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What are some good ways to have patch management and systems/hardware inventory for a Windows (Server 2003 or 2008) network?

For example, at a minimum knowing the basics for all the machines out on the network such as OS version, patch level, what hotfixes they have, processor, ram, etc.

Even better would be knowing more details such as peripherals.

Ideally if there were a way to push service packs, and hotfixes (and other software?) to the machines, that would be great.

What are some options for this?

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4 Answers 4

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Take a look at OCS Inventory: http://www.ocsinventory-ng.org/ . It does most of what you want, but be warned that the GUI is a little... rough. Something else to consider would be WSUS. It can definitely tell you hotfixes/patches/system information, but it can be a bit tricky to set up.

I suspect a combination of OCS Inventory and WSUS would do everything you want.

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I use the same. –  Steven Feb 15 '11 at 3:11
    
Thanks for all the answers - actually I like all 3 answers and am going to try all 3 and see which fits the best - Windows System Center, Spice Works and OCS Inventory (possibly with WSUS) - thank you! –  Scott Szretter Feb 27 '11 at 14:39

SpiceWorks does a decent job of the inventory part of what you want, may be a big "bulky" for you however. For windows patching/updating, WSUS is made for your need. It's not too hard to setup, maybe an afternoon at most.

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For both purposes Microsoft offers freely available tools:

For inventory and assessment of your infrastructure you can use MAP toolkit, which works will almost all editions and version of Windows Desktop & Server OSs using WMI, and moreover it also can inventory HP-UX, VMWare ESX(i) and a variety of Linux distros. MAP can also gather data from multiple domains as long as the appropriate administrator credentials are provided. Perhaps, worth mentioning it can collect MS SQL/Exchange/etc specific data.

Microsoft Assessment and Planning Toolkit

For patching purposes as guys previously mentioned above MS offers WSUS, which is free as well. Will help you with patch management, allows create separate groups, like test and prod, deployment rules etc.

On the other hand we've been using VMware vCenter Protect(i.e. Shavlik) recently on a number of clients networks, which is not free, but have grace period. There are also different editions. Shavlik allows not only patch management, but also offline VM patching, power management, asset inventory and etc.

VMware vCenter Protect Editions

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If your environment is larger than 1,500 machines, the Microsoft System Center suite of products might be right for you. If you are a Microsoft Partner, it is a cost effective option for a smaller company. But if you actually purchase the license separately, you have to have a lot of machines to manage before you get any decent ROI.

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So I have started some testing with system center and I like the features it offers. However, it requires an agent - and possibly a second agent (configuration helper) to be installed on the workstations. That would be ok if it were really light weight, but I have had a number of cases where it seems to be slowing machines down, using lots of processor, etc. –  Scott Szretter Mar 10 '11 at 23:56
    
hmm.... haven't see that yet... I'll ask around –  SBWorks Mar 11 '11 at 5:25
    
An agent is the way to go on those older versions of Windows, perhaps you've run into some known issue on certain clients that can be resolved by contacting Microsoft? –  Oskar Duveborn Mar 1 '13 at 12:51

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