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BMC Track-It!

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I receive this question from users periodically and I hate to start off by saying "It depends", but it does.

 

This type of setup, while fairly common, is not something to be taken lightly nor something that our Track-It! technical support team has expertise in. Please bear in mind that the things discussed in this article are necessary considerations for any public facing website that must interface with an internal network. These cautions and suggestions are not specific to Track-It! Web and involve a number of systems and settings that are outside of the context of Track-It! Web. There are many factors involved with setting up this type of scenario and doing so in a way that is appropriate and secure for your environment. The setup will involve important decisions and configurations in your environment which our technical support team will not have knowledge of or be able to answer for you. While they may be able to guide you in best practices and examples of what most people do, they cannot make the decision for you or configure the system for you.

 

To begin, there are several different ways you can accomplish this task depending on your technical ability, the resources you have available at your company/location, how you want to present this information to the users (raw IP address vs. pretty domain name) and how secure your system needs to be.

 

Generally speaking, this type of setup should not be attempted by someone without experience with these types of configurations as you could potentially expose your network and internal systems to external intruders. This type of setup normally requires assistance from someone who is experienced with advanced network security, working with a DMZ, IIS web server setup, domain registration, domain hosting, DNS configuration, Proxies, SSL and firewall/switch configuration. The process can be fairly involved depending on the configuration used.

 

Normally, working with someone with IIS Admin experience and network security, Track-It! Web is installed on a separate IIS Web server placed in a DMZ. That server is given an external IP address so that users out on the internet can access it. It is best practice to also obtain an SSL cert and install it on the web server so that all connections to the Track-It! Web site are performed securely over HTTPS. If you want a nice domain name like mycompany.com/helpdesk then you would need to work with a website administrator to get that URL/Domain setup and pointed to the public IP address or to add a /helpdesk virtual directory entry that points to your Track-It! Web server. The Track-It! Web server also has to have access to the Track-It! server and to the Track-It! SQL server. This can be done by opening ports, using proxies and other methods that people much smarter than I have come up with and understand how to set up. However you do it, at the end of the day, the Track-It! Web server needs to have a public IP address, be segregated outside your internal network for security and still have access to the SQL and Track-It! servers.


Once you have this set up, your users should be able to connect to the IP address or URL that you have setup in order to get to Track-It! outside your company network. Other things to consider are the Technician/Mobile Web site and the Self Service site.  You will need to have two different public links pointing to each of these if you are exposing both applications outside your network.


I know this article has not explained specific setup steps in order to set up this type of configuration but that is on purpose. Something like this should not be set up by someone who does not fully understand network security, the structure of the network and the policies and regulations of your company and/or industry. In the end I hope this information has been helpful.

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I am excited to announce that Track-It! 11.4 is now available! This release is another great step in improving the utility of Track-It! and the productivity of the people who use it. This release contains a few enhancements to existing features, some enhancements that were requested by Track-It! users in the Ideas area here on the Track-It! Community and some defect corrections. Here are some highlights of the release.

 

  • Self-Service ImprovementsTrack-It! Technician Client.png
    • Track-It! users can now save time by approving or rejecting change requests via email
    • Track-It! users can also request more information about a change request via email before approving/rejecting
    • The self-service portal can now be customized to hide features that administrators don’t want their end-users to use
    • The Password Reset Kiosk application has a new silent install feature allowing it to be easily distributed to end users computers

 

  • Administrative and Usability Improvements
    • Track-It! Survey add on was integrated into the Track-It! product to provide easier implementation/updates for customers who own this module
    • The user interface was updated with a newer flat look and feel to give the application a more modern look
    • Work order notes can now be shown chronologically in email notifications
    • Users can now quickly access work order tickets in Track-It! Web using direct URL links. These links are also included in email notifications
    • Support for TLS has been added for email communications
    • Help documentation was redesigned into a single source web help system which works on all screen types/sizes
    • The support integration feature allows Track-It! administrators to submit requests for technical support directly to the BMC Track-It! support team from within the product
    • Addressed all recently reported security vulnerabilities

 

Current Track-It! customers can download the 11.4 update from the support portal at support.numarasoftware.com.

 

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The purpose of this advisory is to inform you of recently discovered security vulnerabilities in Track-It! and how to address them.  

 

Please note that for an attacker to take advantage of any of these issues, the attacker must have direct access to the Track-It! application server. If the application server is not exposed to the internet, an attacker would first have to gain access inside your internal network in order to exploit them.  However, even if your Track-It! system is not exposed outside your firewall, we still recommend you take the necessary steps to secure the application as soon as possible.

 

Update to Track-It! 11.4

Due to the nature and complexity of some of the issues, a full version update is required to address all of them. The vulnerabilities in this bulletin are addressed in Track-It! version 11.4, which is now available on the Track-It! support site here.  Upgrading to 11.4 is the only way to address all of the discovered vulnerabilities.


Short term remediation

If for some reason you cannot immediately update to Track-It! 11.4, it is recommended to block all communications from untrusted networks (e.g. the Internet) at the firewall, specifically to TCP/UDP ports 9010 to 9020 and to the Track-It! Web webserver. Blocking the above mentioned ports/site to secure the server will also block the use of the Self Service feature and Track-It! Technician Web from external networks.  In other words, the Track-It! system will continue to function only within the Intranet network.

 

Due to the nature of issues 1, 2 and 6 below, we were able to produce individual hotfixes for Track-It! version 11.3. Since these hotfixes do not resolve all the identified issues, we strongly recommend upgrading your Track-It! system to the 11.4 version that includes fixes for all of the identified vulnerabilities.

 

Resolved Issues:

For more information on each of the items addressed, see the Knowledge Articles listed below.

