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Software for a One-Man IT Department? 84

skywalker107 asks: "I am a one man IT department for a small Company (~100 PCs 4 Servers). I know that the bigger companies use alot of admin tools for inventory, documentation and management. Right now all of my information is spread out over documents, spreadsheets, and diagrams. The software I have tried has been poor at best and only covers one of the areas I need. What do the other small IT departments use to bring this information together and help manage the madness? Is shareware/freeware a good route? Does the open source movement have anything to fit a small scale setting?"
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Software for a One-Man IT Department?

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  • Wiki (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Neil Watson ( 60859 ) on Wednesday March 15, 2006 @01:29PM (#14925435) Homepage
    How about a good wiki with version control? Also, a versioning system like Subversion can be very useful for maintaining source code and configuration files.
    • This was the first thing I thought of as well. A Wiki is invaluable, even in a one-man shop. IT's great because you can use it for publishing documentation to your users, and they can even help improve documentation. The built-in version control features of a Wiki will be a huge help. Another great tool is Big Brother.
    • by hey! ( 33014 ) on Wednesday March 15, 2006 @02:52PM (#14926197) Homepage Journal
      Well, Wikis are a rich-get-richer-poor-get-poorer proposition with respect to organization.

      Our group used a wiki extensively for posting meeting notes, keeping priority lists, documenting open issues, posting reference data etc. The Wiki was good for us because it was simple, easy to learn, and we could adapt it to a wide variety of uses without having to go through a major requirements analysis and software selection. If we thought we might be able to track, say, outstanding customer issues by giving them a wiki page, we'd try it and see if it worked. By in large the simplicity and flexibility of using a wiki instead of a aresenal of special purpose software was a win for us. Until a certain manager got wind of what we were doing. In fact, we invited him to use our wiki to track what we were up to, instead of buttonholing an engineer and giving him the third degree every time he felt a twinge of anxiety on some issue or another.

      The problem is that this manager likes to edit things. At first, it started with his changing fonts around and putting cute little animated gif icons of flames for items he thought were "hot". Then it proceeded to wholesale reorganization of the wiki, in the process breaking about half the document links. Finally he began to use the wiki as his private "brain dump" area, and started to demand that everyone know everything that was in it, which was impossible because he works 80 hours a week, and any time he got a hankering to edit something at a night or on a weekend, he'd satisfy it by spending a few hours shuffling wiki's content around.

      Pretty quickly, everyone gave looking the wiki on a regular basis; they only went there when he browbeat them into it. This left him perplexed. He complained that we "advocated" using a wiki (which we never did, we just used it because it was convenient), and then we dropped it. When we point out that a system that changes too rapidly is useless for documentation and tracking, he's completely unable to see how what he's doing might pose a problem for other people. From his perspective, he's just making things "better organized". The more time you spend organizing, the better organized you'll be, right? Sure. And if you spend most of your time in a rush, it must mean you're punctual.

      Eventually, what we did was set up a CRM system. Since this is a database application, and we've "neglected" to give him admin privileges, he can't alter the framework of the information at least. He does pelt us with regular "trouble tickets" in which he suggests all kinds of feature enhancements we should add to the CRM "if we have time". We quietly close them and continue taking care of the customers.

      • by MagicMike ( 7992 ) on Wednesday March 15, 2006 @05:07PM (#14927442) Homepage
        Wow, that is horrible.

        It's really a people problem though - someone needed to throttle that dude.

        Something every wiki should do is be able to send out nightly change reports (a la Confluence - it does this, not sure if others do). That way everyone can see nightly changes if they want. Many now are also allowing you to subscribe via RSS to updates etc - this also helps mightily.

        Combine that feature with search, and you can update documentation easily, but you also solve the "where did it go?" and "what changed?" problems that updating documentation quickly causes.

