In today’s digital world, managing a network efficiently is a challenging task. The best network inventory tools have become indispensable for tracking everything connected to a network. Initially, spreadsheets sufficed for small networks. However, as infrastructure has expanded to span thousands of devices across multiple locations and platforms, the need for accurate, up-to-date inventory has become critical.

This is especially true for maintaining security, compliance, operational efficiency, and cost management. A dedicated network inventory management platform equipped with essential capabilities is necessary to automate the discovery, tracking, and reporting of all hardware and software. Here are the top 5 must-have features.

Custom Query Builder

Generating meaningful reports from raw inventory scan data requires creating custom queries filtered and segmented by multiple categories like:

  • Hardware vendor, make and model specifications: Filter to specific brands or lines like all Dell laptops or Juniper routers
  • Device types such as servers, routers, access points, and printers: Segment by networking function
  • Operating system versions: Group by Windows, Linux, and IoT for security standards
  • Physical location details: Separate by office site, floor, data centers
  • Department, cost center, project codes: Align to budgets, chargebacks
  • Lifecycle dates for maintenance, end of support, lease expiration: Manage replacements
  • Software titles and versions: Validate versions, and licenses by app usage

An embedded custom query builder allows translating relevant business questions into structured search filters without needing IT or SQL expertise. Queries can be saved with names and descriptions so they are easily re-run when needed without having to rebuild from scratch each time. This saves significant effort while allowing inventory sets to be segmented into more meaningful subgroups for detailed analysis and focused reporting. Granular filtering gets the right data into the right hands.

Change Log Tracking

Understanding changes within the IT infrastructure is vital for security and operational monitoring. A network inventory system must automatically generate logs highlighting additions, removals, and modifications such as:

  • New devices added with hardware and software details
  • Devices removed including date, specs, and associated user
  • Hardware changes like added/removed RAM, hard drives, new assigned IP address
  • Software updates, patches, new installations and uninstallations
  • Configuration modifications to devices and applications

Reviewing change reports quickly identifies anomalies for investigation like unauthorized software installations or hardware alterations.

Event Notifications and Alerts

Closely tied to change tracking is receiving real-time alerts when thresholds are exceeded or unwanted changes occur across hardware, software, licensing, or configurations. Configurable notifications ensure both IT teams and business stakeholders are promptly informed of events like:

  • New devices detected that exceed expected monthly additions: Alert of unapproved purchases or ghost assets joining networks
  • The software categorized as high-risk, vulnerable or explicitly prohibited is installed: Warn of potential malware or data exfiltration threats
  • Unauthorized hardware components removed like a hard drive or graphics card: Signal possible breach efforts or inventory meddling
  • Software licenses reaching defined limits for contractual repurchase: Prevent over-deployment fines
  • Workstations approaching forced end-of-life based on vendor support deadlines: Prompt upgrades to maintain security
  • Devices violating defined security policies like disabled firewalls or authentication: Require policy remediation

Automated, real-time alerts reduce delays in identifying and responding to infrastructure changes that present growing infrastructure stability, security, and license compliance risks before problems emerge. Customized notifications empower both IT ops and business leadership with actionable intelligence.

Role-based Access Controls

Not everyone needs access to all inventory data. Engineering teams may only require hardware specs and software titles used for planning budgets and upgrades. Finance may solely need license details tied to departments for chargebacks. HR and legal may only require reports on acceptable use policy enforcement.

Configuring inventory tool access by roles ensures users only see relevant data by assigning permissions like:

  • Read-only or read-write asset data access
  • Visibility into specific device types, locations, applications
  • Ability to run/schedule reports and custom searches

Granular access prevents unauthorized exposure of sensitive information.

Flexible Reporting and Distribution

Transforming scanned inventory results into digestible business intelligence and data-driven decisions requires flexible and customizable reporting formats focused on:

  • Summary and detailed views: Deliver high-level executive overviews or full comprehensive asset listings
  • Interactive pivot tables and historical charts for trend analysis: Visualize growth and usage patterns
  • Embedding company branding like logos, headers, and footers: Align to corporate guidelines
  • Exports optimized for PDF, Excel, HTML, CSV, JSON: Integration with other systems
  • Email distribution of encrypted reports: Ensure confidential data protection
  • Multi-language report translations: Support global information access
  • Customized access permissions and granular data visibility: Respect role-based access
  • Scheduled and automated report generation: Free users from manual tasks
  • Regional date, time, and number formatting: Localize for international consumption

With customizable reporting, inventory insights can be tailored to meet the individual needs of IT teams, executive leadership, finance users, help desk staff, and system administrators. Reports optimized for specific business questions allow maximum impact from asset inventory data for improved planning, budgeting, and other decisions. The flexibility ensures each stakeholder gets relevant device, software, and configuration details to execute their responsibilities.

Closing Thoughts

Purpose-built network inventory tools are designed to automate the asset discovery process. They offer custom query abilities and change tracking, which are essential for detailed network insights. Additionally, these tools come with configurable alerts and access controls to enhance security and compliance. With customizable reporting, they provide the visibility IT teams require to improve operational efficiencies.