  1. 1. Article ID TIA07453 - Arbitrary file download – Attackers can download files from the underlying server operating system remotely through the product.   
  2. 2. Article ID TIA07454 - Blind SQL injection – Insufficient input validation can allow attackers to inject SQL code and gain control of the underlying database engine.
  3. 3. Article ID TIA07455 - Hardcoded DB credentials - This issue is limited to demo install only.
  4. 4. Article ID TIA07456 - Credential disclosure - Domain administrator & SQL server user credentials.
  5. 5. Article ID TIA07457 - Code execution – Remote code upload and execution via file upload.
  6. 6. Article ID TIA07508Password Reset – Reset passwords of accounts with just the user ID.

 

If you have any questions regarding this security notification, please contact Track-It! Support by opening a case at: BMC Track-It! Support

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Since part 1 and part 2 of this series of blogs, I had been building up, reading and preparing for a post where I discuss the steps of building a report from scratch. However, in conversation with quite a few customers who wish to create their own reports, we often advise that they use one of the standard reports from the Track-It! Reports module.

 

Here’s a basic but useful report that contains both a graph to highlight activity that may need to be reviewed and detail to drill down to individual issues, Overdue Work Orders by Technician.

rep pg1.jpg

rep pg2.jpg

We can edit the report in Crystal. In Teach yourself Track-It!... Reports. Part 2 Crystal Reports and other useful tools I described where to obtain a licensed copy of Crystal Reports from your support profile, if you are a supported Track-It! customer.

In Track-It!, in the Reports module, with a report I wish to edit select, I can click Export Report from the Tasks list in the top left of the screen in the Technician Client and save to the desktop.

 

When we open the report in Crystal, this is what we see…

crystal1.jpg

… perhaps a little daunting. Let’s go through what we are presented with here in some detail.

 

On the left is the Design tab. This is where we do the initial formatting and place objects in the sections you want them to appear in. You can configure how particular data is sorted, grouped and how totals are presented.

This is handled quite cleanly as the data is represented in the Design view, rather than having the data appear itself. It also means that while you are dragging groups around or calculating totals, the data is not actively being retrieved so you are not drawing on resources on the database server or the wider network when doing this.

 

By default, a report is divided into five areas. In the report we are working with, there are some sub sections in some of the sections – you can see, for example, that the Report Header in Overdue Work Orders by Technician has a Report Header divided into Report Header a, b and c. But as a simple summary of these sections you can refer to this;

 

Report Header

Usually the title or any information printed at the top of the first page. Track-it! reports use this section to return if no records are found when run (Report Header b) and to place the bar chart (Report Header c)

Page Header

Information repeated at the top of each page is placed in the Page Header. This section type is not in use in our example.

Details

The main body of the report

Report Footer

This appears once at the end of the report. Used, for example, for “grand totals”.

Page Footer

Usually page numbers. Any other information that needs to be repeated at the foot of each page.

 

There are some additional sections used for groupings, summaries and subtotals, as follows;

 

Group Header

Printed once at the beginning of the group, use it for a title or for charts made of data held in the group

Group Footer

                Appears once at the end of the group. Can be used for charts and cross tabs.

 

Crystal Reports contains various “Expert” dialogue boxes to assist with organising various aspects of the report in one place. So in order to see a preview of the structure of the sections, click Tools in the menu bar and select “Section Expert”…

section expert.jpg

Another “Expert” view to look at, which leads in to my next post, click Database from the menu bar and select “Database Expert”. This is where we can add tables to our amended report via their data source (an ODBC connection to the Track-It! database). We can also see, in the Links tab, a visualisation of the matching of records of one table with the corresponding records of another table.

database expert links view.jpg

… and this is a nice link back to the tool I discussed in the last post in this series, the Entity Relationship Diagram of the Track-It! database. This gives us a similar visual representation of the relationship between the tables so that we are able to produce reports, such as this one showing data from “Table A” organised by data held in a “Table B” that has a direct correlation with “Table A” (in this case the WorkOrderStatusId, the numeric value given to Statuses in a Work Order).

erd2.jpg

So now we’ve seen some aspects of editing an existing report in Crystal Reports, next time I’ll develop this further by going through editing an existing report as a basis for a new report.

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A slightly belated Happy Easter to you! I hope you had as enjoyable break as I did!!

 

This month, I wanted to take the opportunity to hopefully bring to prominence some of the useful material that has been published in the Track-It! Product page that may take some scrolling to eventually find as more and more members of the Track-It! community post new discussions and ideas. So here’s a chance for you to bookmark some of these posts if you missed them first time round.

 

Customers with a maintenance contract will have access to our Knowledge Base at;

http://support.numarasoftware.com/support/Search.asp

 

… although much has been posted here in the community with more of an emphasis on “how to” rather than publishing resolutions and work arounds to known issues. There is content I have used when investigating faults with customers, just to ensure I am being thorough, leaving no stone unturned and I have often sent links to some of these posts to customers who have logged a call with our Technical Support team. All the material I’d like to highlight today was published by members of the Support team or by Product Management.

 

If there is anything posted by a customer/end user that people use as a point of reference to help them with their everyday running of Track-It!, please do link to it in the comments section below this blog. Also, if anybody working with Track-It! has a particular approach or “aide-memoire” that they think would be useful to others, please do post a discussion. Even if it is something that has been covered in BMC Communities before, it still has value since we are all coming from our own unique perspectives.

 

101

I vaguely knew what this meant from my ceaseless addiction to American movies and TV. But I had to use Wikipedia to get a proper definition;

 

101 (term), The first course in a subject taught at a college or university in Australia, Canada, South Africa, or the United States. By extension, "Topic 101" is used generally to indicate the basics of any subject. Used this way, it is always pronounced "one-oh-one".


My colleague Keith Scarborough posted a series of "101s" on the Track-It! Inventory module. They are a really useful source of reference on the subject and while covering off the basics, they go some way to help develop a more advanced understanding of this module.


