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ZOL Startup Challenge Finalists: Softwarehouse – Hardware Inventory

With just six days left before the ZOL Startup Challenge finals, this short series will profile each finalist in the challenge, exploring what they hope to achieve and how they intend to do so. 

Startup: Softwarehouse
Product: Software Inventory
Individual: Matthew Hood
Sector: Enterprise/Network Administration
Product Summary: An all in one application for organisations to monitor, optimise and secure their computer networks and hardware
Product Status: Live

Hardware Inventory is a proprietary Windows based application developed by Softwarehouse, a local startup that began on the back of their Quickstem Suite – a floriculture management software that has been used by farmers in Zimbabwe, South Africa, Kenya, Ethiopia, and the Netherlands among others. Quickstem was beginning to gain traction until the global recession resulted in less demand for the product, combined with local challenges the flower growing sector has faced locally.

Out of such a gloomy outlook Matthew Hood and his partner have developed Hardware Inventory as a fully local and functional prototype for network administrators and IT Managers in the education, banking, industrial and other sectors. The application gives its users access to comprehensive information concerning bandwidth usage, serial numbers of every single hardware component on computers and networks (including hard drives and memory), internet health and removable disk usage. The application’s central dashboard, detailed graphical charts and analytics make it a very compelling and pragmatic solution.

According to Matthew Hood, they developed the application s a response to general complaints about excessive internet charges and hardware theft from their clients. Research failed to find a single product that effectively dealt both with these issues on a localized level, leading to Hardware Inventory. The information age not only arrived with a promise of increased productivity and convenience, but an equally high risk to security, productivity and internal data. Hardware Inventory is seeking to become the first point of defense for Zimbabwean companies.

The software has just emerged from a beta phase and is operating at a local school on a test basis. Softwarehouse believes that while there are numerous products with similar functions for both individual users and teams, their strength lies in not only having full control and ownership of the source code (for customisation purposes) but in a reseller distribution model they are developing. This will avail opportunities for various ICT support services providers to sell the software to their customers.

In a nutshell the product is able to provide the following benefits:

  • Hardware Monitoring: Each client PC reports a list of hardware to the server, in the event hardware is removed or added the system immediately sends out alerts by email or SMS.  The system can also monitor variables such as hard drive space and warn when they are running low.
  • Removable Disk Usage: Report on all file changes on removable media.
  • Internet Health: By performing regular checks, to custom destinations, the system can report and graph on an internet connection’s health.
  • Bandwidth Usage: Report and graph on each client PC bandwidth usage.  Usage can be grouped to easily differentiate internal, from local Zimbabwe traffic, from international.

More information can be found at www.softwarehouse.co.zw/HardwareInventory.pdf


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10 thoughts on “ZOL Startup Challenge Finalists: Softwarehouse – Hardware Inventory

  1. Pathetic.

    A quick google yields this
    http://www.paessler.com/prtg/features

    Sponsorship will hard to come by next time at this rate. So many of us were following this whole thing expecting fireworks but none to be found. No sensible ROI if i was to consider sponsoring this.

    From the article, all the things listed can be done by Nagios (minus a few minor things) that is if you wish to get a world class product for free.
    Seems the only advantage of someone opting to use this software is because these guys have the source code which they can change, which software house doesn’t have, which software doesnt do custom changes?
    As about this software becoming the first point of defence, i beg to differ. You will need more than just monitoring bandwidth usage to do that.
    Guys where are the new ideas, is this Barcamp about people who can recreate products that are already on the Market or about new ideas and apps.
    I am disappointed, nuthing mind blowing here.

    1. I fear that first this article, while a good introduction, does not explain the goal of the product fully and you are jumping to conclusions, we did our research into competing products before beginning, in no way is this meant to compete with Nagios, Cyber-roam etc it is not a network defense mechanism at all.  In fact it compliments products like Nagios as it has SNMP query abilities so Nagios can get hardware information and changes and drive usage statistics from the application, two vital parts of the program Nagios has no way of getting as it does not rely on client side installations.

      The system is meant to address more than bandwidth monitoring, while this is useful for a small business who cannot afford a $700 server or Cyber-roam router. Many larger companies, who already have this infrastructure, have expressed interest in the system for its hardware theft reporting and removable disk usage.

      Our clients have asked us many times for a very simple, cheap solution to reducing their internet charges and protecting their hardware from theft.  We failed to find a cost effective all in one solution and feel this does both of those and more and pricing will be very low compared to large complex solutions small businesses cannot afford.  It is also very easy to use as again it is targeted at the business user not an IT expert, functions are limited – on purpose.

      I would encourage you to find out more about the product once it is available to market and see the potential for yourself, I think you have jumped to conclusions regarding the market segment it is targeting.  So far the response we have had has been very positive and already a number of customers have expressed interest in a day one purchase, as well a number of local antivirus re sellers showing interest in adding it to their suit of programs they offer.

      As far as investing in companies, this is a small product in a suit of applications we have or are developing.  Our main suite Quickstem is very successful as demonstrated by its usage around Africa and in the Netherlands and its sales are still strong despite the current state of the international horticulture industry.  After four years of hard work on it, beating the old competing products, the time requirements for Quickstem are much less so it is only smart to use it as a financial base to try our hand at other products of which Hardware Inventory is only one.  The company is stable and profitable, even in the current market climates, so nothing wrong with diversifying and trying out more mass market products.

  2. All the best!

    I do hope they also release a performance profile. Not knowing how they will implement their application, am sure most Sys Ads and IT staff who would take interest in it will be concerned about performance. With computers running antivirus software in addition to all kinds of information systems, it would be good to have it running without too much performance overhead.

    Not meaning to lecture, I also hope they allay fears on security as the application transmits data and alerts beyond the network boundaries.

    1. Indeed this is a concern, at the moment the system targets any Windows XP or newer installation and currently averages out at 8 – 10mg of ram on the client.  The most intensive operation seems to be the remove able disk usage reporting, ie what files are being copied onto or edited on flash sticks.  We will continue to endeavor to make it as light weight as possible and look at whether there is enough of a market for releasing a non Windows client.

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