        Unless someone is changing things 80 hours a week, of course
    • 1.8 man IT department here. We tried a wiki a few times for internal it documentation and pretty much gave up because it was more of a hassle than just maintaining a few word documents. I think a wiki would have been a better idea if we had more people generating documentation... but with a very few reader/writers, it was overkill and less friendly than alternatives.
    • Wikis are great when you know what you want to know. For instance, when I see someone use a term like "mukluk", I can right-click and Wikipedia for it. A few seconds later, I feel a tad bit smarter.

      Wikis are terrible when you don't know what you want to know. I recently started playing Galactic Civilizations 2. They have very little information in the manual (but excellent video tutorials in-game) about exactly how to play the game. I looked around and found this [] wiki. And, while it's a great database
      • I just wiki'd 'mukluk' - thanks for that. Now I know what those stupid things I see secretaries wearing on my train in the morning that I take the piss out of are called ;)

  • by rah1420 ( 234198 ) <> on Wednesday March 15, 2006 @01:29PM (#14925436)
    There are a whole lot of things that you can mean by "manage." Are you looking for asset management? Configuration management? Security? Software upgrades? All of the above?

    I think if you can decide what it is you want to manage, you'll be better able to find tools that you need. Yes, plural; because what's a kick-butt asset management tool may suck at making sure all your servers are patched.
    • by VitaminB52 ( 550802 ) on Wednesday March 15, 2006 @01:43PM (#14925548) Journal
      I think if you can decide what it is you want to manage, you'll be better able to find tools that you need.

      Another questions that needs to be answered is: "what's your budget?" - both for the purchase of said tools and the training needed to use these tools.

      A common pain in some business outfits is a mismatch between requirements and the budget needed to match these requirements. I hope you don't have a PHB ....

    • We're primarily a linux shop, with a tiny sprinkling of Solaris, Windows and Mac. About 65 desktops and laptops, a compute farm, about a dozen servers and filers.

      We use Linux on all desktops except upper management and admin staff.

      I used MySQLCC and phpMyEdit to create a simple, web-based inventory app.

      Documentation is plain text, HTML, or simple diagrams in xcircuit or xfig (converted to JPEGs where necessary for public perusal), all available on the intranet. Mostly public, some dirs require a web login
      • The one thing I *don't* have is a graphical net explorer that wlil also show me the net in real time in a format that shows the network structure with traffic, etc. 3M has a tool, but it is only so-so (last time I tried it) and rather slow on the older Windows laptop I have available. I'd love to have a good FOSS app for this, preferably for use under Linux, but Windows is aceptable.

        I use etherape [] in combination with iptraf [] for this. Both are open-source Linux apps. Etherape uses Gtk/Gnome widgets; iptr

  • Similar Situation (Score:5, Informative)

    by ResQuad ( 243184 ) * <slashdot&konsoletek,com> on Wednesday March 15, 2006 @01:34PM (#14925479) Homepage
    I have a similar situation on my hands. Though I'm not given much of a budget. I either make (aka program) or use open source. I've found a great tool for documentation is a Wiki - especially if other people interact with it (but mainly cause its simple and has history). I use KeePass for passwords - also a great tool. As for asset tracking, I dont have a suggestion on cause I use my companies own product for that.
  • Layton Technology (Score:4, Informative)

    by TripMaster Monkey ( 862126 ) * on Wednesday March 15, 2006 @01:34PM (#14925484)

    Check out the HelpBox and AuditWizard offerings from Layton Technology [].

    Not free, but very affordable, and very knowledgable and helpful helpdesk staff. My company's using it, and I'm quite happy with it.
  • A non-Wiki post (Score:5, Informative)

    by truthsearch ( 249536 ) on Wednesday March 15, 2006 @01:40PM (#14925517) Homepage Journal
    You're going to get 50 posts telling you to just use a wiki. That's decent for documentation but hardly the answer you need.