Track-It! Inventory 101

https://communities.bmc.com/message/349433#349433


Track-It! Inventory 101 – Discovery

https://communities.bmc.com/docs/DOC-25916


Track-It! Inventory 101 - Workstation Manager

https://communities.bmc.com/docs/DOC-26014


Track-It! Inventory 101 - Initiating an Audit

https://communities.bmc.com/docs/DOC-26016


Track-It! Inventory 101 - Audit and Merge

https://communities.bmc.com/docs/DOC-25917


In a similar vein, last September I blogged about triggering audits externally from Track-It!, utilising Group Policies in Active Directory so that a user’s PC is audited each time they log in;

https://communities.bmc.com/community/bmcdn/bmc_track-it/blog/2013/09/23/the-pulse-track-it--the-inventory-module-auditing-and-logon-scripts


Next up, Keith and another colleague, Chris McLane have written some really useful notes and tips on the subject of incoming and outgoing email…

This is by Chris. I found it useful to refer to in a support call the other day, not for intended purpose but just as a reminder about how Track-It! appends replies to Work order notifications to the relevant Work Order when the Email Conversation feature is used;

E-mail replies cause new work orders to be created even though "RE:" rules are in place

https://communities.bmc.com/docs/DOC-25796


This post serves as my reminder that;The "Use E-mail Monitor Address for e-mail" option should ONLY be enabled in environments where it is necessary to have multiple help desk e-mail addresses that are forwarded to the main E-mail Monitor inbox. Even then, the option should only be enabled if it is absolutely necessary to have notification e-mails appear to come from the address to which e-mails were originally sent."

Notification e-mails from Track-It! appear to be sent from a user rather than the address configured in the Administration Console

https://communities.bmc.com/docs/DOC-26288


As for this setting – I didn’t know about this when I set out to draft this article. I usually advise customers that the Track-It! Event policies cover off most notification requirements and, on balance probably negate the need for an “auto-reply” to mails to the monitor. But now I have seen this setting in the config file, I can think of one or two recent conversations where this change to the config file will be of use;
How to disable the auto-response e-mail sent to the user after successfully appending additional information

https://communities.bmc.com/docs/DOC-26287


Keith has made contributions about database and server management. This piece discusses the warnings generated by Track-It!;

Track-It! Database 101: Index Health Unsatisfactory warning

https://communities.bmc.com/docs/DOC-28415


… this summarises some of the back-end configuration of the SQL database;Track-It! Database 101:

Transaction Logs and Recovery Model

https://communities.bmc.com/docs/DOC-26705


… and here he devised a more user friendly way of moving a Track-It! installation to new hardware;

How to Move or Copy Track-It!; the newer, simpler method

https://communities.bmc.com/docs/DOC-26407


Benny Morrison worked with the Track-It! Product for a number of years. I have enjoyed his whimsical blogs about Track-It! that he wrote before moving on to our Footprints Product team;

What is Track-It!?

https://communities.bmc.com/community/bmcdn/bmc_track-it/blog/2012/03/21/what-is-track-it

and

Track-It! is our baby...

https://communities.bmc.com/community/bmcdn/bmc_track-it/blog/2012/03/21/track-it-is-our-baby


… as well as the more conceptual, high level articles he’s written about managing Help Desks in general and how Track-It! may fit into your plans

Getting organized with Track-It! - The top 3 myths about organizing your Help Desk

https://communities.bmc.com/community/bmcdn/bmc_track-it/blog/2012/05/17/getting-organized-with-track-it--the-top-3-myths-about-organizing-your-help-desk

 

Cris Coffey is still very much involved in the Product Management of Track-It! and in driving this product page in BMC Communities. You can get a sense of his history with the product here;

15 years. How things have changed.

https://communities.bmc.com/blogs/cris/2012/04/17/15-years-how-things-have-changed


… and I wanted to emphasise this post Cris made to give you a sense of how important this community to the future evolution of Track-It! and how your Ideas are actively being selected to be integrated in future releases;

First Track-It! release after Ideas module

https://communities.bmc.com/community/bmcdn/bmc_track-it/blog/2012/11/27/first-track-it-release-after-ideas-module

 

Finally, more from me. The latest version of Track-It! released is v11.2. If you are planning to upgrade to this version any time soon, you should consider the following;

The Pulse: Track-It! 11.2 Cool Stuff

https://communities.bmc.com/community/bmcdn/bmc_track-it/blog/2013/12/18/the-pulse-track-it-112-cool-stuff

The Pulse - Track-It! 11.2... Countdown to upgrade

https://communities.bmc.com/community/bmcdn/bmc_track-it/blog/2014/01/20/the-pulse--track-it-112-countdown-to-upgrade

The Pulse - Track-It! 11.x - Office 365 and SMTP and more general Notification troubleshooting tips

https://communities.bmc.com/community/bmcdn/bmc_track-it/blog/2014/02/20/the-pulse--track-it-11x--office-365-and-smtp-and-more-general-notification-troubleshooting-tips


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The new Track-It! 11.3 release is now in Beta. If you are a current Track-It! customer and are interested in participating in the Beta program, it is not too late.

 

Just visit the document below to learn more about how to sign up for the program.

 

Track-It! Beta Signup

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This month I wanted to talk about Work Order Resolutions. In Track-It! 11.1, we introduced the ability to;

 

 

  • Create detailed, highly useful solutions using in line graphics, bullets colored fonts and more with new

Rich Text Solutions feature

 

  • Attaching new rich text solutions or formatting an individual Work Order resolution with rich text is now

easy with the Rich Text Resolution field

 

I’ve had numerous conversations with customers who upgraded from version 11 to version 11.2, missing that we’d added this feature. This has impacted these customers, whose Technicians have been used to entering Plain Text resolutions into a Work Order

 

v11.jpg

… in previous versions, historic resolutions could be seen in their entirety if they only used 2-3 lines of text.

 

After v11.1, a Technician will only see a preview of the resolution entered and needs to click the “folder” icon to see the entire entry.

