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Agent - Based vs. Agentless Management Software Apps

Posted on 2006-04-07
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I have been tasked to put together the Pros / Cons of Agent - Based vs. Agentless Management Software Apps.

For Example - A software inventory system (like Sitekeeper) that would report what is installed on a computer, what would be better Agent? or Agentless?  and Why.
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Question by:stratasoft
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by:t_swartz
ID: 16403092
Well, I've used both types off and on for over 5 years. If you are only dealing w/ one subnet, agentless seems to work pretty well. I have to deal w/ 100's of subnets, the agent based just works so much better. If you have laptops, some of the agent based products will allow alternate ip addresses for checkins, so a laptop out of the office for a month would still check in at the set interval, as long as it was connected.
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by:Eric B
ID: 16403113
If I understand the question....

Agent will automatically keep track and report automatically. It is run in the background and will be monitoring 24/7.
Agentless must be executed and access/security/permissions of the pc must be setup. Agentless usually run as batch files and transfer upon a demand/request.
There are many more explanations of pros and cons but if you can provide with more specifics, I can elaborate or get more to the point. :)
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by:t_swartz
ID: 16403121
If you tell me what you are trying to accomplish w/ the tools I assume you are lookig to purchase, I may be able to help. I've just completed scrubbing through quite a few products in that catagory. The one we decided on does patch, asset, sw distro, scheduled tasks, av and spyware statuses depending on products you use, event log montoring, lan watch etc...
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by:stratasoft
ID: 16403214
Here is 1 of my issues:

Currently we use SiteKeeper to keep track of software licensing across 4 Domains.   It appears what Site Keeper is reporting is inaccurate.   We came to this conclusion because we compared site keeper's reports to our Trend Micro Server's reports.   Seeing that Sitekeeper is agentless and Trend Mirco is agent-based.  

We also have computers out in the field that are not on the domain therefore we are not sure if Sitekeeper is hitting those PC's.   But those PC's have Trend loaded on them, which leads me to believe in our envrioment Agent-based is what we would need.  We also have a ton of different subnets.

So I have been tasked to see what is better Cost, Functionally, time management etc for our company.    
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by:Eric B
ID: 16403242
I really think agent based works because in general, all these agent services are configure to point to an ip to upload its information that it collects on a schedule. Keep in mind that the software purchase may be expensive but in the short/long term, it will be cheaper as it is automated. Plus, in an agent based application, you will KNOW that all the pc's have this feature installed and running.
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by:giltjr
ID: 16405698
I would try to focus on why there is a difference in what the two are reportin, other than agent vs. agentless.  Example: Could SiteKeeper be missing things because:
     
     it does not know about that software package
     it is only scanning the C drive and the missing software is on a D drive
     it is only scanning local hard drives and the software in installed/setup to run from a LAN share
     it does not have authorization to read directory where the software is installed
     it is scheduled to scan at a specific time of day and some of the PC's are turned off then

If you are missing PC's that are not part of your domain, then I would look at why you are missing them.  A properly setup agentless scanner can work as well as a agent based one and is generally less expensive.  If you set it up to scan based on IP subnets, as long as you know about all of the subnets, you will find everything.  

An agent based one will need to be installed on every PC.  If PC's are installed that you don't know about, you will not know that you are supposed to be collecting information and so you will not know that you are missing PC's.
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Author Comment

by:stratasoft
ID: 16416672
How reliable is agentless across muiltple subnets, remember this in in a large WAN enviroment scanning 4 domains.
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by:Eric B
ID: 16416836
As long as the routes are properly established and the firewall has the approriate ports open, you should be ok. The fact that it is agent based, will strengthen the fact that the agent "must" connect to transmit data or re-transmit if neccessary. Obviously, you should look at your software options that will offer the best guarantees of connection. Some software will poll the agents to obtain data, so you would know which pc's are not responding. You can also look at SNMP based applications.
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Accepted Solution

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giltjr earned 1500 total points
ID: 16417146
The reliablity of agent vs. agentless because of a WAN and 4 domians it not really an issue.  Both need to connect over the same network.  An agentless may need more bandwidth depending on what you are doing, but they both need a reliable network no matter what.  There are still two things talking to eac other.

If you are doing software invetory a agent based one may be better, as you are scanning the harddrive from the computer itself.  Infact most software inventory based programs are probablly agent based because you don't want to scan a harddrive over a network.  

You need to look at what you want to do, some things are done just as well with a agentless package and something are done better with a agent based one.
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by:t_swartz
ID: 16418226
One other item, is security an issue? Do you want to be able to "track" laptops that are out of the office? Some of the agent based ones will allow alternate ip addresses so they will be able to check in from anywhere. The agent based ones we've tested were all encrypting their traffic to the asset server locally and over the internet. regarding laptops, Everdream has an option where you can track assets and alert them if something is stolen, and they will assist w/ the recovery of that item.
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Author Comment

by:stratasoft
ID: 16418268
T_Swartz -- you mentioned that you did some research similar to what I am trying to research.  What software did you end up going with?
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by:Eric B
ID: 16437354
Try to be fair and give assists at least. The answer you accepted is a repeat anyhow.
Whatever.
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