    My suggestion is to try something like Plone. Set up document types for inventory and any specialized documentation you may need. You can set up simple workflows for processes if you want to get fancy (e.g. track computer order status). You can easily attach documents like spreadsheets as well.

    I think you should look at one decent open source package you can customize a little (in Plone's case with no programming) which would encompass as much as you want to manage in one place.
    • by rRaminrodt ( 250095 ) on Wednesday March 15, 2006 @03:20PM (#14926454) Homepage Journal
      I set up Plone at our office, mainly for IT, but in the near future other departments may end up using it too. You can choose to keep notes in a wiki, or in more structured forms like a documents in folders. Everything is searchable too.

      I ended up writing a plone product for tracking the inventory of our machines. I used archetypes to create a PCInventory and PCInventoryFolder products. Together I get a top level view of where the machines are, the important hardware stats, etc. in a table, and each row links to the more detailed view of the individual hardware. And the web forms dovetail nicely with the old paper forms we used before.

      Other nice things Plone gave me was integration (via LDAP) with our Active Directory, so no need to keep two sets of passwords, a nice product for discussion boards, and it was easy to change the look of the site to match the official company website.

    • The next guy in your job is just going to love you for using Plone, for the platform's great documentation and wonderful stability.
  • Too easy (Score:1, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Solitare can be played for hours alone. If you get sick of solitary gaming, you could try Battlefield 2.
  • MediaWiki (Score:5, Insightful)

    by stanwirth ( 621074 ) on Wednesday March 15, 2006 @01:41PM (#14925534)

    I kinda like MediaWiki as a searchable documentation dump -- to at least capture things and have a decent format.


    • auto-generated table of contents at the top of each page, from very simple headings format
    • can make links to flat files (html, PDFs, images, documentation that came with other software) in a separate space
    • popular format for How-To's and Wikipedia provides some consistency with what users might see elsewhere
    • automatically keeps track of when things were edited, which provides a rudimentary way of logging what you've been up to day-to-day, week-to-week
    • easily searchable
    • users can provide their own information
    • separate "talk" pages for discussion
    • can see the whole history of changes
    • nice presentation format for verbatim text, such as you would use to display a series of commands
    • easy for users to navigate
    • not all html tags supported
    • needs a nice calendaring interface with minimal installation fuss
  • by Neil Watson ( 60859 ) on Wednesday March 15, 2006 @01:47PM (#14925587) Homepage
    A trouble ticket system for users to request help is a must (e.g. Request Tracker).
    • there's a free open source trouble ticket system that (i believe) your users can actually submit tickets to themselves. it's for windows (and GPL'd to please those of us here who need GPL software).

      it's called liberum []. we use it here (we have a larger IT department and support about 5000 faculty, staff, and students in addition to about 200+ public use machines) and love it. it's small and simple to use. we've got over 12,000 tickets logged since it was first implemented nearly 3 years ago and the datab
      • We use that product at my workplace. All in all it is very extensible, easy to use, and runs without much attention. It does all the good stuff, send emails, allows time-stamped updates and shifting tasks to other staff, all the good stuff. I'd recommend it; especially after using Remedy for a few years in larger shops.

        I will offer that the organization should be prepared for it before hand. Introducing a helpdesk system to users who have grown accustomed to calling or dropping by for help is a big deal. Wh
  • The only software you need is Half-Life 2 and an intern to play against. Just make sure you get OWNED by the intern, especially if she is a girl, or your reputation in the company will be ruined.
  • by licamell ( 778753 ) on Wednesday March 15, 2006 @01:48PM (#14925602)
    One-Man IT dept and still have time for slashdot? Now that would be the first thing I would fix.

    But in all seriousness, you need to say (like the other posts have mentioned) what you are trying to manage. This is way too open ended of a question. I wish the editors would pick up on these rediculously open ended questions and ask the submitter to provide more details before posting.

    • If you think about it, you actually *do* want your one-man IT department reading Slashdot. This means that everything is fixed, and nobody is complaining. Of course, this is generally when I get fired -- because everything works, and I am not needed anymore.

