Discovering and inventorying network devices, hardware, and software can be challenging. Total Network Inventory is a tool that allows easily discovering and managing the hardware and software assets on your network. In this review of the new features in Total Network Inventory 4.5, we take a look at the product's new capabilities.

Discovering and inventorying network devices, hardware, and software can be challenging.  Total Network Inventory is a tool that allows easily discovering and managing the hardware and software assets on your network. In this review of the new features in Total Network Inventory 4.5, we take a look at the product's new capabilities.

Having visibility into what is running on your network can be a challenge. Often, IT admins view their network as a "black box" of unknowns. You may not know which servers are running, which ports are open and serving out applications, what types of hardware and software are running.

This can be one of the most fundamental but difficult challenges you have in performing day-to-day administration.  It is also extremely important when thinking about security in your environment. A product called Total Network Inventory (TNI), by SoftInventive Lab, sets out to make this task much easier for you in your environment. In this review of TNI 4.5, we take a look at some of the new features the software includes, and how it can help map out, discover, and report on devices in your network. Let's take a closer look at features found in this latest version.

What is Total Network Inventory? ^

To begin with, let's get a broad overview of what the Total Network Inventory product is and what it allows you to do. TNI is a self-described PC audit and software inventory management solution. TNI 4.5 provides many capabilities for the network environment, including the following:

  • Network scanning: Network scanning is a basic necessity in most environments. TNI 4.5 enables keeping track of devices that are alive, services that are running, software that is installed, hardware health, and deltas of changes between each scan iteration. You can scan the Windows, OS X, Linux, FreeBSD, and ESX/ESXi servers without any agents installed to query the information.
  • Inventory: Inventory goes hand-in-hand with network scanning. It enables tracking assets in your environment. TNI provides tracking features and functionality you can use to track assets and attach pertinent additional information.
  • Reports: Reports are important in most environments. With TNI reporting, you can capture data that you harvest with the network scanning and inventory features and then feed this into customized reports that can be used for audits and other compliance needs.
  • Software accounting: Keeping track of all the software in your environment can be a monumental task when left to manual means. TNI 4.5 provides a robust way to keep track of all software found installed in your environment along with license information. You can search and filter by specific software packages, and keep information regarding license keys, expiration dates, and other information.
  • Live license status: Licensing goes hand-in hand with Keeping track of licenses can be extremely difficult. This is especially true if you have many different software installations present in your environment. TNI 4.5 allows tracking software and reporting on various aspects of the software licensing in your environment.
  • Tracking: Track which software is present on which specific device. You can also mark software as required or forbidden on various devices.
  • Change log: Track changes in hardware and software for specific devices. In this way, you can easily audit and have visibility into changes with the devices in your environment.

New TNI features in recent releases ^

As mentioned, the latest release of TNI is version 4.5. There have been some really nice improvements with the product in the last few releases, though, so let's take a closer look at some of them.

  • TNI 4.1.0
    • Windows updates scanning enables great visibility into Windows updates installed in your environment, along with hotfixes and other updates. It provides:
      • Windows updates information
      • Windows update log information
      • New report templates for Windows updates
      • Scanning for machine SIDS
      • Reporting on the login time and username in Windows
      • Many other features

You will find the Windows Updates information under the details of your Windows device. This information includes Windows updates that have been installed, the update ID, when it was installed, category of the update, and other specific information related to the particular update.

  • TNI 4.3.0
    • The software asset management features enable keeping track of software in your environment, types of software, licensing status, notes on licenses, and other essential information regarding the status of software licensing. This includes the following:
      • Ability to automatically merge different versions of the same software
      • Tags that allow identifying software as freeware, commercial, shareware, or other
      • Ability to upload a software icon
      • Notifications about expiring software licenses
      • Search by full or partial license keys
TNI software asset management features including license management and software type tagging

TNI software asset management features including license management and software type tagging

Query Windows updates and hotfixes with TNI

Query Windows updates and hotfixes with TNI

  • TNI 4.5.0
    • Hardware sensor monitoring and updated change log: In this release, TNI has added the ability to poll and query hardware sensors. You can now have point-in-time visibility of the hardware on various nodes in your environment. You can query information such as temperatures, fan speeds, voltages, and frequencies.
Starting with TNI 4.5 you can query hardware sensors in your environment

Starting with TNI 4.5 you can query hardware sensors in your environment

The change log also received a major update in this release of TNI. While the legacy change log feature in previous TNI releases allowed comparing different "snapshot" scans to see what changed between scans, the new change log in the product is a full-on report builder. It allows you to compare specific snapshot items that you choose from any period of time.

New change log allows you to compare the selected items between snapshots

New change log allows you to compare the selected items between snapshots

Impressions ^

I have used many different "network scanners" and inventory-type utilities over the years. There is certainly value in knowing what devices are running in your environment, both from an inventory perspective and for security. TNI goes far beyond other utilities and scanners that I have used in the past and provides a wealth of information for an IT admin in a very short period of time.

The tool is extremely lightweight to install, didn't need any prerequisites installed on Windows Server 2019, and was up and running in just a few minutes. You can specify devices or IP ranges that you want to scan, and I found that it quickly "chews" through the environment to find devices on your network.

The tool offers a lot of great capabilities, in my opinion, that can help to provide visibility into things you might otherwise miss. The "snapshots" of your environment that are captured by the change log functionality allow seeing what has changed in your environment. Did a server start having issues two days ago? Quickly pull up the server's change log to compare snapshots before and after the issues began.

Below, I have the change log displaying changes that have occurred since yesterday. You can see that a user account was added and that Windows updates were applied to the server.

 TNI change log shows changes to your environment

TNI change log shows changes to your environment

These and many other features of TNI can provide a great deal of value to keep track of what is on your network, including hardware, changes, and software. TNI doesn't replace real-time monitoring, as it is intended to provide more point-in-time scans of your environment; however, I see it as a great solution to bolster the monitoring that you have in place, specifically for inventorying, asset management, and change control.

Check out TNI here, where you can download a free 60-day evaluation copy.

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