How an IT Inventory Exposes Unprotected Systems, Shows What is Out of Date, Supports Proper Hardware and Software Planning, and Helps you Survive a Software Audit

We old timers remember the emergence of the PC as an IT force. In mainframe dominated organizations, PCs were snuck in, put surreptitiously to work, and then proved themselves more than worthy.

Today, IT itself deploys myriad devices ― so much so they have a hard time keeping track of their own handiwork. And end users and departments are still bringing in their own machines and applications. This has long gone on but in recent years has come to be called Stealth or Shadow IT.

Meanwhile, the average end user has multiple devices: PC, tablet, smartphone, etc. And they are increasingly adept at finding and using new applications.

All this adds up to a major management headache and security threat. IT must get their arms around this problem if they are to provide a safe and effective computing environment.

Let’s just take one example. Windows XP. This stalwart operating system is still in common use. Yet Microsoft stopped issuing patches in April 2014 – over two and a half years ago! Hackers love this kind of thing because they can create and release malware that specifically attacks these unpatched systems.

Even if your shop has moved onto a newer version of Windows, there may be many XP machines lurking around. Malware on just one of these can infect the entire network.

XP is only the tip of the iceberg. There are dozens, perhaps hundreds, of operating systems and applications that need to be maintained through software updates and patches lest they fall victim to hacker foul play.

Know Your Enemy – All of Them

Today’s IT departments are knowledgeable about security software such as antivirus/anti-malware. And many are adept at patching. But unless ALL your devices have malware protection installed and regularly updated, and unless ALL your devices are regularly patched, you fail the security test.

The answer is an inventory and asset management solution.  This allows you to keep ALL your organization’s devices up to date and safe. Part of this is knowing when machines, such as obsolete unsupported Windows XP machines, need to be replaced before they cause a problem.

Having a deep knowledge of your IT assets means you understand all that you have to protect, where these devices are, and how they are configured.

Surviving a Software Audit

Software licensing is serious business, and vendors protect their intellectual property with vigor. Their main weapon in the United States is the Business Software Alliance (BSA), a group dedicated to investigating license violations and doling out fines – which regularly reach hundreds of thousands of dollars. All it takes is for one disgruntled employee to drop a dime and you could be under investigation. And vendors such as Microsoft conduct their own audits.

These tipsters can get rewards of up to $1 million, and fines per software title can exceed $100,000.

Often IT doesn’t know they are not fully licensed because they don’t know what they have installed. Inventory and Asset Management changes all that by defining exactly what software is installed, which can be matched against the licenses in-hand. You can then generate reports that prove full license compliance.

This information can also be useful when it comes times to negotiate new deals. If you know you have a large volume of a vendor’s software, you can press for a large volume discount.

Achieve Compliance through Asset Management

Many organizations, such as those involved in health care, finance, or any place that works with credit cards, must abide by compliance regulations – and here security is of paramount importance. Not only do you have to be secure, you need to prove it as well. Inventory and Asset Management is great help. Here you can show that you are managing the security of ALL your devices, demonstrate you have secure and up to date operating systems, and that all these machines and properly patched. If auditors come knocking, simply print out a report to that effect.

Choosing an Inventory and Asset Management Solution

Trying to conduct an IT inventory ad hoc is loads of work, and fraught with peril. It would take forever to discover ever asset on the network. And good luck managing and keeping track of these assets going forward.

A proper solution does this network discovery for you, and does a deep enough dive that you know all you need to about your assets. Even better, a proper solution uses automation to do the work for you. And it further does this discovery continually, to update the inventory database when new devices and apps emerge, and when changes such as updates or patches are made to end points.

The Kaseya Approach

Kaseya VSA allows IT to conduct inventory and asset management and take actions on devices that are part of the inventory database. Automatic recurring network discovery and system audits keep the inventory up-to-date and accurate at all times. Using only a Web browser, you can quickly access the computer inventory information needed to see and manage the network efficiently from anywhere at any time.

VSA’s Network Audit & Inventory gives you the ability to meet these goals by grabbing every piece of useful data from your managed machines and offering you the visibility you need through comprehensive inventories.

With it you can:

  • Identify all installed software and application EXEs across all managed machines
  • Identify the different versions and licenses of software deployed across your network
  • Identify user-defined shares across all managed machines
  • Close data security holes and ensure compliance
  • Examine hardware policy issues
  • Inventory computers without interrupting the user
  • Pinpoint failures by manufacturer and model

You can also…

  • Get a consolidated view of computer hardware profiles and installed software across your network
  • Reconcile deployed software licenses with purchased licenses
  • Know what versions of required software are installed across your entire network
  • Provide a detailed list of hardware assets and installed software including those for compliance audits
  • Know what software is installed on remote out-of-band systems

Learn more about network audits here, and audits and inventories here.

Posted by Doug Barney
Doug Barney was the founding editor of Redmond Magazine, Redmond Channel Partner, Redmond Developer News and Virtualization Review. Doug also served as Executive Editor of Network World, Editor in Chief of AmigaWorld, and Editor in Chief of Network Computing.
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