Lansweeper is an interesting business product. I had never heard of it before but after I took a look through their site I was intrigued and expect others finding this page through a search engine will already feel the same way. I’m no IT pro but I do like my software and this one was slightly different than anything else I’ve come across before. What is Lansweeper? Their own site describes it this way: “Lansweeper is an automated network inventory, discovery and asset management tool.” I think that quote describes it quite well but what it lacks is a representation of the depth at which the program accomplishes this. I was pleasantly surprised by what it made available but we should start at the beginning….
The requirements for the both the server and client computers are fairly broad with the server that Lansweeper being installed on being the most limiting. While Lansweeper can be used to scan other devices or Operating Systems it must be installed on a Windows OS from Windows 2003 / XP or higher. It also happens to need .NET 4.x and I’m not fond of .NET products in general. If the system doesn’t have .Net 4, a download from the internet will be initiated by the installer so they at least handled that well. It doesn’t require, but does support, SQL 2000 SP3 or higher.
The installer was standard and straight forward. It doesn’t include any unneeded ‘bundled’ third party software which is always a great plus. It does include SQL Compact which you may install if you don’t already have a database. In order to use an existing SQL server it must be set up for mixed authentication.
Near the end of the installation you’ll have an option to sign up for a newsletter or post on social media. You may skip this by checking the appropriate box. Before I had tried this software I was a bit put off by these social media options. I don’t frequent them and found it a bit odd that they’d be included in a business product. They may be getting a bit ahead of themselves with including this one in the installer but in the end I understand why they added it to the actual program as well.
Once the install is completed a ‘First Run Wizard’ will open through your browser via the web console interface. Along with this, unfortunately, was a second page that was automatically opened reporting the installation home.
While the information sent this way is brief and could be useful to them in a variety of ways I still find these unannounced auto open browser pages to be somewhat rude and would have liked to see an option on the final install page to skip or opt out of this report as well.
The ‘First Run Wizard’ starts off with the more generalized options relating to your networks setup and allows you to fill in the user name and password information for connecting to device types you want scanned.
My network isn’t very large but I allowed it to run through the entire range of IPs anyway. It was fairly quick and it found the devices along with much more information than I had expected as I did not install any agents.
If you are on a domain you can enable active scanning and update the list of computers logged onto the network through your controllers every fifteen minutes.
Initially I used the default Internet Explorer and noticed an odd issue with the menu. The ‘trial’ text appeared to have pushed it down a little and it overlapped with other areas. Needless to say it was a tad annoying while trying to use it this way throughout the testing process.
I then installed a different browser to confirm that it wasn’t an IE specific quirk. *As an update* I was later informed this was due to the smaller screen size I had used for my test machine. Using a normal screen will likely allow you to not see this quirk at all.
As seen from the picture above the actual web console dashboard is much more complex than the Wizard. Fortunately many of the areas are broken down into overviews or statistics. There’s a lot of sections (eg widgets) to be found here and upon clicking them you’ll be taken to the relevant pages with expanded information. Starting with the left column you’ll see sections such as Windows Domain Overview, IP Locations Overview, Asset Group Overview, a Chart:Asset type summary and Asset Type Overview.
A good portion of the (Main page) interface is taken up by alerts. By clicking any of the alerts found in the center you’ll be taken to a more detailed report page. Starting with the more critical alerts at the top it then shows important alerts followed by the information section. The area holds some of the more important information. It allows you to see things such as printer issues, PCs running without an Anti-Virus, S.M.A.R.T. status of drives, low disk space and a whole lot more. On the reports page you’ll find it has the ability to export these reports so that they may be sent and viewed by others without needing to access the interface itself.
Also found in the center column is an Asset Manufacturer Chart. I didn’t find it to be especially helpful on my small network but I can imagine it being a nifty tool for larger organizations though I would still tend to think it is not likely to be used often and thus not really ‘front page’ material but maybe there’s something I am missing in relation to it..
Thankfully they allow us to modify the interface. You can move widgets around…and…
You can even delete them entirely!
I didn’t actually delete this one (I did move it initially but moved it back for the rest of the review) as I thought it was useful but I had to grab a screenshot!
The right column has some more helpful tools that will display the scan status along with the size of the Lansweeper database. The ‘Last Seen’ sections help an administrator to keep an eye on devices which have recently connected to the network.
Mousing over the Assets will pop up a small box with more detailed information and a few related options along the bottom.
The second tab is related to ‘Servers’ as the name suggests. I don’t ‘actually’ have access to any of these but I did a few things among the test machines including altering a few settings on the XP PCs network connections which defined (or rather claimed it was) it as an Internet Connection Sharing machine.
