with servers failing. In your CMBD, you can clearly see it is only the servers with a certain type of CPU that are failing. You now have a pretty good idea of the cause of the problem and what to do about it.

A good CMDB also helps answer day-to-day management questions, such as “how many copies of Microsoft Office are installed across my network?”. In fact, your CMDB has a critical role to play in software licence audits.

What’s more, as well as being important for issue resolution, good security management and licence management, having a well-maintained CMDB is an important first step towards gaining accreditation in the information security management standard ISO 27001.

How do you create a configuration management database?

Typically, as a quick solution, organisations have built up CMDBs by passive network scraping. Cockpit ITSM enables this process through our Automatic Inventory tool. Using the Cockpit ITSM Automatic Inventory tool, it is possible to build up a picture of your environment over a short time (gathered over multiple runs) to create a good view of what is connected on your corporate network.

However, while this is perfectly suited to creating an inventory of all your LAN-hosted static equipment such as servers, network equipment and the like, it isn’t as effective when it comes to identifying user end devices.
For example, a user’s workstation won’t be visible when it is turned off. Or, when a user is firing up their laptop at some remote location, it isn’t visible on your network either.

Even when you can identify active laptops on your own network, there is only a certain amount of information you can find out passively over the network. The laptop is going to have security features (we hope!) built in that prevents this type of scraping activity.

How can I improve my configuration management database?

One way to capture information from laptops and workstations on a regular basis in a way that avoids these constraints is to use an agent which can push information back to your CMDB.

It is exactly for this reason, Cockpit ITSM has now launched a new Inventory Agent to accompany our existing Automatic Inventory functionality. With the new Inventory Agent, information about laptop status – including security updates, scans and software licensing – is pushed to your CMDB, not just passively acquired.

Information is continuously refreshed over time, so you have an accurate and well-maintained view of your assets. More importantly, these agents aren’t constrained by the boundary of your LAN; the agent pushes the data to the chosen url of your Cockpit ITSM portal. Suddenly that user’s laptop on the flight to LA is visible and logged in your CMDB.

What are the benefits of the Cockpit ITSM Inventory Agent?

In many organisations, it is the laptops used by remote and mobile workers that are one of the organisation’s biggest security risks – and they are also usually the places where you have weakest control over licencing commitments.

Installing an agent on all of the organisation’s workstations and laptops is a good way to plug the gaps in an existing CMDB. Ideally, administrators should add the agent to standard workstation and laptop builds.

A combination of the two approaches – automatic inventory tools and inventory agents – is most desirable in order to create the most comprehensive view of the current state of your IT estate.

Cockpit ITSM includes both tools to support both ways of building and maintaining your CMDB. By augmenting our standard automatic inventory functions with the installation of new Cockpit ITSM Inventory Agent on workstations and laptops, organisations can easily create a more comprehensive and useful CMDB inventory of assets.

How does the Cockpit ITSM Inventory Agent work?

IT Administrators need only to configure the portal once by selecting the URL of the portal to which agents will send the data. It is then a simple three-step process to install a Cockpit ITSM Inventory Agent on a workstation or laptop:

  • Download the installer directly from the Cockpit ITSM portal.
  • Follow the installation instructions (a simple five-click or eight-click “next”-click process).
  • In your Cockpit ITSM management console, associate the signal sent by the agent with the workstation or laptop already referenced in the portal.

Alternatively, since the agent is a Microsoft Software Installer (MSI) file, it can be deployed on multiple machines by using the Group Policy (GPO) function.

After installation, the agent will update the information sent to the portal automatically. The support team using Cockpit ITSM will now have far greater information to hand when dealing with that user’s problems. For example, the team will have access to information about disk space, physical memory, the last anti-virus scan performed, firewall status, licencing of installed software, and more.

Would you like to know more about Cockpit ITSM Inventory Agent?

17th Sep, 2018