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Implementing HP and Dell Client Monitoring into a 3rd-Party Help Desk Solution

Created: 11 Sep 2006 • Updated: 07 Jul 2009
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Interested in automatically creating third-party help desk tickets using HP Client Manager and Dell Client Manager? Well, read on.

Wouldn't it be nice if all of the helpful monitoring settings of the HP Client Manager and Dell Client Manager could be used to automatically open a ticket in a third-party help desk solution? Actually, it's not hard at all, as long as your third-party help desk solution supports opening tickets by e-mail. In this article I will do my best to show how I accomplished this task and saved who-knows-how-many hours of downtime for our users. Once my help desk and technicians got used to receiving these tickets, they eventually saw the benefits to an approach like this.

Just to warn you, since more than likely you were like me and did not actively manage these health monitoring areas, your third-party help desk solution will more than likely be actively opening tickets the first couple of weeks. So before you do this make sure you have management approval, and you should not run into any problems. I also recommend testing this out and ensuring you have everything configured the way you want before you go live with this solution. Try your best to include your field technicians in determining threshold levels and what areas that should be monitored. People are more likely to accept change if they are actively involved in the planning and testing process. Let them feel like they have ownership in the entire process and you will save yourself lots of Advil from dealing with the complaints.

The HP Client Manager and Dell Client Manager do an excellent job of monitoring client's health. I have noticed the benefits in being able to proactively monitor our desktops and laptops. One thing I noticed and was asked often by management was exactly if we could incorporate all of this health monitoring information into our third-party help desk solution. What I found when looking into this question was that it was fairly easy to implement this type of activity using the Altiris console.

I am assuming that the help desk version you are using is not Altiris', since you are reading this, because that would be very easily set up. I am also assuming that your current third-party help desk solution does allow for cases to be submitted by e-mail. With that little disclaimer being said it is fairly easy to set up HP and Dell's Client Manager Health Monitoring feature to automatically create tickets into your help desk solution.

One thing that I have that makes this especially easy is that I do have a help desk staff that monitors the cases coming in. The third-party help desk solution that we currently run in our environment does not allow for automatic assignment to a particular person (but it does default to the help desk). I can only hope that your third-party help desk solution allows for automatic assignment of cases to either individuals or groups. I have been assured that this feature will be fixed in the next release of our help desk software, but I am not holding my breath. My help desk personnel have been troopers, though, and have worked through the duplicate entries and worked out the other problems we ran into without so much as a complaint. With this being said let's get to the meat of the topic.

One thing I hope for in the future is that HP and Dell come together and get their formats for their client manager agents to look and behave similarly. Is this going to happen? I tend to doubt it. The way you configure it is different and the scheduling is handled in a different way as well. Once you get used to it, it becomes second nature anyway. Thankfully though, Altiris has given us enough cohesiveness to make submitting a case to a third-party help desk solution similar for both the HP Client Manager and Dell Client Manager health monitoring policies. The concept is the same; just the setup screens appear slightly different. I will briefly touch on both the Dell configuration and the HP configuration.

If your help desk solution supports e-mail tickets then it most likely has an e-mail address that these cases are submitted to. You will need to have this information before you can configure the client health monitoring e-mail feature. You also want to make sure that when you configured your Altiris Console that you included a valid e-mail address. I find it helpful to get confirmation e-mails from my help desk software just to make sure that everything is still working normally. You probably don't want to include your own e-mail address so you probably want to have your e-mail administrators create a generic account that you can access when you need to.
We will start with the Dell configuration portion.

Figure 1

Click to view.

Navigate to the following screen in your Altiris Console. If you scroll through this you will see where you can configure the different thresholds for the client health monitoring policy. Once you have those areas configured, click on the pencil located next to the Default automated actions field. This will open the screen below.

Figure 2

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If you do not have the Send e-mail field, then simply select e-mail automated action from the drop down list and click Add. If you already have this field then simply click on the pencil to the left. Either way you should be given a screen similar to this one.

Figure 3

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This is the screen where you enter the information to contact your help desk solution. You first need to ensure that it is enabled by placing a check mark in the appropriate box. In the To Address: you would enter your help desk e-mail address that automatically opens cases. There are a number of variables available in the message field and it is up to you to determine the information you want included.

It appears to me that Dell uses common Altiris variables whereas HP seems to have some custom variables geared for HP computers. If you are unfamiliar with the variables that Altiris uses you should be able to find this information in some of Altiris' documentation. Once you have configured the information to your liking, click OK. Click on Apply on the screen that is still open. Ensure that the Dell Client Monitoring Policy is Enabled and click Apply. You should now begin receiving e-mail tickets to your third-party help desk solution.

The HP Client Health Monitoring is similar except where you set your information up is different. I will simply include screenshots and some general information below to show how to set this portion up and the directions above will mostly still apply to the HP Client Health Monitoring policy.

Figure 4

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This is where you would go to configure which Client Health Notifications you want to monitor. You also need to ensure that each area you want the HP Client Manager to monitor is enabled and configured. Under each of these topics, for example - CPU Error Alerts, you would need to configure the e-mail portion to enable Altiris to open up a ticket under your third-party help desk software.

Figure 5

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The variables are different in the HP Client Health Notification area than in the Dell Client Manager area. You simply need to scroll down in this screen and you will see the variable options. They are as follows:

Predefined Action Parameters
%altirisResourceName% Name
%altirisResourceName% Name
%altirisComputerDomainName%   Domain
%altirisHpCmsDeviceType% Device Type
%altirisHpCmsAlert% Alert
%altirisHpCmsAlertId% AlertId
%altirisNotificationMessage% Message
%altirisResourceId% ResourceGuid

Once again, configure the variables to fit what you want included in your help desk tickets. You probably don't want to overload the ticket with information, and you most likely want to test the e-mail feature to ensure the information is what you are expecting.

Figure 6

Click to view.

This has greatly increased our ability to proactively manage our desktops and laptops. It also seems to make the users happy to see that we are at their computers fixing minor issues before they can possibly become major issues. Some of our users have actually asked how we knew that their hard drive space was running low and were amazed to find out that this valuable solution from Altiris is offered for free. With this added functionality to automatically create help desk tickets in our third-party application it makes it that much easier.

Sometimes you will want to routinely look at your Client Health Monitoring Policy and ensure that it is set to reasonable levels. One situation I found was that by default some of the hard drive monitoring policies are set to 30% free space. If the user has an 80 Gig hard drive it is hard to warrant sending a technician out to check on a drive that still has 24 Gig free. Use the trial and error approach if you are unsure of what settings you should configure and what thresholds you should set. I hope that this benefits someone out there and makes their jobs a little bit easier.