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KACE SMA 7.2 - New Service Desk Widget Review

ZJXLtI.pngWith the 7.2 release of the KACE Systems Management Appliance comes the welcome addition of widgets pertaining to the service desk within the appliance. Finally we have the ability to show Dashboard highlights on the front screen of our SMA's.

So just how much help has adding these widgets in been to those of us that are tasked with Ticket management for our organisations?

First, it is fair to say that there is a good selection of them available, 40 in total and they can broadly be split down into the following categories:

  • Active Ticket Widgets
  • Closed Ticket Widgets
  • Overdue Ticket Widgets
  • Due Ticket Widgets
  • Reopened Ticket Widgets
  • Average Ticket Resolution Widgets
As an initial look, we are getting a fairly broad spectrum of metrics and data, so let's break it down a little more...

Active tickets can be sorted by:

  • Priority - Useful to if you have any high priority tickets outstanding
  • Category - Helpful if you are monitoring a specific category
  • Owner - Good to see who is holding all the work
  • Queue - Great if you have multiple queues to manage
  • Date Range - Helpful to spot if you have any really old calls
But which of my queues are these widgets reporting on, can you drill down to get more information when required and are you able change the scope of any of the metric graphs?

Closed Ticket widgets are a bit more of a mystery and they are very closely connected to Overdue and Due Ticket widgets, in that any closed ticket widget you may choose to use is further restricted by whether or not the ticket was due or overdue when it was closed. Clearly to make use of this function you will need to make sure that you have SLA's fully configured within your Service Desk Queue, if you can work out which queue the widgets are reporting from... But how, I wonder, do you get a simple widget that tells you how many calls you have closed in total today?

Reopened Ticket widgets are an interesting path to take, as I am sure most service desk managers know that a well managed desk should have a minimal number of reopened calls, as that tends to illustrate poor resolution or sometimes even poor customer communication. So to have so many options to view data, in an area that is not really of too much use...

Finally Average time to resolve ticket widgets are a great way to visually see what before was data only available from a report and I have to say being able to see the average time to resolve tickets by queue, can give a new level of insight, in particular if you have your technicians working in separate queues.

But overall, and here is really where the "rubber meets the road", these new widgets, just how useful are they in the real Service Desk world.

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If you want to have an Admin console logged in all day, if you want your data displayed in a way that is undefinable and if you love the colour Blue, then it is just possible you may find something of use in this new functionality, but while there are still issue such as the screen refresh not updating widgets, so you have to do them individually and an inability to define exactly where in your KACE box the data is coming from, you may feel the need to continue your Quest.

Indigo Mountain bringing colour, value, useful functionality to your sysadmin life and helping you to drive more value out of your KACE Service desk.

Click here to check out our latest DASHboard release.



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Automatically enable new Windows 10 builds in KACE K1000 SMA

Hi everybody,

since Microsoft changed its Windows lifecycle policy in Windows 10 to release a new OS build about twice a year (more information here) you may get a mix of different builds in your network inventory after some time.
Quests KACE SMA (aka K1000) recognizes every Windows 10 build as a new, independent OS in most parts of the appliance software.
That's quite helpful in some usage scenarios and in some it is not.

When I recently added a new Windows 10 1703 machine for testing purposes, it did not receive any managed installs and custom inventory rules at all - because "Microsoft Windows 10 Pro x64 (10.0.15063)" as it is called in the OS list was not enabled yet for all the software installers and custom inventory objects in our KACE SMA.
So I had to edit all these items manually and add Windows 10 1703 to the list of supported operating systems - what took quite a while.
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If you (like me) don't want to do that every time a new Windows 10 build appears on your network here is way to avoid it:

Create a ticket rule that automatically adds missing Windows 10 builds to all your software installers and custom inventory rules!

Note: the following instructions are provided without any warranty, make backups, test carefully and use this at your own risk!

