Product Reviews

License, Please: Altiris eXpress Compliance Toolkit 5.5

Staying on top of your organization’s software licenses will keep you gainfully employed and out of court.

Part of keeping in line with licensing requirements involves maintaining an inventory of what you have installed compared to the licenses you’ve purchased for your software. The Compliance Toolkit from Altiris is designed to capture a detailed hardware and software inventory for your organization, but even more importantly, it has the ability to perform application metering, which is an analysis of your software usage. Now that could be a real money saver for an organization.

Product Information

eXpress Compliance Toolkit v. 5.5
$13 per node for 10 nodes; volume discounts
Altiris, Inc.
Lindon, Utah

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Imagine this scenario: You have a thousand licenses of Microsoft Office for your company. After performing your inventory, it’s reported that you have 1,250 copies of Office deployed within your organization. Your initial reaction might be to purchase new licensing to be compliant with Microsoft requirements. But with the Compliance Toolkit, the software usage results indicate that only 900 users have actually used the Office products that are installed on their systems. So, rather than spend the money on the new licensing, you can actually delete the software off of those systems that aren't using it to put you back under compliance. In fact, you may decide to lower your sights when purchasing the next round of licenses.

Sound a bit like what you get with SMS? It has similar functionality but nowhere near the robust features of SMS (which companies don’t always need), nor the hefty SMS price tag (which is unnecessary if inventory and application metering are your goals). What makes the Compliance Toolkit different from SMS is that it includes support for Unix clients, can track disconnected systems (like laptops that check in once a day) and has a smaller client-to-server package than SMS—not to mention a really cool Web interface with a bevy of graphical representation choices for your collected data. And it’s less expensive: $13 per node for 10 nodes or $9 per node when you reach 2,000 nodes.

How well does it work?
I found the installation and initial configuration a nightmare. The documentation left me stranded and the Web site’s knowledgebase was a dead end. Without the help of knowledgeable technical support staff, I would have been dead in the water. This software is difficult to pick up and use. So plan to take a class from Altiris on deploying and configuring its software. Although I didn’t have that advantage, I was able to figure out most of the settings on my own, but it was tricky. In some ways it felt like there were too many options; in other ways there were some options I wished the documentation had elaborated on, especially on the more intriguing report features, like "Cost Analysis by Location" and "Usage by Location."

Once you get the hang of it though, the Compliance Toolkit works well. You can push the client down to your systems and begin a metering of what apps they have installed and which ones users are working with. The hardware inventory is quite impressive too, even indicating how many empty memory slots your system has. The pre-configured reports help you to view your inventory and determine changes that need to be made, including possible costs. The charting features are handy and flexible.

Altiris eXpress Compliance Toolkit 5.5
The Compliance Tookit provides handy charts to help you determine installations vs. usage across your network. (Click image to view larger version.)

I’d give this product a thumbs up. The documentation was sorely lacking and configuration options a little fuzzy; but the technical support was praiseworthy and the end results excellent.

About the Author

J. Peter is a Microsoft MVP (Office Servers and Services) and has received this award for 7 consecutive years. He's an internationally published author and technical speaker. J. Peter is a technical journalist for InfoWorld and has cared for the Enterprise Windows column for nearly a decade. He's the co-founder of both ClipTraining and Conversational Geek and a strategic technical consultant for Mimecast. Follow him on Twitter @JPBruzzese

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