Softinventive Lab, the publisher of Total Network Inventory (TNI), has a generous offer for 4sysops readers. You can win an unlimited worldwide license for Total Network Inventory, worth $1,695. This means that you can take an inventory of as many machines as you wish. For a quick overview of the tool, I recommend watching this Flash demo.
Even if you already have a systems management solution with inventory capabilities, TNI could be useful because it allows you to quickly retrieve very detailed information about the computers in your network without hassle. I tested TNI and liked the tool immediately because of its straightforward user interface. As you have noticed, I am testing many Windows administration tools, and TNI certainly belongs in the click-as-you-go category.
TNI is an inventory solution that supports all Windows versions later than Windows 95. Today, I will describe how TNI gathers information. In my next posts, I will discuss its inventory interface and its reporting capabilities.
TNI supports several ways to scan PCs. It can upload and run the agent automatically, you can run the agent in a login script, it is possible to run the agent manually, and TNI can also scan without agent using Windows Management Instrumentation (WMI).
Agent-based scanning is more reliable, especially if you have the Windows Firewall enabled. It can be a bit tricky to configure it correctly for WMI. Since TNI deploys the agent automatically, it doesn’t cost you extra time. However, in my tests, scanning without agent was always a little faster. Thus, if you find that TNI always reliably retrieves the data you require, you can disable agent deployment. But if you run the agent in a login script, then the scanning time doesn’t matter anyway. The agent will store the inventory data as an XML file on a UNC path from where it will be imported automatically by TNI.
TNI has some nice features that speed up the scan process. You can tell TNI to keep the agent on the hosts once it is uploaded. This reduces the time needed to get the agent operational when you re-scan your network.
Another option is to let TNI ping the hosts before it starts scanning. This speeds things up because the ping timeout usually happens much faster than denial of connection by SMB or RPC protocols. Hence, offline machines won’t slow down scanning if you chose this scanning method.
And last but not least, you can select the scan categories to be retrieved from the hosts. If you only need to know a few specific properties, say installed software and security settings, then TNI will only download this information. This not only speeds up scanning, it also keeps your inventory database slim.
There are two ways of selecting scan categories. You can configure this in the options menu, which means that TNI will use this setting for all its scans. Another way is to choose the properties to be scanned in the Category Selection Bar on the right-hand side (see screenshot) and then click on “Re-scan (fast)” in the toolbar. This latter option is quite useful if you have to quickly retrieve certain information, and don’t want to run a complete scan. You have to enable the multi-category view to be able to use the latter option. Note that this feature doesn’t currently work in the trial version.
It is also possible to scan only specific computers. You can select computers or groups in the Network Overview on the left-hand side. Computers can be grouped by just dragging them to the folders you’ve created. Of course, TNI also allows you to scan IP ranges.
If you want the chance to win a Total Network Inventory license for an unlimited number of computers, worth $1695, please send an email with the subject line “TNI” to:
This contest closes August 27, 2009.
In the next article of this series, I will discuss TNI’s user interface and its software accounting capabilities.