Dandenong Council tracks rogue IT assets

Greater Dandenong City Council (GDCC) has utilised a recent rollout of asset management software to discover PCs it didn't know it had and confiscate inappropriate software installations. "We thought we were right on top of ...

Greater Dandenong City Council (GDCC) has utilised a recent rollout of asset management software to discover PCs it didn't know it had and confiscate inappropriate software installations.

"We thought we were right on top of ... the number of devices we had," the council's customer support coordinator Grant Griffiths told ZDNet Australia in a recent telephone interview. "We found we weren't."

The council estimated it had around 550 machines in the wild located over five major sites, only to discover an additional 25 or so after rolling out asset management software from vendor Centennial late last year.

Griffiths and his team also found the council -- which primarily uses Microsoft software on both servers and desktops -- needed to buy a few extra licences from the vendor for some products and to get rid of some spares.

Rogue software installations were also common on what should be primarily work PCs.

"There was some interesting software we found out there that wasn't appropriate, and wasn't licensed," said Griffiths. "Freeware and online games, that sort of thing."

"Stuff that was downloaded before we introduced our firewall and the Webmartial to restrict those sort of things."

Griffiths said most of what he described as "non-standard software" was found on notebooks because users took them on the road and plugged them into a multitude of different networks.

Choosing a vendor
Prior to the Centennial rollout, GDCC had been using a combination of paper, simple spreadsheet records and barcodes to manage its IT assets. Both software and hardware were audited manually.

"We were looking for an asset management solution, plus we were also looking for a tool that would help us manage our Microsoft licences," said Griffiths.

The council examined asset management tools from Computer Associates, Microsoft and Altiris, as well as some freeware products.

"We did have the Microsoft SMS package here, years and years ago, and it was full of bugs and caused us a lot of grief, but we still looked at it," said Griffiths.

The council tested each solution and sat through presentations from several of the vendors, with Centennial's Discovery 2005 software eventually chosen.

"Price was probably the main driver; we had a fixed budget," said Griffiths, although he noted it was important the eventual solution was compatible with the council's existing systems.

The manager said all of the commercial vendors offered "great" systems, but some had more features than his organisation required.

"They were more featured than what we wanted, and therefore more costly than we could afford."

"If we were looking for software deployment, and things like that as well, maybe we'd be looking at a different product altogether," he added.

Discovery was deployed via the council's automated login script, with asset information starting to filter back immediately.

"The users hardly even noticed it; I don't think most of them even twigged that we were doing things," said Griffiths.

In some cases the Centennial software was too exact though, according to Griffiths. "In some cases it gave us too much information, we had to rationalise it a bit. It told us we had multiple versions of Microsoft Office on one PC," he said.

"We worked out what that was. We had Office installed, but there were different versions of the components in Office -- like Access or Excel -- that had been upgraded using a later version of an Office CD."

Griffiths said the new software had saved a significant amount of time over the old manual system.

The council's next big move will be to replace one third of its desktop fleet around the middle of this year -- an annual process that ensures every machine is refreshed.

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