clearapps-logoClearApps Network Inventory Advisor is an inventory tool for Windows and Max OS X. If you take part in this contest, you will have the chance to win a license for 100 computers, worth $289. In this post, I will discuss the concept behind Network Inventory Advisor and in my next article, I will talk about its features.

The system requirements of this inventory tool are fairly low. It even runs on Windows 95. Of course, it is recommended that you install it on a more modern Windows version. You can't install Network Inventory Advisor 3.5 on a Mac, but it is possible to include Macs in your inventory.

clearapps-network-inventory-advisor-scanning Network Inventory Advisor is advertised as an agent-free software, but this is not entirely true. What is meant here is that can you work without an agent if you want to and that you don't have to worry about deploying the agent, in case you decide otherwise. When you scan a remote machine, Network Inventory Advisor will automatically upload and run the agent. The agent then stays on the client (piaagent.exe in system32), but it will be updated whenever you‘re scanning the machine. As the agent has only about 200KB, this won't affect your bandwidth. If launching the agent fails, the tool will just use Windows Management Instrumentation (WMI) to gather the inventory data. You can disable agent-based scanning, but this is not recommenced, since WMI is less reliable than the agent.

clearapps-network-inventory-advisor-agent It is also possible to deploy the agent via login scripts or to run it manually. The latter is useful for offline nodes. It allows you to copy the inventory data to a USB stick, from which you can then import it to Network Inventory Advisor. If you decide the run the agent through a login script, you can upload the inventory data either to a network share or directly to Network Inventory Advisor. The user interface doesn't have to be running for this, because Network Inventory Advisor's service will accept the data.

Running the agent through a login script has the advantage that you don't need to scan the network to keep your inventory data up-to-date. Especially in large networks, scanning all of the machines can take a while. However, in small networks, the automatic deployment method is more convenient because you don't have to deal at all with the agent. Since you can schedule scans with Network Inventory Advisor, your inventory data will always be up-to-date, even if you work with the agent-less method.

I think this concept is quite interesting. Most systems management tools either require an agent or manage to work without installing software on the clients. Tools with agents are often more powerful, but it is more time consuming to manage them because you have to take care of another piece of software in your network. Network Inventory Advisor plays in both leagues. Note that there currently is no agent for OS X. Network Inventory Advisor will use SSH to scan Macs.

clearapps-network-inventory-advisor Network Inventory Advisor has a modern user interface that looks like the one in Office 2007. There are no menus and no toolbars. Instead, there are two tabs that contain ribbons. The Inventory tab offers all the functionality you need for scanning and accessing inventory data. The second tab is for creating reports. The advantage of this ribbon-based user interface is that you learn to use the tool very quickly and you can reach all of the functions with a minimum of mouse clicks. You might have heard that some apps in Windows 7 also have this Office-like interface. I have no doubt that this style will dominate graphical user interfaces for the next years to come. And best of all, it wasn't invented by Apple. 😉

If you would like to have the chance to win a license for 100 nodes, please send an email to

contests-at-4sysops.com

with the subject line ClearApps. Please, add your name and the name of your organization. The contest closes August 7, 2009.

In my next article I will discuss Network Inventory Advisor's features.

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