      Oh, and I'm looking for some project work, for those of you who need some assistance from a veteran.
  • Use WebGUI (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    WebGUI is an intranet in a box, it's free, and it can handle all your IT needs. []

    It has versioning and workflow so you can set up complex processes. You can store your documents on it and access them from anywhere. You can set up privileges to allow other users to publish/download anything you want. It can handle incident tracking so you can keep track of support requests. It integrates with Active Directory or any other LDAP store so you can use your same user accounts/passwords. And it
  • Scripts (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Use bat scripts, VB scripts or Perl, Python, Ruby scripts to automate tasks. Automate _everything_ you possible can (app installs OS installs, firewall configurations, etc). Put your computers in a AD domain! We do this. We have one sys admin for each 300 systems/users and it works rather well. The one downside is that finding and hiring IT guys who are _good_ at this is a bit difficult. Most of them deserve higher pay than what we typically want to spend, but for the right person... it's 50 - 60K per year.
  • OCS Inventory (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 15, 2006 @02:03PM (#14925743)
    I'm currently interning at a company with a one-man IT department. When I arrived, their hardware/software inventory was spread over a half-dozen excel spreadsheets and (even worse) some pen-and-paper forms. I set up a server with the OCS Inventory tool and bam, it was as simple as adding a line to the network logon script -- now the hardware and software inventory of every computer is updated each time a user logs onto the network. It's absolutely the best inventory software I've ever encountered, and it's saved our IT guy a hell of a lot of time previously wasted on visiting each station to perform inventories.

    I'm not sure what other information you want to 'manage,' but for hardware/software inventory, OCS takes the cake. []
    • Another vote for OCS Inventory. It's saved us a lot of time by automatically catalogging all the different equipment at a client site.
    • I am just today working to install OCS Inventory on my network (3 servers, 50 clients). So far the setup of the server has been smooth. I'm now starting to get the clients installed.

  • With 100 PCs and 4 servers it sounds like you might need an installation of one or two of the two-legged kind of software.

  • At the (small) company I work for, we have been using -desk/ []. It is a pretty nice tool, with some pieces that we will probably never use. I used to work for a couple really big companies that used really big (read: expensive) tools, and this one covers most of those bases pretty well. For small installs (25 pcs) you can use this one for free.
    • Ho-ly cow. I just tried it, and that thing is cool. Like Request Tracker, but much more polished. I like that it's able to use Active Directory for authentication right out of the gate. There's some things that make me nervous about it (how secure is it? how stable? is there a migration path out of it at all?) but on the whole, it looks like it rocks for admins of small Windows shops.

      Thanks for the tip!
  • Here's what we use (Score:5, Informative)

    by MagicMike ( 7992 ) on Wednesday March 15, 2006 @02:14PM (#14925846) Homepage
    We're a small consulting shop, and the guys that do the in-house IT are expected to be full-time billable.

    Issue tracking
    JIRA (from Bugzilla could work though
    Confluence (also from Atlassian). Any Wiki could work.
    Mailman - we have one operator mailing list, root mail all goes there and we have discussions there
    Config Control
    CVS - If you alter it from the stock install, it should be in CVS. Subversion would work. Use "activitymail" to send CVS commit messages with diffs to your operator mailing list. Now if a machine dies, you don't care
    Nagios and MRTG - If I expect a computer to be providing a service, everything that I can obvserve about that service will be monitored so we can detect failures quickly and fix them, and see patterns over time. Nagios sends alerts to the operator mailing list. MRTG is used to see how bandwidth is trending.
    Yum - we have our own yum repository, with our own packages in there. If I am using something on more than two servers, I package it up for easier maintenance
    VPN links
    PPP over SSH - nothing fancy, but it works.
    rsync - we have a cascading backup where cron dumps data on a machine, then rsync carries it to a central machine, then that machine rsyncs over a VPN link to an off-site machine
    Secret storage
    GPG - we keep passwords in GPG-encrypted files. If you need them, I encrypt it with your public key, and you can see them.
    LDAP - we use pam-ldap for access control everywhere, and mod_auth_ldap on the web stuff. It's not SSO, but it is single-password. That's key

