Cover Your Assets: the latest asset management software in action - Tech Learning

Cover Your Assets: the latest asset management software in action

Quick, tell us How many laptops are in your middle schools? Which ones are about to come off warranty? Did your tech department finish updating all the software licensing? If you can’t answer these questions, it is probably time to
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Quick, tell us: How many laptops are in your middle schools? Which ones are about to come off warranty? Did your tech department finish updating all the software licensing? If you can’t answer these questions, it is probably time to look into asset-management software. These programs let you view, at a glance, the products on your network. Some even allow you to remotely control PCs, communicate with users, and stop students from visiting inappropriate Web sites. To find the right solution for your district, read on.

School District of Springfield Township
Oreland, PA
A 2,000-student district

What do you use?
SchoolDude’s ITAMDirect
Pricing based on district size; includes unlimited users and support.

Why did your district decide to get this?
“I’m in charge of software licensing,” says Ginny Wexler, network manager, “and I feared being audited.” Knowing she was out of compliance in terms of licensing propelled Wexler to find a way to better keep track of her equipment and software. She didn’t know where anything was, some laptops were lost, and each building had individual inventory lists.

How did you choose the package you have?
Wexler saw one product that cost $40,000, plus hardware, which was prohibitive. She went to a SchoolDude demo and found ITAMDirect, which provided everything she needed at an “unbelievable” price point and did not require her to own a server.

What are your favorite things about it?
Customer support, says Wexler. “When you pick up the phone and call, you get a person. They call and check on me, ask if we need training, and more. It’s incredible.” Wexler also likes knowing which software is installed on each machine. “I didn’t have a clue before; now it’s concrete.” And it helps her to be aware of her system’s deficits, such as switches that were flopped out and never renamed.

What would you change, if possible?
“The teachers are definitely not loving me, but I’m not here to make friends,” says Wexler. “I’m here to keep the networking running.” Also, the search features are not always where she would like them to be.

Was it easy to learn to use?
“It really was. They sent an executable to install on machines and an installation package. When a machine logs in, it’s deployed right away and starts polling and sending inventory. It requires very little effort on my part.”

Have you saved money or time?
“I have a lot less stress because I’m finding stuff that could walk away. This product has helped me educate people about the rules.”

Dysart Unified School District 89
Surprise, AZ
A 24,000-student district

What do you use?
Absolute Software’s Computrace
$49 for one year; $99 for three years

Why did your district decide to get this?
The education-services department has been trying to regulate classroom technology, says Michelle Benham, technical services supervisor. “Instead of a computer lab, they want six computers in each class as well as flexibility for individual and group projects.” In addition, the district had begun buying laptops, so it had to track them and manage theft protection.

How did you choose the package you have?
The inclusion of theft protection made Absolute’s product stand out from others.

What are your favorite things about it?
“The product helped us find out who was stealing laptops, and we are now preventing that,” says Benham. “We have procedures in place to safeguard our equipment and ensure that it is being used.” Tracking changes everything, she says. “We’ve had other inventory applications that we used in the past or in addition to this, but I’ve found Computrace the most reliable and up-to-date.”

What would you change, if possible?
One thing that has been a bit problematic, says Benham, is that Computrace is hard to remove from a computer. “The agent works in the bios and, once online, reaches out to the Computrace Web site to download software without the user knowing.” Although that’s what lets her recover missing laptops, the product is sometimes deployed in places she doesn’t want it to be. “It’s more of a housekeeping thing,” she says.

Was it easy to learn to use?
“Absolutely. Some applications we employ that are geared for education are tough to use, but this was easy to deploy. The interface is user-friendly.”

Have you saved money or time?
Benham has recovered more than 90 percent of the stolen laptops, something she says would never have happened without this software. She also saves time because she doesn’t have to look for misplaced computers; and even better, when she upgraded operating systems, she knew which machines were done and which weren’t.

Independent School District 196
Rosemount, MN
A 28,000-student district

What do you use?
JAMF Casper Suite
Pricing varies.

Why did your district decide to get this?
Although the 30 K¬–12 schools make local decisions, the district needed a central inventory-management solution to field state inquiries and move to statewide computerized testing, says Bonnie Halvorson, technology specialist, adding, “We wanted a centralized inventory and imaging solution.”

How did you choose the package you have?
Halvorson tested other products, which offered partial solutions. She’d read about Casper and heard good things about it from a neighboring district. She also liked that it is a local company. “Because 75 percent of our computers are Macs, we needed something that was truly written for the Mac. We didn’t just want a Windows product that worked on the Macs.”