Sadly this is one area I’m unqualified to discuss further but since it includes domain controllers, SQL and printers etc this looks like a good area for the actual IT pros to have available in a business environment. 😉
The ‘Software’ tab is one near and dear to my heart. My test machines didn’t include much outside of the defaults but even those pieces of software that I HAD added were detected. After looking through the registry entries I found that the detected software seemed to be identified through the ‘Uninstall’ strings for ‘DisplayName’ and ‘DisplayVersion’ though there is no guarantee that it is limited to these.
Under the High priority section, first shown in the software tab, there are a few entries which I can see being especially helpful. These include, but are not limited to, IE: unauthorized ActiveX controls, Bars, BHOs, Extensions and software.
Some of the changes I had made were on the PC that the software was operating from prior to installing it. I’ll be honest here, I didn’t expect it to catch anything but at the same time while it wasn’t exactly ‘wrong’ it showed a few entries that were not ‘disabled’ but happened to not be running during the initial scan and missed all the others.
At the same time there is little that I disabled that would likely cause issues but depending on how a business is set up I would have expected a few of those to show up on the lists by default….I mean security center is disabled and it says nothing, really?
I think the real point taken away from this mini-test and the results is that although the software is rather adept at helping IT personal it isn’t something that should be relied upon blindly. I’ll admit that my tests might have been a bit unfair and not something you’d see in a corporate environment where policy changes are pushed out to workstations. I’m not used to operating in a large corporate network and I expect I’d be overwhelmed trying to understand such a setup. That being said with the things this program CAN do, I still find it to be quite good. It may not be the one program to rule them all but it’s still quite a good piece of software for aiding in the management of the machines on your network! It was in fact just prior to this point of my tests that I had decided that were some poor soul to have appointed me to look after (I am woefully unqualified) a network, I could not live without some software like this. I mean the information it collects and put at your fingertips and into reports is simply amazing! I feel bad for home users (for myself? Probably…) as there is no chopped down version for us. I’ve barely covered a quarter of the program and I already want something like this already! I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I’m not an IT pro, I’m just a power user but I really WANT this program but sadly there is no home user option for us…(Hint hint)
As shown far above in the screenshot the program will also show OS Service Pack information. Service Packs appear to be something MS is no longer going to be releasing often (if at all) in the future so this section could use an update to reflect the new ‘major’ update scheme IMHO. Until Windows 10 is released and more serious updates are made available for the others I can let such an oversight slide. (for now…) To be fair I was using fully updated PCs so they MIGHT have very well alerted me if I was using Windows 8 Update 2 rather than 3, etc…
The third section of the dashboard, “Hardware” displays information that I could once again see being useful in a variety of situations. I’ve said over and over that this program would be great inside of a large organization but it would still be just as good in a small or medium sized business. With reports being relayed by the administration to the appropriate personnel, changes or replacements could be made where needed without interruption.
The ‘Active Directory’ tab is another section which I am unqualified to comment on.
The final tab, General, once again breaks down a few things into charts and summaries but also adds a list of scanning errors.
I’ve already mentioned that it was possible to move or delete areas of each page but as you’ve likely noticed already they have given us the ability to create our own tabs and customize the pre-existing ones even more by choosing from a list of widgets.
The menu options also give you quick access to just about any section along with a few options that won’t be found elsewhere in the main interface.
Conclusion and final thoughts:
Normally I would like to have covered many of the options and reports in a more detailed manner but frankly there were just too many for my standard approach and I imagine just about anyone reading this review or thinking about trying this software out is advanced enough to not need such details. If you have any questions or need help they currently have a help file available that is fairly detailed. It’s a PDF file and is a separate download but can be found on the same download page that you get the software from. *As an update* I was informed that they are moving the manuals information to their knowledge-base. If that doesn’t happen to answer your questions, they also have a forum you can check out at http://www.lansweeper.com/forum/ which has several helpful sections and they even a youtube channel for more information in video formats! https://www.youtube.com/user/Lansweeper
The menu issue you can see in my screenshots was a bit annoying. It didn’t prove to cause any real usability issues, just required some extra careful clicking. Thankfully this isn’t something you’re likely to see when you try it.
With the information that this beauty puts at your fingertips I find it difficult to believe that anyone in charge of a network wouldn’t want something like this. While I agree that it isn’t designed for home use I really wish they had a watered down version available for power users like myself. It may not be perfect but it’s certainly worth a try. Use caution before downloading the software especially if you aren’t in IT though. You could end up like me and find yourself wanting to keep a copy around at home.
Puts a plethora of information at your fingertips.
Breaks down alerts, charts and reports quite well.
No Home User version.