I have been in the IT services industry for almost ten years now and in that time I have utilized a plethora of call tracking applications designed to keep track of help desk trouble tickets, and or workstation inventory. From handwritten notes, to home grown databases, to un-intuitive mainframe application to (too) robust client server enterprise class applications like Remedy, I have used them all with varying degrees of success.
When I first started working in my current work environment we took trouble calls via the phone and kept no record of such calls. But as the environment continues to grow, the need to keep track of ongoing computer related problems throughout the campus has become increasingly imperative. Our end-user base is too small for a true enterprise level solution, and too big for a home-grown solution, so I went searching for an easy to use, yet power and flexible tool that would track trouble tickets (preferably via email), inventory computers (hardware & software), and store that inventory for easy retrieval. I chose Blue-Ocean (since bought out by Intuit) Track-It! Standard Edition 5.0.
Recently however our needs have outgrown version 5.0, so we upgrade to Track-It! 6.5 Professional in order to take advantage of some newly enhanced remote inventory capabilities.
Track-It! 6.5 Professional is primarily an asset-tracking tool designed to manage systems and users via a slick user interface. But the program also provides a robust help desk application via a client/server or web-based interface as well as workstation auditing, and purchase tracking.
But the help desk feature set is powerful, offering many of the standard features found in high-end call tracking software, including seamless integration with inventory, auto-escalation of work orders, call priority utilization, advanced report generation (via Crystal Reports) and department categorizations.
Track-It! 6.5 Professional Features:
Displays Help Desk, Inventory, Purchasing, Library and Training information in customizable views.
Delivers 10 views per technician per module, allowing filtering, grouping and sorting criteria to be defined and saved.
Audits Windows hardware and software information using login scripts and/or operating as a service running on the desktop.
Manages work orders by end user or IT asset.
Automates technician notification when there is a new or overdue work order.
Automates end user notification when their work order is complete.
Turns e-mails from end users or intelligent network devices into work orders.
Responds to end user e-mails requesting work order status.
Creates custom Crystal Reports using the asset and help desk information in Track-It!
Displays date/time information based on technicians local time zone.
Track-It! 6.5 can be purchased in three versions: Standard Edition, Professional Edition and Enterprise Edition. While all versions offer the same level of basic functionality, Add-On modules can be purchased to increase functionality. In addition each version has certain Add-On module sewn into the code. I choose Track-It! 6.5 Professional for instance, because it included the Track-It! Audit Plus module, which allows us to run audits as a service on Windows 98, NT, 2000, 2003 and XP systems. With Track-It! Audit Plus, I can manage and schedule audits from one central location. And I can receive the data in real-time, allowing me and my team to more accurately troubleshoot client workstation problems. Track-It! Audit Plus, module is the primary reason we upgrade to Track-It! 6.5 Professional.
Another big difference between the Standard and Professional versions is the database utilized to house the Track-It! data. Track-It! 6.5 Professionalutilizes a more robust SQL database engine (Track-It! Standard uses the Microsoft Access database engine), which can be run on either Microsoft SQL Server 7.0/2000, or under the standalone Microsoft Database Engine (MSDE), which is the method I chose. It also includes several enhanced features, such as a spell checker, and the ability to manage service level agreements (SLA).
Since regional office I work out of is modest (300 users and approximately 325 workstation and some 25 servers) our needs were much less robust; i.e. I wanted to be able to run Track-It! 6.5 Professional from a workstation running Windows XP Professional, and solicit trouble tickets via the in-house email system: Microsoft Exchange version 2000 with an Add-On called Track-It! Receive.
I installed Track-It! 6.5 Professionalon an ordinary workstation running Windows XP Professional with 512MB of RAM, and a 40GB hard drive. The software can also be installed on Windows 2.xxx platforms.
Not wanting to complicate life, and not having an available Intranet, I opted not install the Web application portion of Track-It! 6.5 Professional; therefore I cannot speak to its functionality. Since we were already running Track-It! 5.0 Standard, youd think the installation would be as straight forward as upgrading the application in place. Wrong! The old version can be discarded, but fear not, all the data is contained in the database. I backed the database up, and then installed the new version of Track-It!, which performed flawlessly. I then imported the database from the previous version into Track-It! 6.5 Professionalwith no problems. Since MSDE was already installed, the interface between it and Track-It! 6.5 Professional was established during the installation process. Had MSDE not been installed, Track-It! 6.5 Professionalinstallation process would have installed the application.
Once the database was imported, I immediately installed two service packs; one to correct a glitch in the email interface, and another to fix a flaw in the Track-It! Audit Plus service module. Both of these service packs can be downloaded from Intuits website.
After I was satisfied that Track-It! 6.5 Professionalwas running on the server correctly, I needed to install the workstation technician application in order for three technicians could access the database. I purchased the software with enough licenses to allow five technicians to log onto it at a timeincidentally there are only three of us. Technicians will need to be setup within Track-It! and assigned passwords before installing the Track-It! client on their computers.
During the installation process Track-It! 6.5 Professionalsets up an install-point wherefrom you can install the client on each workstation. After I installed the client on my own workstation I attempted to login, but could not. Long story, short, yet another software fix was needed to correct the problem. I call technical support and the problem was diagnosed and fixed within 15 minutes.
From the client, a technician has access to every module Track-It! 6.5 Professional has to offer; i.e. Inventory, Purchasing, Help Desk, Training, Library, Reports, and Internet. Add-Ons however can only be accessed via the computer the database is installed on.