    The combination of these things keeps everything in line. In particular, I'll point out that each part works together in such a way that there is only one place to check documentation (the wiki), one place to check for a work queue (the issue tracker) and one place to check for state information and discussion (the mailing list). That makes it easy to deal with, easy to delegate etc.

    Also, you'll note that on a day-to-day basis, unless something breaks, there is no work required. That's huge. If the status quo requires any work at all, you'll eventually hit a scaling limit. The only thing that should require work is either a migration, an upgrade, or an expansion. And of those, upgrades should be easy to (nagios, yum and version control help there)

    • I will second these suggestions. It's almost point-for-point what I used at my last shop. I'm currently looking into doing some consulting of my own and am setting up such a system for personal use. Once you've got the tools doing all the background stuff such that the system takes care of itself, it really frees you up to get some real work done.
  • Right now I keep track of all of my hardware, software, and users with a spreadsheet and if I need to see who uses what, I have to cross reference this stuff manually. I also have to make changes for one thing in two or three places. I would like to consolodate this. I have Diagrams Outlining out internal networks / external networks. (not a must for include but would be nice). I have work instructions for everything from tape backup to router changes. I keep a journal of what i worked on, why and how i fix
  • Sounds Like (Score:2, Informative)

    by BlindRobin ( 768267 )
    an interesting way for you to venture into software development inyour spare time. Find a niche and scratch it
  • by MaxPowerDJ ( 888947 ) on Wednesday March 15, 2006 @02:26PM (#14925948) Journal I hope I can help. I use VNC for any troubleshooting with the users. In smaller shops, you have a chance to educate your users a little more. Therefore, I do simple things (like OMG my shared folder is not connected!) with them so they know how to fix things and do not bother me with the same things twice. Trouble tickets are handled by a little Access database I created to keep track of things. I handle an inventory of vending machine and I created another database for that. I use thunderbird and the calendar extension for my day-to-day tasks. If my boss asks me, I just refer to the calendar and ask if I should shift my obligations. I could also create a "To do" database and assign levels of importance based on need, but I dont got much time for that. I automated antivirus and patch distribution on the servers. I installed firefox to all the users. That way they dont mess with IE. I gotta go now, but if i think of more, I'll post again.
    • I automated antivirus and patch distribution on the servers. I installed firefox to all the users. That way they dont mess with IE.

      There's a excellent point here.

      With your the sole geek in an organization, you have to eliminate as much of the support B.S. as possible. One thing I would suggest is that you lock down your desktops, both in terms of software installed, and security, so that you can drastically reduce the potential for user initiated destruction/aggravation.

      Have a sit down with managemen

  • Here's a tool that we use that has saved us a lot of time for inventory. It is called EZ Audit. [] For a company your size, it is around $200-300. You put an entry in the login script and it makes a hardware and software inventory of every machine on your network. I looked at this a few years ago, but I was not impressed. However, they have improved the product and its reporting tools are very useful. We are much more productive now than we were, because no matter how good our intentions were, we still st
  • The care and feeding of software takes time. Either: you're in a tiny organization which doesn't justify it, or you're stretched horribly thin and don't have time to muck with things unless it's getting user off your back.

