Tool offers help for help desks

A new asset management tool may save time and embarrassment for anyone who deals with help desks, according to Mark Krieger, president of UniPress Software.

Edison, N.J.-based UniPress and U.K.-based Centennial Discovery have introduced FootPrints Asset Management, which the companies say gives help desk technicians the ability to see and take a “snapshot” of a user’s PC. This snapshot means technicians can see platforms, hardware and software, so they don’t have to rely on users to collect complete configuration information.

Krieger said customers have been asking for the dynamic ability to access desktops, which is what the Centennial tool allows them to do.

“We partnered with Centennial and we have integrated FootPrints with Centennial and it allows the customer to, when they are helping either an internal or an external customer, see the hardware and software configuration on the desktop,” he said. “They can see the current version of that hardware configuration and they can cut and paste that configuration automatically from the Web screen into the Footprints Web screen where we are keeping the details of the ticket.”

A central repository stores the information, which can be accessed via a Web interface from any browser, in any location, subject to security policies.

FootPrints also identifies network assets, where they’re located and what changes have been made to them without interrupting regular business operations. Organizations have the choice to schedule automatic, updated inventories of their network for specific times, or they can run them on demand. After the initial inventory, FootPrints maintains an audit history of changes that occur to the PCs, sending updates to the repository only on new changes, to reduce network traffic.

Suzanne Sliter, general manager of Centennial Software, said that this solution helps people get back to work more quickly.

“Technicians can’t know what you have done to your machine and people can’t always remember,” she said. “People have other things they have to be doing. They have to get their jobs done.”

Derek Perry, systems administrator and help desk technical support specialist at the University of New Brunswick, said that this is certainly the case with his Footprints experience.

“We had been using another product for a little over three years and we never really convinced all of our staff to use it because it was kind of bulky and not very user-friendly,” he said, adding that it was only available to Windows users. “The most important feature that we were looking at, after price, is that we wanted something Web-based.”

Perry added that there are one or two minor drawbacks with Footprints’ solution. “It’s supposed to be 100 per cent compatible with any browser, but we haven’t really found that to be 100 per cent accurate.”

He added that users running Macintosh OSX have also had some problems.

“There are a few little things like that, but it really wasn’t a big serious thing at all,” he said.

FootPrints is available now and is sold on a per-help-desk-engineer basis at the rate of $1,000, with a floating licence price of $2,500. Each PC is armed with Centennial’s offering for $25.