 

v112.jpg

 

… we need to click the Edit icon (the folder in the top right of the resolution) to see the entire entry;

edit note.jpg

The new functionality is built in with the intent of giving us an end to end repository of solutions, available to both Technicians and end users in the Self Service front end. In this, we are striving to assist Track-It! customers in helping their users to help themselves. Let’s walk through how that might look…

 

I created a solution from the text from my previous blog post;

 

https://communities.bmc.com/community/bmcdn/bmc_track-it/blog/2013/12/18/the-pulse-track-it-112-cool-stuff

 

I just copied the article in its entirety, since we are pasting into a Rich Text editor, and all of the formatting and images were pasted from the clipboard.

solution_detail.jpg

Now, someone needs to configure Stop The Clock in Track-It!, the are able to search for that test in the Self Service front end;

self service solutions.jpg

Alternatively, that user logs a Work Order rather than searching Solutions in the Self Service portal, the Technician is able to resolve the Work Order and bring the article into the Resolution as the one they brought to the attention of the Requestor in the Resolution tab;

insert solution.jpg

So this is my interpretation of how we can use the Rich Text formatting to add value to our end users and to start the exercise of populating the Solutions with quality, easy to follow information. This enables us to encourage our end users to draw on this resource and query it for information before they log a call with the Service Desk.

 

In other news…

 

When I first joined the Track-It! team back in 2008, we had recently release Track-It! version 8.1. At the time, we were assisting quite a lot of customer with the transition from Track-It! versions 6 & 7 to the new release. Part of the challenge was with the changes to the look and feel of the product, which has now remained largely the same through the course of major releases since that point. As each year progress, it surprises me that we still have an amount of customers looking to upgrade from v7 to something more recent. With this in mind, Kevin Dort asked me to issue a reminder.

 

In Track-It! 7, the attachment repository folders were different. When a server backup takes place, these files are not included (\Track-It! Server\WOAttach). So we recommend to follow the steps to move the attachments into the default Track-It! 8 – 11 location, in the \Track-It! Services\FileStorageData\Repositories folders.

repositories.jpg

How to move the Track-It! attachments to another location
Article ID: TIA03046
http://support.numarasoftware.com/support/articles.asp?how=%20AND%20&mode=detail&kcriteria=3046&ID=3134

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This month I wanted to elucidate clearly about configuring Work Order Event Notifications when email in your organisation is hosted in Office 365. I’ll also touch on more general notification troubleshooting advice which is valid if you use a mail solution in The Cloud or host your own.

 

Work Order Event Notifications and Office 365

The conversation we have in support with customers whose email solution is in the cloud is usually along the lines of “Office 365 requires TLS encryption but Track-It! only supports SSL”. I found a white paper, here, which confirms this;

 

http://download.microsoft.com/download/6/6/2/662F89E4-9340-4DDE-B28E-D1643681ADEB/Security%20in%20Office%20365%20Whitepaper.docx

 

“The use of TLS/SSL establishes a highly secure client-to-server connection to help provide data confidentiality and integrity between the desktop and the data center. Customers can configure TLS between Office 365 and external servers for both inbound and outbound email. This feature is enabled by default.”

 

If we go to the outbound email configuration, in Track-It! 11.2 this is in;

 

Tools > Administration Console > Configuration > Administration > E-mail Configuration > Outgoing E-mail Configuration

 

… indications are that this is not possible. There is not an option listed for a required TLS encrypted connectection (1).

outgoing e-mail configuration.jpg

 

This appears to be borne out when using the “Send Test E-mail” (2)and the resulting test email fails to be sent to it’s recipient.

 

Let’s try and clear some of this up.

 

Authenticate on your SMTP host but do not check the box for SSL and apply the changes. If you choose to click the Send Test E-mail and it fails, do not be disheartened. This is because this button is not using the configuration you have entered in this screen. It is checking whether it is possible to send a message via the SMTP host you have configured but it is doing that using the email settings associated with the Windows account you are logged into the computer with.

 

So in this scenario, please use this guideline to test your connection to your Office 365 SMTP host… once the above is setup and you have ensured that Track-It! is set to send these messages by its schedule - Tools > Administration Console > Configuration > Help Desk >  Work Order Events > Automated Schedule, then create a test Work Order and send a mail to your designated test recipient via the “Email Requestor” button.

email requestor.jpg

We usually find that notifications are sent successfully using the configuration and test outlined above.

Nb – If you have Track-it! configured to “Email Requestor” via your Outlook client, you will need to test outgoing email by matching a Work Order to the Event Policies.

 

If you continue to struggle with this setup and wish to engage with your local Support team its really useful for us to have a copy of these logs if you have encountered errors while testing;

smlogs.jpg

More General Notification Troubleshooting via the Track-It! Database

While I am on the subject of logs and Notifications, I thought I would quickly share some bits and pieces about where the Notifications register on the Track-It! database. I have learned to rely on these tables when troubleshooting more challenging notification issues.

 

Open SQL Server Management Studio and connect to the instance where the Track-It! database resides. Expand it in the Object Explorer and then expand the Tables. Scroll down to the “N’s”.

 

There are three tables I will summarise in this post, NotificationMessage, NotificationStatus and NotificationError.

 

NotificationMessage contains a line for every notification email that was sent from Track-It!. For the purposes of today’s post, we are concerned with the NotificationStatusId column.

 

notificationmessage.jpg

This is the “Automatically generated primary key of the NotificationStatus table”. Essentially, depending on whether the message is in the process of being sent, gets sent successfully, or fails, the NotificationStatus table holds the various statuses that are entered to this column. It is useful to cross reference NotificationMessage with NotificationStatus;

 

notificationstatus.jpg

… so if you see a NotificationStatusID of 4 in your NotificationMessage table, you can see that this means “SendFailure” and that will prompt you to look at the NotificationError table;

 

notificationerror.jpg

Obviously, the NotificationMessageId column correlates to the message in the NotificationMessage table. It is easier to insert the cursor into that row’s ErrorMessage entry and select all its contents, copy and paste into Notepad or similar, rather than trying to read the error in SQL Server Management Studio. Here’s some examples;

 

The requested notification message failed to send. - The SMTP host was not specified.