    I suggest: (1) You learn how to track and manage priorities using a simple manual system, e.g. one file for things that are on my plate for right now, but I'm sure when I sit down to do something on something else in the same file will interrupt me; a chronological tickler file; everyth
  • We're a similarly small IT department and have fiddled with a variety of software for things like patch installation, system audits, helpdesk, documentation, and availability monitoring. The only piece of software which I'd say has been a sure fire winner is Nagios, which we use for monitoring server availability. It was "fun" to set up, but it's worked nearly flawlessly for many moons without any hand holding on our part... and to me... in a small IT shop, this is probably the number one requirement. I'
    • I second that regarding Nagios. I work for a large scale internet service provider and we also use Nagios to monitor our routers and switches and it works flawlessly. Sometimes too good when it auto-pages me all hours of the night to report a CPU that is close to being pegged.
      • Sometimes too good when it auto-pages me all hours

        Ah, and one thing to mention too is that with nagios it is fairly easy to set or unset monitoring windows. Since most of our stuff is not super critical, we turn off nagios warnings between 1am and 6am. If a system goes down then and is still down when 6:00am rolls around, then we start get emails or pages and we still have an hour before our more crazy users start rolling in.

        We also segregate machines and alerts by importance. Domain controller
  • I'm going to go against the grain here and suggest that you not worry about finding specialized tools for various activities. The important thing is that you do document everything and if you have to spend much time learning new tools and trying to fit your existing data into them you'll find yourself putting it off. There's nothing wrong with having an array of text documents, spreadsheets, pdfs, diagrams, etc and in fact the real power of a PC is that it CAN deal with all this so why not take advangage

    • I completely disagree about using PC-specific tools. I agree that tools should be simple, but if you use fat-client-based, opaque documents to store your information, you will not be able to easily grow your department (even temporarily), you will not be able to take vacations and hand off tasks to other people, you will not be able to deal with things remotely, and you'll have all the versioning problems that you normally get when you have unstructured data in big blobs.

      There are great free/open tools out
      • I agree that tools should be simple, but if you use fat-client-based, opaque documents to store your information, you will not be able to easily grow your department (even temporarily), you will not be able to take vacations and hand off tasks to other people,

        I think you'll have better luck getting a temp. employee to go into the "Systems Administration Documents" folder and open an appropriately named text file or pdf then bringing them up to speed on cvs. Anyone who has any business touching the systems
  • I use IRM [] for inventory, you can use also for ticket tracking. For misc. docuemtnation I also use TikiWiki []
  • All of these are open source, built on LAMP, and run great on Windows.

    HW & SW inventory: Winventory ( []
    Trouble ticketing: Eventum ( []). The Anonymous Reporting Form is a time saver.
    Cacti ( [] Graphs all parameters on your servers and routers.
    Documentation: TikiWiki ( []). It has articles, FAQs and LDAP integration.
    FreeMind ( []
  • Software Stack (Score:3, Informative)

    by mbbx6spp ( 961447 ) on Wednesday March 15, 2006 @06:12PM (#14928126) Homepage Journal
    I work 60-70% of my time as a member of the core consulting team here and the rest of the time on "IT" administration and management around the local office. I should note though that I am a software engineer first and fore most, but it so happens that in small businesses one must wear many hats. Last year I was also heavily involved in accounting activities and managed a marketing program.

    I only have 30 workstations and 27 servers (only 2 are publicly accessible and 8 are in a RCF) to worry about presently:

    It should be noted that my users are technically very competent, which is a totally different can of worms to you (I assume from your comments), but there are plenty of issues to guard against with too competent a user as well!:) The issues are just different.

    Server OS: RHEL 3
    Workstation OS: Fedora Core 4 and 2 MacOS X (those damn graphic designers/marketing folk!:)
    VPN Server OS: NetBSD 3 (runs on an Alpha box)

    Software Tools
    SCM: Subversion []
    Issue Tracking: Trac, which integrates nicely with Subversion []
    Internal Documentation (for future growth): Trac's built-in wiki []
    Web Server: Apache, mod_python, mod_ssl, mod_dav, and all that good stuff []
    Knowledge Base: OpenCyc (but looking for something better that is still open source)
    Intranet Framework: Python 2.4/TurboGears/Apache/mod_python [] and []
    Authentication: Fedora Directory Server (LDAP)
    Updates: Yum, up2date
    Server Monitoring: Nagios []
    [Internal] Remote Access: ssh and Gnome/VNC for the rare visual task
    [External] Remote Access (i.e. VPN): OpenVPN