What are your favorite things about it?
“Ease of use and terrific support from the vendor,” says Halvorson. “Whether it’s via phone or e-mail, they get back to me quickly.” She also likes how easy it is to build a report in the inventory module and says it’s “intuitive and Mac-like.”

Another plus is that it has GSX (global service exchange) with Apple, which lets Halvorson see purchase dates and warranty expiration for all her Apple products.

What would you change, if possible?
“That’s a hard question. I wish we had it available on the Windows platform. It can inventory Windows products, but we need imaging as well.”

Was it easy to learn to use?
Extremely, she says. “In addition to direct support from JAMF, there is a community of users who share ideas and solutions. There is a mailing list with sometimes daily postings, and lots of education and higher-ed types are using it.” The company also offers weekly demos and a resource tool kit.

Have you saved money or time?
Halvorson says she has saved time, although it’s hard to quantify. When the state’s technology task force asked everyone to fill out a comprehensive survey on technology tools, Halvorson gathered the information in one afternoon. Without Casper, it would have taken several days.

Walla Walla Public Schools
Walla Walla, WA
A 6,000-student district

What do you use?
Follet Software’s Asset Manager
Pricing varies.

Why did your district decide to get this?
The special-education and special-programs departments wanted to keep track of inventory, including curriculum, equipment, and adaptive technology, says Janis Barton, director of technology, telecommunications, and AV services. The departments were losing equipment and loaning products to other districts, and they needed a procedure for checking out equipment properly.

How did you choose the package you have?
The district already used Follett products and liked them, Barton says, so it checked out Asset Manager and was happy with its performance.

What are your favorite things about it?
“It is fully customizable. We can create trees that correspond with the kinds of media, testing materials, and adaptive technology we have.” In addition, the secretaries who use the product have learned it without difficulty, says Barton. “They know where everything is, can check it out to students or others for home use, and can immediately generate wonderful reports.”

What would you change, if possible?
“The hardest thing was that the people who use it are not library-media specialists and had no prior knowledge of how these [asset-management] systems work. If I were using this in another district, I’d do some background training for the secretaries and clerks who are using the system.”

Was it easy to learn to use?
Yes, says Barton, but end users who know nothing about enterprise-level systems should first be allowed to spend time with a library-media specialist.

Have you saved money or time?
Although she hasn’t tracked it, Barton knows she has saved both time and money, because in the past, when a special-needs student needed a specific product and it wasn’t available, she had to buy it. Now she can track it down.

READS Collaborative & R.E.A.D.S., Inc.
Middleboro, MA
250 students

What do you use?
CrossTec EMS
Pricing starts at $2,551 but varies based on quantity and functionality.

Why did your district decide to get this?
“We didn’t want to have to keep running to the school down the street or next door to see which machines needed more memory or software updating,” says Christine Pavao, technology coordinator. “It makes my life a whole lot easier because I can see it all on my own desktop.”

How did you choose the package you have?
Pavao researched the available products online, and EMS had all she wanted, along with some extras that “made me happy”; it was the package that best suited her needs.

What are your favorite things about it?
“From my PC, I can see all our computers on campus, reach out to PCs from it, and help fix any problems. That is an enormous help.”

What would you change, if possible?
“I know I’m not using it to its full capability, but that’s not the software’s fault,” says Pavao, laughing. “I don’t have any complaints.”

Was it easy to learn to use?
Yes, she says, and the help desk is “phenomenal. They call back, follow up, and make sure everything is working.”

Have you saved money or time?
“I get up to 100 calls a day: ‘I’m having a problem,’ ‘I can’t do this.’ I no longer have to drive to another building. I can just look at my desk and talk them through it. That saves me more time than I could ever compute.” In addition, she doesn’t have to do inventory by hand. “I love this!” Pavao says.

MORE OPTIONS
Altiris Asset Management Solution lets users manage hardware and software products, including contractual and financial data.

K2 (KeyAuditor & KeyServer) is an asset-management suite from Sassafras Software, Inc. It can be used to conduct enterprise-wide audits, track IT assets, and run usage reports.

KACE’s KBOX Systems Management Appliance offers an Asset Management add-on so schools can track IT products from purchase to pasture.

NetSupport DNA lets users maintain their computers and servers and manage application and Internet use, licensing, and more. www.netsupport-inc.com

TAKE Supply Chain’s asset tracking and maintenance solution is a Web-based, mobile application that automates asset-data collection and improves tracking, visibility, and reporting of fixed, capital, and physical assets.

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