Quicker Inventory

Project-based systems from AssetMetrix, Tally have a place.

Using a clever mix of technology and proven expertise, both Tally Systems Corp.s WebCensus and AssetMetrix Inc.s namesake product proved to be advanced software and hardware inventory managers during head-to-head tests conducted at eWeek Labs.

But look out: both products require a large amount of risky "click yes to enable download" activity.

Tallys WebCensus service, introduced earlier this month, uses e-mail to deliver an asset management agent to the target desktop. Users click on a URL, answer a couple of questions, wait about 3 minutes and then return to their normal routine.

We were able to inventory machines at eWeek Labs installations across the country and in Canada quickly and easily, then simply log in to a Web site to obtain various reports about the systems.

AssetMetrix, which has been available since February, uses the same model; e-mail delivers the inventory agent while reports are viewed on a personalized AssetMetrix Web site. However, in tests, AssetMetrix was far more difficult to use with both Lotus Development Corp.s Notes and Microsoft Corp.s Outlook mail systems. We got the service working after considerable effort, but until AssetMetrix works out the e-mail kinks, WebCensus is the better choice.

Tallys WebCensus is priced at $3 to $15 per PC, depending on the length of the subscription—one-month to one-year plans are available. AssetMetrix is priced at $15 per user (regardless of the users number of PCs) for a one-year subscription. Restricted versions of the AssetMetrix service are available at lower prices but were not considered in this review.

Despite their shortcomings, both products herald an important trend in the MSP (managed service provider) space by offering asset management as a project-based service rather than a life cycle-based product purchase. The MSP approach would make a lot of sense for branch offices that must perform license compliance checks and get information quickly about newly acquired assets.

However, enterprise IT managers should stay with their roster of in-house asset management tools. Although the products we tested will complement on-premises asset managers, neither has the heavy-lifting power to handle thousands of machines nor the sophistication to handle tough problems such as equipment depreciation or the addition, movement, modification or retirement of machines.

In addition, although, as subscribers, we "owned" our inventory data, neither product provides any way to integrate ongoing asset information with help desk systems.