    Internal Tools
    Fixed Asset Management: Rolled my own TurboGears Web/AJAX application that hooks into our accounting system (it took 3 days part-time).
    Backups: Rolled own Python backup mechanisms including scripts
    Deployment Tools: Using Python's autoinst []
    Continous Integration: I have started using Bitten instead of using cron and shell scripts to launch Python distribution builds and tests on a nightly and "continuous" basis for immediate feedback - something I find invaluable.

    Office Software
    As mentioned in a previous posting using a good calendaring tool is a very good idea. My recommendation is the Calendar extension for the Mozilla suite of tools.
  • This is not really a tool per se, but the faster you can convert your users to thin clients on a terminal server platform, the better off you'll be. If you get 70 or 80 of your users to use TS, it means less hardware to manage, less time patching systems, high availabilty by backing up and/or RAIDing the data, faster response times for user's problems, less power and HVAC usage, etc. It's not an answer for everyone, but it can make your job a lot easier if it's done right.
    • I'm yet another one-man IT operation, and there's no question switching to some kind of remote access system eases up the petty problems. At my company, we're moving all 400+ users to the Citrix Metaframe system (remote access; they run Office from and save their stuff to the server). We keep a couple minor applications and web browsing client-side, but everything else is remote. The servers are sitting in a dedicated room we're leasing. I no longer have to clean out the client machines regularly. The downs
  • I write this software. [] Next version is coming "soon", and will be called Open-AudIT - also on Sourceforge.
    • No shame here, it's a great project! Keep up the good work.
    • Your front end combined with the Agent from [] would be a very nice combination. OCSInventory have a wonderful lightweight agent suitable for inclusion in logon scripts and versions Linux, makes a reasonable job of helping track down non-windows, non-redhat machines.

      The only trouble with it is the web interface is a bit french.

      Nice job though, I'll take a good look.

  • System Images. I don't troubleshoot software issues with desktop/laptops. If the amount of time to fix an issue looks like it's going to be > a re-image and moving a person's data back to the new system, then the system get's re-imaged clean and data restored. May seem wasteful, but it's a fixed amount of time as opposed to an open ended "troubleshooting" session. Also keeps the time per problem consistent amount the lower skill set admins.
  • Lots of good ideas here and they can be combined to meet your requirements. But, against /. standards, nobody's pushing Google ..

    In a Windows environment, Google Desktop does a good job indexing Word and Excel documents. In my world, these contain a significant part of our hard to find information. Get in the habit of using keywords in the text of your documents, combine it with some reasonable directory structure and you can keep track of things pretty well.

    I've used this for years for my personal pro

  • I was in your shoes a few years ago. I wish I had VMware then...So my 2 cents is take some time to research virtualization software. You'll be able to things with virtual machines that you can't do with physical servers like deploying new servers from a gold master VM in under 10 minutes or starting a library of VM's for test/dev purposes

    Plus you can't beat the price of free software from VMware(Player/VMServer) or Xen if you don't need to run Windows

  • The company enteo [] provides software which will do what you want. Look at their Inventory and NetInstall products. You may find the others interesting too!

    It's not open source, and it costs money to buy (I think it's licensed per client). It does save a lot of time in the long run though. The demo licence will let you try it out for 90 days.

    It's also the only solution of this type I know of that supports Citrix.

    -- Steve

  • I use a tool I built to manage all the problems and solutions [] that I run in to. I kept running into a problem every few months, and forgetting what I did to solve it last time, so I built my knowledge base.

To write good code is a worthy challenge, and a source of civilized delight. -- stolen and paraphrased from William Safire