 

The requested notification message failed to send. - Mailbox unavailable. The server response was: 5.7.1 Unable to relay for test@companyname.org

 

These errors may match to errors posted to the Service Management log file in C:\Windows\Temp but this method provides an “electronic paper trail” where you can follow through each step of the way for a specific message, rather than scrolling through up to 10 MBs worth of event logging, much of it not relevant to the errors you are looking for.

 

  Well that’s it for now but I will be posting again quite soon. I wanted to cover Track-It!’s Rich Text editor for Solutions and Resolutions, which some customers are finding irksome. So I will write that up over the next week or so. I just thought it was confusing to have two unrelated topics in this post. I will also be posting Part 3 in the series about Track-It! reports in the coming weeks. I would appreciate any comments to any of my posts, especially if there is anything you would like me to try and explain… I might even be able to coerce a colleague with a bit more specialist knowledge in that particular area to assist us!

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I recently posted a simple yet powerful means of reporting in Track-It!. The drawback with reports created from extracted data and formatted in Excel is that they are not integrated with the Track-It! application. You could not, for example, automate these reports so that they are sent on a scheduled basis or share these reports via the Reporting Module.

 

In order to do this with a custom report, it will need to be written in Crystal Report like all of the standard reports that are included in the off-the-peg application. In the coming weeks I intend to start to look at compiling reports using Crystal so by way of preparation, this post summarises the tools we will need to assist us in this task.

 

Supported Track-It! Enterprise customers are able to download a copy of Crystal Reports from their support profile at;

 

http://support.numarasoftware.com/support

profile.jpg

While visiting the support site, you can go to the Knowledge Base and bookmark http://downloads.numarasoftware.com/support/11erd/Track-It!_11.htm – The Track-It! 11 SQL Server Physical Data Model. Here you can see, which tables are used by a particular module and how they are connected to each other as well as definitions of each table and their columns.

 

erd1.jpg

erd2.jpg

 

Finally, you should already have SQL Server Management Studio installed. This will allow you to run SELECT queries so that you are able to compare and contrast with what is output by any report and keep a check on things as you make progress. Customers with a full version of SQL should have this tool already but those who installed SQL Express when they installed Track-It! will have needed to downloaded a copy for free from Microsoft;

 

SQL 2005 Express

http://www.microsoft.com/en-gb/download/details.aspx?id=8961

 

SQL 2008 Express

http://www.microsoft.com/en-gb/download/details.aspx?id=7593

 

… so while you are familiarising yourselves with all of this, I am going to identify some simple reports we can start with in my next post. If anyone has any ideas, please do leave a comment below.

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This month’s Pulse stays focused on the recently released version 11.2.

 

I detailed some of these features last month. This month, I wanted to pick up on the upgrade itself. Whether you are prepared to upgrade and what you should do immediately after the upgrade.

 

The Release Notes are published here. As I discussed last month, the main new features are changes to the email monitor and “stop the clock”. A customer I was speaking to recently suggested that this upgrade should have been a major release – Track-It! 12, his view was that revision was quite fundamental.

 

From customer to customer, Change Management policy varies quite a lot from what I can discern of the Track-It! customers I come into contact with. Some organisations are quite stringent, others less so. Such a policy along with factors such as time and resource both in terms of people and equipment, will inform the decision on how much testing of this release you can carry before upgrading your live Track-It! installation. It may be that the defects addressed in version 11.2 are rather forcing your hand to get this done sooner rather than later. However, the nature of the way features such as the email monitor work now means that how it interacts with your environment is a key facet. If you are able to build a test server, you can download or make a copy of your Track-It! license file and use that to test. If problems arise in your test environment, support will be able to assist without it affecting your service to your user base. You can keep live on the previous version until all issues are resolved in test.

 

So, even disregarding all of the above, you decide to run the upgrade with the minimal preparation. Well, early in the upgrade, we see this;

11.2 upgrade.jpg

… another opportunity to avail ourselves of information identifying what may be needed when the upgrade completes.

 

The first link is fairly standard stuff. When each version is released and Remote Control is updated, we provide updated installers for each of the mods customers can opt to use rather than the default setting, where an icon is displayed in the System Tray and users are asked to confirm that a technician can take control on connection to their PC. There are mods for you to change these options;

 

 

Option 1 - Hide the Remote icon, and keep the "Confirm Access" prompt (unless the computer is locked or a user is not currently logged on)

Option 2 - Hide the Remote icon, and disable the "Confirm Access" prompt.

Option 3 - Show the Remote icon, and disable the "Confirm Access" prompt (unless the computer is locked or a user is not currently logged on).

The next article linked to provides key information to most customers about changes to the email monitor. In previous versions, there was only a minority that used a POP connection in their email monitor configuration. Most used either the MAPI or Exchange options. Both of these required a client to be installed on the Track-It! server, whether that was the Microsoft Exchange Server MAPI Client and Collaboration Data Objects 1.2.1 or a full Outlook or Groupwise client.

If I was to discuss the most common configuration I come across, a customer would be using an in-house Exchange server and have set the email monitor to use the MAPI setting before upgrade to 11.2. I envisage that, in this scenario, customers would use the IMAP option and configure that from within the Administration Console on completion of the upgrade wizard. In this scenario, The Microsoft Exchange IMAP 4 service must be running on the Exchange server.

That about wraps up another Track-It! Pulse for this month. I will return soon with the next in my series covering Track-it! reports. The next Pulse blogspot will be out in around a month. In the meantime, I would be interested to hear about your experiences of Track-It! 11.2.

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In recent months, I have been publishing Pulse articles for Track-It!, reflecting the kinds of queries we are dealing with in support. I will continue to publish those around 20th of each month. Here’s a link to the last one, about new features in Track-It! version 11.2

 

I also wanted to publish a reasonably regular more personal blog to share tips and tricks to help customers get more from the Track-it! application. Over the next few weeks I wanted to focus on the Reporting module.

