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I have recently joined a company as the sole IT guy and I'm struggling to get a handle on what software and hardware we own and how it is deployed. Keeping in mind my limited time and budget, what tools or processes are going to be effective for discovering and managing this information? Things I am looking after include:

  • Approximately 35 desktops including PC and Mac.
  • Microsoft servers including AD, Exchange, SQL and IIS servers.
  • Wired, wireless and VPN networks.

My goals are:

  • Identify and improve any issues.
  • Make sure we are licensed correctly.
  • Document enough to make the next guys job easier.
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6 Answers 6

up vote 14 down vote accepted

http://www.spiceworks.com/

This tool is easy to install, and will setup basic monitoring, inventory, and patch levels for you. This will get you by until you have had time to study the network and setup something more specific like Nagios or System Center.

As far as tools and processes that I have used in the past I follow this routine.

  • Map physical plant
  • Map logical system
  • Map IP address space (external and internal)
  • Aggregate all our login accounts and password for systems and websites using PINs
  • clean up/add antivirus installation
  • clean up/add anti spam solution
  • systematically bring all devices to latest patch levels
  • clean up errors in Active directory
  • clean up errors in Exchange (or mail system)
  • clean up servers one by one as time permits

In my Tool box I have...

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I've installed Spiceworks and so far it looks to be a good fit for the size of network I've got, cheers. Now to break out some Visio diagrams.. –  Generic Error May 7 '09 at 10:29
    
Excellent advice on the processes to manage a network! Very good way to explain it. Interested in a guest blog entry? :-) –  Matt Simmons Jun 5 '09 at 2:07
    
SpiceWorks rocks. I use it on my own network as well as on client networks. We love it. The integrated helpdesk feature is really powerful when tied to your inventory. The community is wonderful - probably the best part of the system. –  Scott Alan Miller Jun 6 '09 at 18:00
    
Matt, Sure I would love to guest blog..hit me up on tommydenton at Gmail dot com with details! –  Thomas Denton Jun 7 '09 at 21:13

Process wise, it sounds like a task management system like 'Getting Things Done' or 'The Cycle' will be invaluable. The latter was developed by a system administrator and I've heard that it can be very helpful.

I would start with spending a couple of hours writing down a list of all the documentation and inventory that you need to be able to sleep soundly without worrying about your environment. Once you have that, order it by priority, start at the top and work your way down the list; each of those items probably warrant a question of their own.

In terms of generic monitoring, if you have a spare machine, it may be worth setting up a Nagios instance. This will show you what kinds of alerts/issues you are seeing on your network and may give you pointers as to where to start in terms of infrastructure improvement. These questions cover the topic of monitoring in more depth.

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Whether your favored tool is Visio or a pad of paper, I think it's invaluable to diagram out what you've got, and how it interconnects. Map out which servers are on the LAN/DMZ, include static IPs of note, include symbols for server roles (web servers, databases, print servers). Really basic information that will help you troubleshoot quickly, rather than tracking down these details on the spot.

My favored tools for this are Visio and any kind of Wiki (sharepoint has a crude wiki option in the newest version, mediaWiki) that you can throw up quickly.

I've often resorted to the Jellybean Keyfinder to get keys from servers I've inherited.

On a side note, I've spun my wheels for long periods of time trying to get more automated systems working to do these things for me. Crude = fast (for a small user base).

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We have been playing around with a new (as in to us) tool SpiceWorks. It has everything. Will scan your network for Computers, Printers,Domain Controllers, Servers, missed updates, will notify of installed updates, user accounts, if your photoconductive drum is about at the end of it's life, toner levels... freaking everything! So far it's been the best help for inventory, licensing in our 200+ node network. It is free, just have to watch ads on the side.

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For the Microsoft side of things, contact them and ask them what you have. They'll know everything that isn't OEM and are really helpful in this regard.

The OEM OS's should have stickers on the machines and should be identifiable that way. Servers that don't have a sticker generally aren't licensed and could make for an expensive mistake.

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Divide the environment into really clear chunks.
Classify each chunk by business need, ease to update and cost/time to update.
Prioritise these chunks yourself.
Ask your manager to go over your priotisation data, make his own changes but very importantly get him to agree on a combined priortity lists.
Accurately price up these priortities and present to your manager asking for go ahead to work on them in that order with those costs and time budget.

Deliver on time to budget :)

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