Track-It! 6.5 Professional offers a dizzying array of add-on modules (some sold separately); the largest number available among competing help desk inventory/call-tracking software packages as a matter of fact. In addition it contains several unique modules which are included in the base software package. Add-on modules include, but are not limited to (from Intuit marketing materials):
Intuit Track-It! RemoteRemote lets you access any Windows PC that is part of your Intranet - LAN or WAN. What's more, the remote component that runs on the end users' system can be executed from a share on the network or can be resident as a service on the end users' Windows 9x, NT, 2000, and XP PC.
Intuit Track-It! Audit and Audit PlusCollect detailed hardware and software information from Windows® 95/98, NT, 2000 and XP systems. With Audit Plus, you can manage and initiate auditing from a central console for added flexibility.
Intuit Track-It! DeployDistribute packages that install and update software on local, mobile and remote Windows laptops, PCs or servers throughout your organization, without leaving your desk.
Intuit Track-It! ReceiveCaptures emails from applications, network management tools and end users, and automatically converts them to work orders. Additionally, users can check the status of their work orders and add additional information.
Intuit® Track-It! Mac AuditMakes it easy to perform a network or audit on Macintosh systems and incorporate that information into the Intuit Track-It! inventory module.
After logging onto the system, which resembles the Windows XP user interface in feel and functionality, with shortcut tasks located in the panel at the top of the screen, you can select from one of five standard modules (Inventory, Help Desk, Purchasing, Training, and Reports) to begin work. There is a sixth link, that affords you access to the Internet via an external browser. Learning the system is simple, easy, and intuitive. Intuit does offer training on Track-It! but in our case it would have not been money well spent. Besides, every screen has a How Do I button that offers information on common tasks relevant to the particular screen you are one, pertaining to the module you are working in.
The individual modules are displayed in an easy to read format laid out like a spread sheet with columns and rows of information. After opening the Help Desk module, for instance you see a list of currently open work orders, along with the requester, and who is assigned to work each ticket. A histogram is easily accessed via a tabbed interface, which can be sorted by a number of variables, including date order, ticket number, technician, etc.
End-users submit calls via the in-house email system, in our case Microsoft Exchange 2000. Unfortunately, there is no set formator formin which end-users can submit email tickets. As a result most tickets do not contain enough information to diagnose the problem without seeking clarification from the requester. This is a definite drawback.
I set up a separate mailbox specifically to receive trouble tickets which is in turn monitored by Track-It! Receive. Once a trouble ticket is submitted via email Track-It! Receive creates a ticket in Track-It! and generates an acknowledgment email with canned message, or one that you can tailor to your environment. The acknowledgement email contains the time the ticket was created and the ticket number.
There is a general queue in Track-It! wherein trouble tickets are disbursed; incoming tickets routed via email by Track-It! Receive must be assigned by hand to individual technicians. In a large environment with ten or more technicians this can become quite cumbersome, because there is no division of technicians by department or workgroup. But for us it works well enough. Technicians can be notified of new, overdue, or seriously overdue trouble tickets directly from the work order screen, via e-mail, pager, and text messaging. The method we use is pretty crude: we assign tickets to ourselves as they come into Track-It!; like is said we are a small shop.
In addition to the Help Desk module we also make extensive use of the Inventory system. Track-It! Audit Plus, standard with Track-It! 6.5 Professional, makes it easy to gather workstation information (hardware, software, user information), and then add it to the inventory database. From this information a detailed report of both hardware and software installed on the workstation can be generated and viewed. Track-It! Audit Plus is controlled via a service on the database computer. It can be set to run via a scheduler, and progress can be monitored via the Track-It! Monitor module.
In order for Track-It! Audit Plus to work remotely is small applet needs to be placed on each workstation, which runs in the background. This applet can be installed manually on each workstation, or via login script or Windows 2000 Active Directory Group Policy. I choose the login script because it was easier to create and manage. One the applet is installed on all of the workstations in your environment, the execution line in the login script can be removed or disabled.
Within Track-It! technicians can create a Track-It! Audit diskette (can also be created on a removable USB memory device) which contains the applet that conducts the audit of the computer. While conducting the audit, the technician can add the users information, and fill in predefined and custom fields. In our environment for instance, I have created custom fields for monitor type and serial number, and printer type and serial number. Track-It! Audit creates a small inventory file which then merged with the database, and also creates a small file on the workstation being inventoried, so that the next time an audit is conducted, the programs has a basis for comparison.
One of the best features of Track-It! 6.5 Professional is the ability of the modules to work together; for instance, once a user is in the Inventory database each time (s)he opens a trouble ticket, their contact information (phone number, location, department, etc.) is pulled into the ticket making it easier for the technician to service the call.
Track-It! 6.5 Professionalhas a large number of canned reports with details on work orders, inventory, and audit results, all in Crystal Reports format. Crystal Reports (light) ships with the program. Custom reports can be created using a wealth of user-defined fields, and in addition to basic and detailed text reports, Track-It! offers graph reports that allow the technician to control several aspects of their look and feel.
Over all I am very pleased with the functionality and performance of Track-It! 6.5 Professional; at this point in time it fits our needs. And I am equally please wit the continued performance enhancements Intuit incorporates into the program as the versions progress.
While I wish more of the modules were included in the base system, the sheer number of add-ons ensure that as your organization grows, Track-It! will grow with you. And the add-ons allow you to highly customize the program to you specific organizational needs, something other comparable programs lack the flexibility to do. This flexibility makes Track-It! 6.5 Professional the ideal call-tracking/inventory application for a one-man shop, or a small-to-medium sized company. Enterprise users should step-up to Track-It! Enterprise Edition.
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