Enterprise Tools

Infracenter monitors your assets

Because technology changes at an increasing rate, many companies throw a lot of money at keeping their IT infrastructure current. A major hurdle in the race to keep your computers up to speed is knowing what hardware and software is deployed in your organization, who is using it and how much it costs to support these resources.

In answer to this challenge, Peregrine Systems Inc. offers Infracentre for Workgroups. The package provides asset management and help desk support for all manner of IT resources. It tracks assets from their purchase through their eventual retirement, tracking support and maintenance costs along the way.

As its name implies, Infracentre for Workgroups isn’t designed for the very large implementations suitable to an enterprise-level network management solution, such as Computer Associates UniCenter. But it is a great solution for medium and large businesses that need to add inventory-tracking and help desk software to their network. Also, Peregrine Systems offers gateway software that links many popular network management platforms to this solution.

Infracentre for Workgroups helps IT managers answer several important questions about assets and their costs. It provides one-stop shopping to find out what assets exist, where they are deployed, and how much they cost. And it provides a repository for maintenance contract information and lifetime costs for assets. Managers can see the cost of supporting specific types of assets such as printers and network hardware, which helps plan infrastructure upgrades. This package is a powerful planning tool for IT managers and chief technology officers (CTOs).

Several competitive products handle one or more of these tasks, which include help desk problem and resolution tracking, inventory tracking, and cost analysis. Some products, such as Remedy Help Desk or Janus Technologies Argis for asset management, compete with specific features of Infracentre for Workgroups. But none of them brings together the asset management and help desk features in Infracenter for Workgroups.

I tested Infracenter for Workgroups on a Windows NT 4.0 server. I set up a network of resources and entered the information into the system. After I set up some dummy users, I assigned them resources with just a few clicks. I then simulated support calls for specific users, and the calls were associated with the appropriate resources.

I was impressed with the way this software handled the purchasing and assignment of IT resources to users, as well as with the robust help desk problem and resolution tracking package. Infracenter for Workgroups’ cost-analysis tools will help your company plan its resources more efficiently and make smarter buying decisions.

The user interface for Infracenter for Workgroups is made up of four main parts. For IT managers, the asset management features provide an easy-to-use interface to see what assets exist and where they are deployed. With just a few clicks, I could see a deep level of detail on any asset or group of assets. The help desk features can help reduce downtime and decrease support costs.

From the CTO and chief financial officer perspective, the cost-tracking and purchase-planning functionality can help growing businesses plan a cost-efficient infrastructure upgrade path. The cost-analysis tools let me easily see what hardware or software have a high total cost of ownership and should therefore be retired.

For the help desk staff, this software provides a central location for tracking and resolving problems. It automatically tracks causes and fixes for problem calls as they occur, saving time and money in the support process. Once a problem has been solved (possibly by a high-end support staff member), even the newest help desk member could then use the tracking data to solve the problem should it happen again.

To get Infracenter for Workgroups running in an organization, Peregrine offers Desktop Discovery, which can automatically inventory a company’s hardware and software assets and add them to the Infracenter for Workgroups system. This can save days of IT staff time and provide more accurate information. Desktop Discover is included in the premium package.

Pricing for Infracenter for Workgroups is done on a per-desktop basis, with discounts applied as the number of desktops increases. The standard implementation costs US$50 per desktop for 500 desktops and ranges to as little as US$32 per desktop for 3,000 desktops. The premium package ranges in cost from $65 per desktop for 500 to as low as US$47 per desktop for 3,000 desktops. The standard maintenance contract provides for a 24-hour turnaround time on problems, for a 15 per cent (of total price) annual fee, and the premium maintenance provides for a four-hour turnaround time for an 18 per cent annual fee.

Overall, I was impressed with the features and capabilities of Infracenter for Workgroups. It provides a wealth of help desk and asset management functionality for the money, making it a great choice for companies that haven’t already implemented an asset management or help desk problem-resolution system.

However, because it is designed for mid-size businesses, larger companies will probably be better served by a high-end network management solution with a help desk solution added to the total package.

Senior Analyst Railsback (kevin_railsback@infoworld.com) covers network management, Linux, server and client hardware, and help desk solutions.