Product Reviews

What You Got?

Asset Navigator helps you keep tabs on what you have and how it's being used.

It's essential to keep track of your technology assets. It's also a colossal task. Using loosely organized spreadsheets to track all the computers, hardware, software licenses and IP addresses in your organization is marginally effective at best. Something invariably slips through the cracks, which is a waste of time, money and resources.

If you find you have to plow through piles of purchase orders to figure out who's using all the new equipment you just received, that should tell you that you need a better process. Asset Navigator is an asset tracking and management system that can help you get a better handle on your technology assets. Then you can throw away the spreadsheets and the old manual processes.

Documentation 10%
Installation 10%
Feature Set 40%
Performance 30%
Management 10%
Overall Rating:

1: Virtually inoperable or nonexistent
5: Average, performs adequately
10: Exceptional

Installing Asset Navigator is a breeze. A familiar Windows wizard walks you through the whole installation procedure. Asset Navigator also simplifies the process of getting your asset data into the system. If you have your license file handy, you can import this into Asset Navigator during installation. You'll see a second wizard the first time you launch Asset Navigator that walks you through the process of getting your data repository online.

Depending on which version you've installed, you'll use a different database engine. The Enterprise Edition uses a SQL Server back-end. The Professional and Standard editions use Microsoft Access. You can choose to use an existing database, create a new one or import one from Microsoft Access (if you have previously used the Standard or Professional edition and are now upgrading to Enterprise).

When creating a new database, you'll also decide whether you want to build it with or without sample data. Using sample data is helpful for evaluations or if this is your first installation of Asset Navigator and you need to familiarize yourself with its functions. Once you're finished with the installation and configuring the database, you're ready to start tracking.

Looks Familiar
When you first launch the Asset Navigator client, you should feel right at home. It looks and acts like Microsoft Outlook. Everything is organized into folders with detailed information listed on the right side of the screen (see Figure 1).

Figure 1. Asset Navigator's main interface is familiar.
Figure 1. Asset Navigator's main interface resembles Microsoft Outlook, so there’s a familiar look and feel with folders on the left and details on the right. (Click image to view larger version.)

Asset Navigator can store a great deal of data about the computers in your environment. It can tell you the manufacturer, the user to whom the equipment is assigned, peripherals that are attached, hardware specifics, software installed, support contracts and so on.

Manually entering this mountain of information on your systems would be a daunting task. Fortunately, Asset Navigator also includes an auditing function. By working through the deployment wizard (see Figure 2), you can configure a package and a repository that the systems will use to self inventory and report back all pertinent information. At the end of the deployment wizard, you'll have an executable that you'll run on the systems you want to inventory.

Figure 2. Asset Navigator's Deployment Wizard.
Figure 2. The Deployment Wizard walks you through the process of configuring the data repository to pull pertinent data from all your managed systems. (Click image to view larger version.)

When you run the inventory routine, the system writes a file into the repository and you later pick up that information with Asset Navigator.

You can also automate this whole process using logon scripts and Asset Navigator's import scheduling capabilities. You can track support contracts on your systems as well, so you can easily tell if a system is covered under a contract or warranty.

Track Everything
In addition to tracking systems, Asset Navigator can track peripherals, software and network configurations. You can enter all the peripherals that you have in the organization into the Asset Navigator database. All peripherals, including keyboards, mice, monitors, printers and so on, are tied to the systems on which they're installed.

You manage your software assets in much the same way with Asset Navigator. You can even track licenses and product keys. Say your company purchased five copies of Adobe Acrobat. You can record the five license keys in Asset Navigator and when you install the software on a particular system, you can track which key that system used. This will help you keep a better record of software usage.

Network tracking with Asset Navigator is set up in a similar fashion. You can configure all the subnets you use and keep a complete picture of which IP addresses your organization is using. This is great if there's a pool of reserved static IP addresses for servers or other special systems that aren't managed by DHCP or some other system. You can assign the IP and track it in Asset Navigator.

Asset Navigator also helps you manage your vendors, purchase orders and personnel. You can easily enter POs when you order equipment. When the equipment arrives, you can add it to the Asset Navigator database as new assets. You can also track people and departments. Overlay your organizational structure and personnel and tie this information to each individual asset. Done correctly, you can see exactly how many systems a department has or how many printers an individual is using.

With all this hardware comes the need to fix it. Besides its tracking functionality, Asset Navigator also contains a help desk and knowledge base. Users submit trouble tickets that tie back to the asset with which they're having problems. Technicians can log short knowledge base entries that explain how to fix common issues.

If Murphy's Law prevails and you can't repair the hardware, you can use Asset Navigator to assign a new piece of equipment from your spare inventory or cut a new PO to order a replacement. The help desk includes Web interfaces for users and technicians so tickets and updates can come from anywhere.

Asset Navigator isn't a replacement for a full-blown help desk suite, but it's great for a small shop, or as an integration point to a larger help desk platform. Asset Navigator is truly an enterprise solution. It's easy to use and makes a great addition to any administrator's toolset. In short, Asset Navigator will track just about anything you need it to. If you're tired of chasing endless piles of spreadsheets and wasting all your free time trying to keep things straight, then Asset Navigator can be a big help.


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