1. Go to "Configuration" section of your Service Desk module and to the "Rules" then
Hint: you can create ticket rules like this even if you normally do not use the service desk module!
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2. If you want, switch to the service desk queue where you want to create the rule in - but it does not really matter which one it is since this one does not change any tickets at all. In this example we stay in the default queue.
Now hit the "Choose action" button and select "New (SQL)" then.
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3. Enter a name for the rule like "Enable missing Windows 10 builds".
Be sure the check box "Enabled" is checked if you plan to run this scheduled - if you prefer manual execution, uncheck it!
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In the "Select SQL" section, write this:
SELECT 1 AS 'HD_TICKET.ID'
4. Leave all the following options unchecked except "Run update query". In this box, enter this:
INSERT INTO SOFTWARE_OS_JT 
SELECT
  softw.ID soID,
  ost.ID AS osID
FROM
  OPERATING_SYSTEMS ost,
  SOFTWARE softw
WHERE
  (softw.FILE_NAME <> '' OR softw.INVENTORY_RULE <> '') AND
  ost.NAME LIKE '%Windows 10 %' AND
  ost.ID NOT IN (SELECT
    softOSJT.OS_ID
  FROM
    SOFTWARE_OS_JT softOSJT
  WHERE
    softOSJT.SOFTWARE_ID = softw.ID
) AND
  ost.ID IN (SELECT
    machOS.OS_ID
  FROM
    MACHINE machOS
  GROUP BY
    machOS.OS_ID
) AND
  softw.ID IN (SELECT
    softOSJT.SOFTWARE_ID
  FROM
    SOFTWARE_OS_JT softOSJT
    INNER JOIN OPERATING_SYSTEMS osNAMES ON softOSJT.OS_ID = osNAMES.ID
  WHERE
    softOSJT.SOFTWARE_ID = softw.ID AND
    osNAMES.NAME LIKE '%Windows 10 %' AND
    osNAMES.ID IN
(SELECT
      machOS2.OS_ID
    FROM
      MACHINE machOS2
    GROUP BY
      machOS2.OS_ID
))

Some explanation:
Take care of software objects with file attachments (installers) or custom inventory rules
Only select OS that are not already in the list of enabled OS for this software
Only select OS that are currently present in your active inventory - we don't want abandoned builds
Only select software items that already have at least one Windows 10 build enabled and limit this list to active inventory builds as well

5. Now set your schedule in the last section below. "15 minutes" is the shortest interval to choose, I personally run this once every hour. This query should not cause much impact on your appliance database performance, but you should test this in your environment.
If you prefer to run this manually, leave the "Schedule" section and disable the rule. You can still run it by hitting the "Run Now" button on demand.
Don't forget to save your work by hitting the "Save" button!
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That's it! Carefully test this (make a backup!!), the "Last run log" section in the ticket rule editor shows you the last query results with a number of all the newly inserted software/OS relations and any other output of the database engine.

Enjoy!
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Understanding patching and its best practices

Patch management is the process of obtaining, testing, and installing patches for software on devices. The K1000 enables you to automate patch management, which helps to improve software functionality and protect devices and networks from vulnerabilities. With patch management you can detect and deploy the latest security patches and software updates for Windows and Mac devices that use the K1000 appliance.

 

The purpose of this article is understand how patching works and apply best practices to accomplish better results without impacting system performance (clients and K1000 Appliance respectively)

 

NOTE: The Patch Management component is supported on Windows and Mac devices only. Patch Management is not available for Linux devices.

 

Before creating patching task, there are some pre-requirements that need to be checked:

 

1.     Ports and URL’s

Websites that must be accessible to the K1000 appliance – Patch download requires ports and URL’s to be whitelisted. For additional information and details review web resources listed below.

 

·         https://support.quest.com/technical-documents/kace-sma/7.2/administrator-guide/164#TOPIC-733936

 

·         Which network ports and URLs are required for the KACE K1000 appliance to function? (111775)

https://support.quest.com/kb/SOL111775

 

2.     Patch-subscription workflow and Download settings

How to apply Patch subscriptions prior downloading patches (patch signatures and packages). Patch-subscriptions allows selection of desired patches (based on publishers); prior proceed with patch downloads. For additional details review link below.

