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I just started working in the IT department of a small-medium sized construction company with about 200 users. One of my responsibilities is to setup and configure all new machines that come in.

I would like suggestions on how to best manage the installation disks and licenses of the software that comes with them. Plus any additional licensed software such as Autocad, Photoshop, etc as well as peripheral driver disks such as printers and scanners.

Right now every machine is associated and labeled with an asset id. All asset ids are kept in a spreadsheet with applicable serial numbers, current user, warranty info, and software licenses. The physical disks are then kept within a folder in a cabinet. Each folder is marked with the asset id number as well as the current user.

My problems with this is that the system was not maintained very completely before I came to the company. There are plenty of software folders with no asset ids labeled on them. Plenty of missing software folders (most likely are a lot of the unlabeled folders). Folders with names but not asset ids. Machines get switched to different users without the folders and spreadsheet being updated.

I am not saying this method would necessarily be bad if it was better implemented and managed, but if I am going to have to take a lot of time to fix this system currently in place. I thought I would ask the community first on how others manage this process in case there are easier, more efficient ways of doing so.

Thank you.

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up vote 2 down vote accepted

In a previous position we used a combination of database and barcodes. When a new machine was being prepared a barcode label was attached to it. A corresponding label was attached to a rigid plastic envelope, in which was stored any manuals and discs that were for that machine. An entry was then added to the database, listing who the machine was for, which office and/or department.

The barcodes were intended for a more automated database entry system (which was unfinished at the time I left) but the labels also had human readable numbers, which allowed us to easily located the envelope for a particular machine, as they were stored sequentially.

Add-on software was a little harder to deal with because of the vast array of different packaging. In general we would store it on a shelf in the server room, after attaching a label with whatever information was relevant to it, such as the user(s) it was for. This could have been improved by using a numbering system and a database but for some reason we never got to that stage.

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I love barcodes, you can print thousands of them on a pack of sticky lables, and with a barcode reader there's almost never any margin of error. – Mark Henderson May 11 '10 at 22:53
We used a Brother P-Touch to print the barcodes. We found those to be more durable than regular sheets of sticky labels. Just tell it to print two copies each of a range of numbers, then go and and do something else while it churns away. – John Gardeniers May 11 '10 at 23:03

I work for a similar sized company, and I can't stress the importance of a decent asset management system - you will save immeasurable amounts of time in the long run.

A good system will have the ability to push a program to each PC which will perform a hardware and software audit on a regular basis and report back to a central administration console, allowing you to capture any changes that may happen between audits. It may also allow you to associate license information with installed software titles and give you automatic alerts when you are nearing or have exceeded any of your defined licensing conditions.
A decent system will probably have other added goodies (such as helpdesk facilities) which you may or may not choose to use. I will however warn you though that such a system will be rather expensive.

I have personally had to do this, with no initial information whatsoever. I warn you now that if you go down this route, it will be a MASSIVE undertaking that will take you a LONG time. There will be considerable re-keying of information, but once you get it all set up, I promise you it is invaluable and will save you unspeakable amounts of time.

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May I ask what software/system you used? – northirid May 11 '10 at 22:09
I am afraid I'm going to be totally unhelpful and say it's an in-house system. We tried so many demos from loads of different vendors, and they were all very good, but we wanted something that was a mish mash of them all and we just couldn't find it. An in house system has its own pros and cons though - pros being you can have exactly what you want, the cons are it takes time to develop. Unfortunately, whether you go buy or build, you will have to compromise somewhere, IMHO. The OP may find a "buy it" solution that does exactly what they need and works for them. We just needed more. – Ben Pilbrow May 11 '10 at 22:37

Set up Spiceworks (free, ad supported for now) on a spare desktop and see what is actually installed on the network - it will inventory Windows machines for software and hardware, and extract some keys (MS Office) if you need to check for duplicate installs using the same key. Excel spreadsheets are never kept up to date in my experience unless someone is auditing them every month. In the future, try to buy volume license keys for all software rather than actual physical boxes with unique keys. Keep all the software in use either as ISOs or files on large slow online storage so you can install it across the network and search for it easily. Keep a private file folder on the network with all the relevant certs, license keys, and license files that are married to a particular version.

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