 

We get many customer queries describing requirements for reports that are not included Track-It!

In answering these queries we have quite a well-rehearsed response in the UK support team. These are your options;

 

  • The data can be extracted from the grid view and then manipulated in an application such as MS Excel
  • Customers can engage with our Professional Services team or a BMC Partner for a quote for some bespoke work done in Crystal Reports
  • Customers with someone knowledgeable in Crystal Reports in-house can design their own reports and import them to the Reporting Module

 

So I’ll start off in this post by outlining the simple method of extracting data from Track-It! and creating a report in MS Excel. While I describe this as basic, it is actually quite powerful.

 

For my example, now we are at the start of a new year, Helpdesk managers might wish to know which of their technicians have open Work Orders remaining that were opened, for example, before 1st November 2013.

 

The first step for this kind of report is to query and filter the Grid View in the appropriate module (in this case Helpdesk) so that we can extract the data required to create our report. So as a starting point, I have set the Current View to the System View named “Open Work Orders”.

view1.jpg

I have highlighted the Current View button at the top of the screen and the bar beneath the grid which displays a summary of the data selection. I can then filter my data further, in this case I want to select Work Orders logged before 1st November 2013. I click on the drop down arrow in the Date Entered column header and select “custom” from the drop down.

 

filter.jpg

I am now looking at all issues entered before 1st November 2013. When I create my simple report, I will be only using the data in the ID column for my count with an Assigned Technician on each Row. So in this instance, those are the only columns I really need to export but it is unnecessary to shed those from the view before export. I can just right click somewhere in the grid, select “Export grid Contents…” and from the Export dialogue I can “Save as type” the .xls format to  edit and manipulate in MS Excel. Text would serve just as well for this purpose if I wanted to create or remove some field delimiters when I import into Excel. But I am not doing anything so fancy, so the .xls format is just fine.

 

I open the file created in Excel and it looks much like the grid I exported it from. I click on the Insert menu and from there, select PivotTable. As mentioned, I want “Assigned Technician” as my Row Labels and ID as my Values. I may need to right click on the object in Values to access the Value Field Settings so that the values are presented as a Count rather than a Sum or Average etc.

 

value field settings.jpg

So that’s pretty much it – here’s my report “Work Orders opened before 1st Nov 2013 by Technician;

 

 

Count of ID

 

Assigned Technician

Total

Andrew Shain

2

Brad Halsey

344

Brian McKenzie

30

Chris McLane

1

Chuck Slaughter

2

David Thibault

1

Emil

8

Eric Hazeltine

2

Garry

1

Jack Dobiash

1

James Lerch

2

James test

2

Jamie Hemond

1

Jamie Hemond1

2

Keith

23

Keith2

1

Kevin Dort

5

Larry Remington

2

patrick reed

1

Phil

4

Rich Curtin

1

Rilee Lerch

1

Rilee Mercier

2

Terry Hartup

3

TRACKIT

17

Wendell Olson

2

(blank)

138

Grand Total

599

 

 

Please don’t be too hard on any of my colleagues here – this was created using test data rather than our open live Incidents from customers!

 

I will be back with part two sometime in the next month to look at the tools that will help us to create more complex reports in Crystal Reports. In the meantime, if you have any questions or any particular requirements for a report you would like to create yourself, please leave a comment.

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The Track-It! Pulse blog is back after a brief interruption in its regular publication schedule. Over the last couple of months, I have been transitioning to being a homeworker. It was important that I was able to get comfortable in my new work environment and be handling incoming Incident tickets without affecting our continuity of service. I hope we succeeded in making the move as smooth as possible, but it did mean my activity in the Community was reduced during the transition. Predictably during that time, the UK support team did see a bit of a spike in incidents reported so it has been both a  busy period as well as an interesting experience.

 

In terms of activity for the Track-It! product from a support point of view, the big news is Track-It! v11.2 has been released. I thought I would have a play around with the Stop the Clock feature, since I have had numerous conversations with customers requesting this enhancement over the years I have been involved with Track-It!. There are also some other bits and pieces of hints and tips I wanted to share that we have picked up assisting customers upgrading to this version in the last couple of weeks.

 

Stop the Clock

I have to admit I have not logged a call for this feature since it has been introduced. This makes me very optimistic! So this is the first opportunity I’ve had to have a little play with it.

I went into Tools > Administration Console > Lookup Tables > Help Desk > Work Order Statuses and added a new one “Hold”. Straight away, I can see a check box labeled “This status stops the clock” so I tick this.

 

Next, into Tools > Administration Console > Lookup Tables > Help Desk >Event Policies, I had pre-configured four Event Policies, high, medium and low as well as the built in default enabled. The high, medium and low policies I had created are all linked to the Priority field, to corresponding Priority names that match my Policy Names. Each have different Due Dates, appropriate to each level of severity (all agreed with my fictional customer) and have different email notification rules, also reflecting how I wish to communicate the progress of the varying severity of Work Order. I edit the policy I have named “high” first.

 

eventpolicy.jpg

1. Service Level Agreements will often include an agreed Response Time for Work Orders. We’ve added the Date Responded into the Work Order form and this is where you can set the target time from when the issue is first saved.

2. The actual stop the clock setting and that this only affects Due Date.


So I have stop the clock activated on the three priorities lined to Service Level Agreements via the Event Policy interface.

 

I created a Work Order and made a couple of changes to it, saving it in an “Open” status each time. On my third save, I used my “Hold” status. Perhaps the end user was unavailable when I went back to them with a question or some hardware was out for a repair with a third party. As soon as I save with me on hold status selected, I am prompted;

 

warning.jpg


… and then for a reason;


reason.jpg


… then throughout the time my Work Order is on hold, if it is displayed on-screen, the title bar of includes a reminder, saying “Work Order is on hold. The clock has been stopped” though the Due Date in the Applicable Policies section of the Classification and Schedule tab does display the original Due Date set.


class_sched.jpg


This date/time is recalculated when a “non hold” Status is selected and the Work Order saved. I am prompted to fill the reason comments once more, if I so wish.