 

https://support.quest.com/technical-documents/kace-sma/7.2/administrator-guide/165

 

3.     Patch Smart Labels - Using Smart Labels for patching

You can use Smart Labels to automatically group patches, filter patches by category and severity; Using Smart Patch Labels help to address patching tasks quicker; Patch Smart labels are used for detect and deploy respectively.

 

How to create and use smart labels, please check web resource below:

 

https://support.quest.com/technical-documents/kace-sma/7.2/administrator-guide/29#TOPIC-733396

 

4.     Create Smart Labels to organize devices by type, such as desktop, server, and laptop. Restrict the patch actions to the devices in the labels that you select. Limiting the run to labels, especially Smart Labels, helps to ensure that patches are applied appropriately.

 

More about patch smart labels:

https://support.quest.com/technical-documents/kace-sma/7.2/administrator-guide/30#TOPIC-733400

 

 

5.     Configuring patch schedules

Detect, deploy and rollback task selection take place in patching schedule configuration; appropriate and balanced schedule configuration provide best patching results and faster patching completion time.

 

Details about patch schedule configuration:

https://support.quest.com/technical-documents/kace-sma/7.2/administrator-guide/168#TOPIC-733953

 

6.     Patching process and different stages

During patching process different type of activities take place, each activity counts as a unique stage, these are handshake, detect, deploy, verify, or rollback depending on type of activity selected (patch schedule).

 

For each stage agent (client or computer) communicates back with K1000 (upload logs) to then continue with the next activity or stage; however sometimes upload logs can result as an error preventing patching activity to complete.

For this type of situation please review:

 

What does "Error (Log Upload Failed)" mean in the Current Phase of the schedule? (204675)

https://support.quest.com/kace-systems-management-appliance/kb/204675

 

7.     List Patching error codes and common issues

 

A List of Failed Error Codes for Scripting or Patching (Detection or Deployment Phase) in K1000 Server (111687)

https://support.quest.com/kace-systems-management-appliance/kb/111687

 

Error Message: Your patch subscription has expired. Please contact support for assistance. (146363)

https://support.quest.com/kace-systems-management-appliance/kb/146363

 

What items to check for when getting "HANDSHAKE error" during a scheduled patching job? (128241)

https://support.quest.com/kace-systems-management-appliance/kb/128241


K1000 Patch Status Showing Downloading (147748)

https://support.quest.com/kace-systems-management-appliance/kb/147748

 

8.     Other patching useful resources – Best practices and tips.


KACE SMA Patching - Best practices and recommendations (206616)

https://support.quest.com/kace-systems-management-appliance/kb/206616


Administrator Guide - Best practices for patching

https://support.quest.com/technical-documents/kace-sma/7.2/administrator-guide/164#TOPIC-733935

 

Supported applications and operating systems for K1000 patching (112030)

https://support.quest.com/kb/112030

 

 

K1000 Patching is great and complete feature that allow system administrators keep system safe of potential vulnerabilities, understanding the options and resources available is important to optimize patching results. Issues, questions or suggestions feel free contact Kace Support.

 

 

 

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5 Easy Steps to Change Management Support with the K1000 Service Desk

From time to time, I will get the question “Does the KACE Service Desk Support Change Management?” More often than not, most customers just need the ability to track any change that occurs and possibly get an approval before they commit the change. Simple Enough.

If that’s the case, the KACE Service Desk can definitely support that type of workflow.  In my experience, any customer that is doing this today has accomplished this by creating a specific queue for “Change Requests”.  There are many advantages to doing it this way; for instance, a custom form can be created, I can restrict who can submit change requests as well as who approves change requests, the default email templates can be customized to be more “change” friendly, reports can be change specific, and lastly, ticket rules can differ for change requests.

If you don’t have the time or energy to devote to building this out yourself, I will do my best to get you started in the right direction.

