Software License Management
As mentioned earlier, the M300's agent software can ferret out all of the applications installed on your computers, and then use this information to ensure that all your software is licensed (and that you're using all the licenses you paid for). The M300 supports three methods of license management -- Authorization, Counting and Keys, each of which requires successively more legwork to set up.
Authorization is the most basic, and you can get it up and running in a few minutes to a few hours depending on the number of programs you want to track and the number of computers you have. With Authorization, you create an entry for a piece of software -- say, Outlook 2010 -- and the M300 tells you how many computers are actually running the software. You then select which ones are authorized to use it. Any computer not running the software without explicit authorization would be flagged by the M300.
Finally, the Keys model lets you allocating particular software license keys to specific computers, but since the M300 doesn't collect keys, you have to enter and assign keys manually, which can be a lot of work. With all the licensing methods, you can enter proof of software purchase information such as invoice/P.O. numbers and even upload scanned copies of supporting paperwork.
One area in which the M300 falls somewhat short is its lack of a built-in reporting tool. Although you download comprehensive inventory data (or a filtered subset of it) to a CSV file, you're left with the task of organizing, formatting and graphing the information in Excel.
In a world where the free Spiceworks software offers hardware and software inventory along with a host of additional features such as an integrated help desk system, support for non-PC network devices, and (ahem) a reporting engine, the M300's $2,500 price tag may seem like a tough sell. Still, we think many small businesses -- that are primarily concerned with system inventory and that want a product without ads (banishing the ads in Spiceworks costs almost $500 a year) and vendor-provided rather than community-provided support -- will find the M300 an attractive option.
A caveat emptor for tire-kickers, though: according to Dell's Web site, “…KACE appliances are nonreturnable and may not be transferred without express written consent from Dell, which may be withheld in Dell's sole discretion.” Fortunately, you can avail yourself of lots of background material prior to purchase, including screenshots, videos and live demos.
Pros: Quick and easy setup; extensive software compliance features
Cons: Doesn't inventory non-computer devices; no built-in reporting
Joseph Moran is a veteran technology writer and co-author of Getting StartED with Windows 7, from Friends of ED.
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