Please be aware of your settings in Tools > Administration Console > Configuration > Administration > Operating Hours before embarking on this exercise.

 

Also, just a reflection from personal experience, I remember in a previous life as a Service Desk Manager in a UK outsourcing organisation, on various contracts we had very specific scenarios for when an issue could be placed on hold. This meant an undue proportion of my time was spent reporting on and reviewing on hold calls to ensure that agents were not abusing a “pending” status so that I was not alerted to any lack of progress of difficult and long standing issues. Now in outsourcing, the company providing the service is under a lot more scrutiny than many internal help desk arrangements, with financial penalties written into contracts for missed targets based on Service Level Agreements. I do understand the demand for the on-hold feature and why we responded to demand developing it. But I would say that I would much prefer to factor in “mean time to close” from previous years’ performance, rather than implementing an on hold status for many scenarios. But as long as the rules around its use are clearly stated both for your Technicians and your Users, and understood by them, hopefully you can implement it without being required to police its use too much.

 

The E-mail Monitor

With the 11.2 release, I was pleased to see that an email client such as Outlook is now not required for Track-It! to read incoming email and turn them into Work Orders. Most of the customers I speak to have their own Exchange Server set up within their organisation’s domain. In this configuration scenario, I have been suggesting customer use the IMAP setting. You must ensure that the Microsoft Exchange IMAP 4 service is running on the Exchange server to utilise this protocol.

Also, during set-up, you will note in Tools > Administration Console > Configuration > Administration > E-mail Configuration > Incoming E-mail Configuration , there are some options under “Incoming E-mail Settings”;

 

  • Mark e-mail as read,
  • Delete e-mail from the server
  • Move e-mail to folder

 

It appears from my first few engagements to assist with this set-up that these are rules to be applied on completion. I have seen a couple of instances where we configure “Mark email as read”, mirroring how Track-It! would process email in the previous “Exchange Server” or “MAPI” configuration, but now it wants to process all of the old, read emails once more when I go to the Automated Schedule dialogue and click now. So just a tip, please housekeep all old messages to the email monitor out of the mailbox you have been using if you intend, as I suspect most customers do, to keep using the same mailbox you’ve always used for your email monitor’s primary mailbox.

 

Auditing

There has been a change to the audit components in v11.2 that require a PC to be running .NET 4 if you intend to audit that machine. This dependency has postponed one or two of my customers’ plans to upgrade. For one such customer it was necessary to carry out this little test.

 

If, for example, a group policy/login script is used to trigger audits, where the audit executable is not called from the Track-It! server, in this kind of configuration;

 

distributed audit.JPG.jpg

 

… you could retain the old version of audit.exe (or even older, audit32.exe) with the auditcifg.ini and the asset data generated by these components will still merge into the Inventory. track-I

 

So that’s it for this month. As hinted at earlier, you can now expect a regular post towards the end of each month. This post is intentionally early due to the forthcoming Christmas break.

I plan to continue the theme of version 11.2 in late January, depending on what activity we see across our support teams. If there is anything you would like me to cover then, or expand upon from this post, please do post a comment.

 

In the meantime, have a wonderful Christmas!

 

christmas_bells.gif

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Track-It! 11.2 was released in late November and is now available. Thank you to all of our loyal Track-It! Beta testers for once again kicking the tires and helping to get the product ready. You can learn more about the product by visiting the What's New area of the Track-It! site.

 

Some highlights of the new release are:

12-13-2013 2-23-13 PM.jpg

 

  • Manage SLAs and end user expectations with Stop the Clock.
  • Keep accurate record of time spent on tasks with the Work Order Timer
  • Track time to first response with the First Response SLA
  • Create integrations with other software/systems with the Track-It! Web Service
  • Detect installed anti-virus products, versions and whether definitions are up to date
  • Obtain regular PC inventory information from users who work remotely using disconnected audits
  • IMAP and Exchange Web Service support added for e-mail monitoring
  • Further refine which emails Track-It! will accept with the new White-list

 

 

We work hard to deliver things that our customers ask for and we hope you like this release of Track-It!

 

Now on to the next one!

 

Learn more about Track-It! help desk software at http://www.trackit.com

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I recently posted some options open to users of the Track-It! Inventory when they want to audit many computers in the environment, rather than doing it on each machine individually. I was keen to follow that up and think about what can we do to troubleshoot. Here’s some bits and pieces I've picked up working with Track-It! users in the UK…

 

What?

A manual audit

 

Why?

To ensure a machine can be audited at the most basic level

 

Where?

Preferably physically on the PC that needs to be audited, or via a Remote connection

 

How?

Take a copy of this file from the Track-It! server;

 

:\Program Files\BMC Software\Track-It!\Track-It! Server\audit.exe

 

Create a folder named “audit” somewhere on the PC you intend to audit. Save the audit.exe file there.

Run the audit.exe from this location. Because the file that contains all of your settings set in the Administration Console’s audit settings is not present (auditcfg.ini), you will be presented with an audit dialogue which you  click through.

manaudit.jpg

 

Once this is complete, your “audit” folder will contain a subfolder named “data”. Copy the contents of this folder to;

 

:\Program Files\BMC Software\Track-It!\Track-It! Server\data

 

… then run Merge Audit Data from within the Inventory Module of the Technician Client

mergefoder.jpg

So hopefully we have established that if we have removed all of the automated, environment influenced aspects of auditing, an audit can take place.

What next?

The Auditing configuration

 

Why?