  1. Create a New Queue for Change Requests

If you are using the KACE Service Desk today, you would create a new queue very similar to what you did with the initial setup of the help desk queue.  You will also need to decide if you want to convert emails into change requests and if so, create a CR@yourcompany.com mailbox. 

  1. Create User Labels

You will need to decide who can submit a change request.  If it can be anyone, then you can use the option for Allowing All Users as Submitters option.  If you want to be more selective, you can create a label to include the appropriate people.  You will also need to decide who can approve the change request and in this scenario, I would create a label called CAB and assign that to the Queue.

  1. Creating The Form

One of the biggest advantages of the KACE Service Desk is how easy it is to customize.  Not only can we create custom fields like Start Date, End Date, and Service Affected but we can also rename labels as well.  Instead of using the field “Title”, I can use “Describe the Change”.  Since a change can really involve anything, I would recommend hiding the “Device” field and only using the Asset field.  I would also rename the Asset label and call it “Configuration Item” or “CI”.  I can customize the impact values to be more change oriented such as Major, Significant, Standard and Minor. I can create statuses called Approved and Rejected.  Since custom fields can also be a link, you could also potentially include a link to a shared calendar should you want to plan accordingly (directly from the change request). And one last item to mention, by default at a queue level, the approval field is hidden so you’ll just want to make sure that you unhide that option. 

 

  1. Creating Processes

This step is completely optional.  Should you want to really define multiple stages that should happen as part of the change request, this is where you can use the Process section to define it.  For instance, I may want approval first, then I may want the change request assigned to the appropriate person, then I may want to analyze the change, etc. All of this could be accomplished in one ticket for sure but if you are a larger organization there may be more stages involved and this is where our processes would come in handy.

  1. Reporting

While KACE doesn’t have an integrated calendar, it does offer the ability to do custom reports.  My recommendation would be to create the following custom report.  This will allow you to see what changes have been planned for the current month.  Go to Reports>>Choose Action>>New Wizard

Title: Changes Planned for this Month

Category: Change Management

Topic: Ticket: Change Request

Fields to Display: Approval, Approver, Description of change, impact, Start Date, End Date, Ticket ID, Category, etc.

Order by: Start Date: Ascending

Filters: Status Does Not Equal Closed and Start Date is During this Month

To sum this all up fairly quickly, the KACE Service Desk is so easy to use and customize, you can really build just about anything.  It’s only limited by your imagination. 

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KACE SmartLabel for machines with CD/DVD-writer

Hi everybody,

here comes a quick tip for your KACE SMA (formerly known as K1000):
When I recently planned to deploy CDBurnerXP to my machines (hint: click on "more download options" on the download page to find a nice MSI for rollout!) I wondered if it would be possible to automatically deploy the software to all machines that have a CD oder DVD-writer built in.

Short answer: it is. You need two things:
1. A report that tells you which writer models you have in your network
2. A smart label to capture all machines with these writers

The report

You can create the needed report with the report wizard of your SMA. Here are the steps:

1. Start the wizard, name your report and choose topic "Device"
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2. The only field you need to display is "CD/DVD Drives" under in the "Drive Information" section
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3. No need for sorting, so proceed to "Sort and Breaks". Make sure you enable "Break header" behind the "CD/DVD Drives" field
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4. No need for filters here, so just finish.

The SmartLabel
Next step is to run your new report to find out how your drives are named. I prefer running the report as TXT file since you can work with clever tools like Notepad++ marking feature.
As you can see in the following screenshot, all my optical drives with writer capability include the term "DVD+-RW". Lookout for these terms through all the drive models the report threw out and note them!
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When you identified all relevant terms, go to your inventory and start a new smart label. Create a line with "CD/DVD Drives" "contains" "<<your term>>" for each of your terms and link them with "OR".
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I'm sure you won't find more than a few different terms, these kind of drives seem to have very similar descriptions these days...



...and that's it! Now, what can you do with that? Two suggestions:

Create a managed installs with your favourite burning software:
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Create a KACE script to block using the DVD writer at all (this setting is only for the integrated Windows disc burning features, it does not block 3rd party burning software!):
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