Total Network Inventory 4 can quickly and continuously show what exactly is on your network, the specifics on what it is doing, where it is at, and what exactly has changed.

Joseph Moody

Joseph Moody is a network admin for a public school system and helps manage 5,500 PCs. He is a Microsoft Most Valuable Professional (MVP) in Cloud and Datacenter Management and blogs at DeployHappiness.com.

Whether you have recently started at your job or have developed your infrastructure from scratch, I can almost bet that uncertainties exist in your network. You might have devices using default passwords, an old server hosting a forgotten website, or even a nefarious device sniffing around. Sometimes, looking into your network might be like looking into the dark.

Running reconnaissance on your network ^

After downloading the free 60-day trial, your first impression will be how tidy and speedy the whole program is. After installation and on the first launch, it will prompt you for discovery credentials. Total Network Inventory 4 can find virtually any device on your network. It can connect to Windows and VMware devices, discover via SSH/Telnet, and scan via SNMP.

If you have separate credentials for different device subsets, you can add them to the logon store. For example, I had to add different SNMPs for my network printers and network switches after conducting my first scan.

Providing discovery credentials for Total Network Inventory 4

Providing discovery credentials for Total Network Inventory 4

By default, the first scan settings come from the network adapter of the machine running Total Network Inventory. When starting a scan, you can choose between a light four-port scan or a heavier ten-port scan. On my /24 network, a scan only took half a minute or so for a ten-port scan! I was very impressed with the discovery scan—specifically how fast and thorough it is. Total Network Inventory 4 reworked large portions of the scanning process to make it this quick. These same improvements apply to future scans as well.

A finished scan showing open ports on my router

A finished scan showing open ports on my router

For me, one of the most useful features in Total Network Inventory 4 was being able to see devices as if an outsider were trying to discover my network. By using the default discovery settings, I can quickly see my network router type (pictured above), the specifics of computers on the network, and any turned on networked devices (printers are a common example).

Total Network Inventory 4 searches common SNMP community strings; this can reveal a lot of information about a device. Knowing the makes of devices, you can then modify the future scans and provide the default username and password to successfully scan them and collect all the available data.

One final note about scanning—if your environment has an intrusion detection system installed on any clients, you will either want to whitelist the source IP that is scanning or run a lighter scan. I found this tool to be a good way to test those client systems.

Quickly create network maps and change reports ^

Total Network Inventory 4 is much more than a recon tool for network discovery. Successfully scanning clients opens up a plethora of management abilities. Because Total Network Inventory 4 can consistently scan your network, you can quickly see the status of key resources and launch into any needed management tools through the custom right-click menus.

I love the new network map feature included in their latest release. Whereas most network map tools focus exclusively on networking devices, the network map tool in Total Network Inventory can place assets of any type.

An example network map showing connections and statuses from the switch to endpoints

An example network map showing connections and statuses from the switch to endpoints

Because assets can exist in multiple maps, you can visualize your organization physically and logically. You can create a physical map of your environment that shows where devices are located and how they connect. You can also place those devices onto a logical map to show how they work with each other. Being able to see the structure of a network physically and logically can take your troubleshooting abilities up a few notches!

The final feature I want to highlight is the ability to create change and usage reports. After each scan, you can quickly see any differences compared to the previous scan. These differences include both hardware and software. Because I work mainly in education, I can see how useful this would be for the devices we manage. These reports can show me when teachers decide to move their computers to another location, when a piece of software is installed over a certain license count, or when a student decides to pocket RAM from a lab computer. I am positive the change and usage reports would be just as useful in other fields as well!

A change report showing hardware differences for a scanned computer

A change report showing hardware differences for a scanned computer

Total Network Inventory 4 is a versatile tool that is extremely efficient and easy to customize. If you lack insight into your network, are constantly surprised by changes, or just want to perform some recon before the bad guys do, download Total Network Inventory 4 and give it a try!

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