To see if any information has been logged against recent historical attempts to audit

 

Where

The Technician Client, logged in as an Administrator in Tools > Administration Console > Configuration > Inventory > Auditing

 

How

adminconsole.jpg

Click on Queue, then the Queue History tab. If you have a reasonably recent entry where the Status is Audit Failed, click it and then click the button labelled “View Extended Information”. Here’s an example where there was a problem with the Setup Credentials;

 

error.jpg

 

Go to Setup Credentials and click Test Login. Nb, this will only test these credentials on the PC you are working on, which might be fine. With errors like the one above, it’s probably just a matter of resetting a password in AD and entering the new password into Setup Credentials.

We might need to do further testing to ensure this admin user is the appropriate for the task at hand.

 

So what now?

An in depth test of the user set in Setup Credentials

 

Why?

To ensure it has the correct level of access to the machines you are trying to audit

 

Where?

The Track-It Server

 

How?

Log in to the Track-It! server using the account saved in Setup Credentials.

 

If the machine has been discovered but not audited before, can you connect remotely to the admin share and create a file? Click;

Start > Run > \\hostname\admin$ (swapping “hostname” for the name of the PC we are troubleshooting).

  • Are you able to create a file and a folder there when browsing from the server?
  • Is there are directory present named TIRemote?


Run registry editor and then click File > Connect Network Registry. Are you able to connect to a machine in your Inventory’s registry?

Run services.msc and right click on the server’s services in the left hand panel. Select Connect to another computer and enter it’s hostname. Can you connect? Can you see the Secondary Login Service ruinning on that machine?

Other things to check while logged in on the server… Early in the audit process, Track-It! goes to DNS to do a reverse lookup to resolve the IP Address of a machine wuth it’s hostname and then verify it. On the server, from the command prompt, type;

ping –a hostname

... after the (hopefully) successful ping by hostname, use the IP address returned in the previous set of results in;

ping –a ip_address

Ensure that both sets of results match. If they don’t, flush the cache in DNS.

Also, ensure that File and Print sharing is enabled on all your PCs and that port 10597 is open and accessible to the Track-It! server.

Next up we’ll look at the various log files Track-It! writes to and see how different auditing issues get logged to the different files. In the meantime, this article on our Knowledge Base gets referred to a lot when we are figuring what's not quite right when auditing;

http://support.numarasoftware.com/support/articles.asp?how=%20AND%20&mode=detail&kcriteria=3929&ID=4045

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Auditing

 

Over the next month or so, I am going to post some bits and pieces focusing on the Auditing functionality in the Track-It! Inventory module. First up, a number of customers identify they need to automatically audit their user’s PC. Track-It! can schedule audits, but there are drawbacks to this, identified below. So what alternative is there?

 

Scheduled Audits vs Logon Scripts

The audit can be scheduled to automatically run on specific days of the week, a specific day of the month or on a specific date, or a combination of these settings.

 

sched_audits.JPG.jpg

 

However, your user base may not all be logged in at the same time, some may be off site, using a laptop. There are quite a few reasons why a PC might not be available in the environment to be audited at the appointed time that Track-It! is configured to carry out this task.

 

One alternative to using the schedule set in the Administration Console is to use logon scripts, set up in Active Directory. The benefit of this is that you will no longer be queuing audits blindly for a machine that may or may not be available for auditing. This excerpt is from an article supporting an older version of Track-It! (hence references to Windows 2000) but they are still valid and the support team often shares them with customers who have identified that this solution is the most effective way of updating their Inventory;

 

To Implement Logon Scripts on a Windows 2000 Server (Active Directory):

 

  • The logon script itself must be present in the sysvol share (%winroot%\sysvol\sysvol\domainname\scripts) of whatever domain controller the user authenticates on. If you want to implement a logon script and you have replication set up among your domain controllers, save the script in the %winroot%\sysvol\sysvol\domainname\scripts directory on the primary domain controller (PDC) in order to replicate it across the other domain controllers.

 

  • Open the Group Policy snap-in:
  • Click Start  Run, type mmc in the Open field, and click OK.
  • Click File  Add Remove Snap-in from the Console's main menu.
  • On the Standalone tab, click Add.
  • Select Group Policy from the list, and click Add.
  • Either click Local Computer to edit the local GPO or locate the GPO that you want to edit.
  • Click Finish, and then click OK.

      

  • In the console tree, select Policy_name Policy/User Configuration/Windows Settings/Scripts (Logon/Logoff).
  • Click Scripts, and then double-click Logon in the right pane.
  • Click Add.
  • Configure any of the following settings that you want to use, and then click OK:

     o   Script Name: Type the path to the script or click Browse to locate the script file in the Netlogon share of the domain controller.

     o   Script Parameters: Type any parameters that you want to use in the same way that you type them on the command line.

     For example, if the script includes the //logo parameter (display banner) and the //i parameter (interactive mode) parameters, type;


//logo //i      

 

  • In the Logon dialog box, configure any of the following settings that you want to use, and then click OK:
  • Logon Scripts for: This box lists all of the scripts that are currently assigned to the selected Group Policy object. If you assign multiple scripts, the scripts are processed according to the order that you specify. To move a script in the list, select the script, and then click either the Up or Down key.
  • Add: Click Add to specify any additional scripts that you want to use.
  • Edit: Click Edit to modify script information such as the name and parameters.
  • Remove: Click Remove to remove the selected script from the Logon Scripts list.
  • Show Files: Click Show Files to view the script files that are stored in the selected Group Policy object.

 

Important Notes:

In the Active Directory Users and Computers dialog, it is recommended that you select a group, because it contains multiple users.

 

Please bear in mind, when logon scripts are triggering the audit, the data will not merge to the Inventory automatically. You will need to set the merge to run on a schedule. Go to Tools > Administration Console > Configuration > Inventory > Merging > Schedule

 

Set to “Automatically Merge Daily” and set for a time outside of peak use times for the Track-It! application. Merging audit data can have quite an overhead on system performance. So if assets have been audited at logon at various points throughout the day, set the merge to run overnight and you will see updated record in your Inventory grid view the next working day.

 

Next

We’ll take a look at some hints and tips that are regularly used to troubleshoot the auditing feature.

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