They say that every dollar made by your organization is touched by technology. The challenge is managing your technology in the most effective way possible. With so many assets to track, though, how is this possible? There are desktops, laptops, smartphones and VoIP phone systems, fax machines, servers, printers, and more. Add to that the proliferation of people working on remote devices, software that needs to be constantly updated, and the need for firewalls and anti-virus programs, and technology can suddenly seem overwhelming.
We surveyed experts about ways to manage IT assets. The good news is that it’s doable if you have good strategies in place, and many organizations are nailing it. Here are some of the best practices shared by experts in the industry.
Cheefoo, the founder of Connectbit, has more than 20+ years of technology experience, specializing in infrastructure, security, SEO and cloud solutions.
Gone are the days whereby you gather a team (usually junior staff) and get them to note down the details of every IT equipment physically. Not only this exercise is strenuous to the team but causes much inconvenience to the users.
There are many IT asset tools out there. I would personally look out features like lightweight, accuracy and ease of deployment. I would recommend remote monitoring & management (RMM) tools like continuum and GFI.
With such tools, you can have an overview of IT assets reports like hardware, software and patch quickly. Moreover, these tools usually bundled with monitoring alerts to inform potential issues like lack of hard disk space, poor disk health and patch levels.
Good asset management tools have a device discovery engine that can crawl your network to audit windows devices that are connected. This push out of asset tools is made possible in a managed IT environment.
For effective IT asset management strategies, it differs with company size. For huge company size, it’s a good practice to generate a monthly assets report. You can track the machine movement for any unmanaged machines. Also,this helps you tally with the new sequential computer name assigned.
As for smaller company size, it’s okay to generate such asset reports on a half-yearly or yearly basis. With ready asset information on hand, you can help your finance and get the IT budget planned on time.
The most important principle in asset management is getting a comprehensive view. With most companies having distributed servers and hosts, one of the most difficult things for IT teams is getting a truly complete view of their organization’s attack surface. Internet-scanning is a really good way to get this broad view, as it helps you find data on every domain or certificate tied to your organization. That data includes everything any of your employees stood up online to power marketing and event microsites, for example, as well as any infrastructure that your adversaries may have built in preparation to launch phishing attacks or other brand impersonation-related attacks against your company. IT teams need at least the same level of visibility as their adversaries have, in order to defend against attacks and patch vulnerabilities before any problems occur.
CEO of Censys
Brian of Censys has been building startup software products and companies for over a decade. Most notably, he’s led product teams at Duo Security (acquired by Cisco), TrustBearer Labs (acquired by Symantec), and Nutshell.
Mark Gaydos is CMO at Nlyte where he oversees teams that help organizations understand the value of automating and optimizing how they manage their computing infrastructure.
For effective IT asset management strategies, organizations should:
- Determine whether the goal of ITAM is operational efficiency, risk management or compliance. While ITAM can help with all of these, it’s best to have specific goals.
- Find the best, next-gen technology to get their arms around the challenge — ITAM is too big of a task to be fulfilled with legacy technology.
- Ensure the technology selected covers the assets deemed most critical (servers, switches, laptops, desktops, medical devices – more importantly IoT devices). This will vary by organization.
- Understand what information is needed and wanted, how frequently the information needs to be collected and what it needs to be reconciled against.
- Determine what other systems of record, and individuals in the organization need access to that information.
- Compliance and Risk Management. The widespread adoption of the Internet of Things (IoT) has drastically impacted the definition of an asset. Today, the scope of asset management should include any asset that can store data, has an IP address, or poses a security risk. This would include BYOD; public cloud applications; Wi-Fi enabled, locally attached printers; and more. Newer compliance sanctions like GDPR have increased the need to tighten up on IT asset management to ensure data privacy. A critical best practice here is a thorough auditing of all assets. Auditing is a continual process, and the best defense in knowing whether software or hardware assets present a threat to data security or have the potential for a larger disruptive event. Additionally, for compliance, your discovery tools should provide an accurate representation of licensing agreements and which users are allowed which application and device. When an employee leaves, compliance also requires the relevant devices and applications are brought back into the system and cleaned or disposed of, as required.
- Business Scalability and the Cloud. Before putting together a budget to add people, applications, or locations, organizations need to know what assets could be repurposed, and what demands new acquisition. Also, the cloud now is an integral part of any business scaling up, with cost-sensitive businesses choosing to add new applications in the cloud. Thus, the ability to automate processes and easily update inventory and service desk requests, is really essential to supporting any scaling upward.
- End user experience. The endpoint is where IT asset management can either break down or be of great value from a productivity standpoint. Often, assets may be refreshed simply because users ask for replacements, since no one is tracking how long they have been in use. Alternately, assets are used until they break, or user frustration mounts due to app performance times and limited storage on older models. Having an automated system in place – with set refresh dates and one that captures IT service tickets and requests– will flag performance issues and provide a more productive user experience.
Senior Product Director at Ivanti
Do the IT asset management challenges listed below sound familiar?
- You’re migrating to a new OS, and need to know how many devices each employee is issued, the hardware details, and which users to contact before the migration
- You need to know that paid software licenses are actually being used throughout your organization in order to appropriately manage vendor renewal agreements
- For compliance, you need an audit trail of assets to be able to meet SOC2 and Sarbanes-Oxley compliance standards
- You have trouble getting assets back from off-boarded employees
- The increasing variety of connected devices is creating a security nightmare
Often this information is non-existent, or needed data is buried within purchasing and finance systems. As a result of this complexity, IT asset management can be time-consuming and inaccurate.
The above are just a few examples that highlight the growing need for thing management: accurately and timely tracking every detail about the laptops, desktops, monitors, smartphones, tablets; data center gear like servers and switches; sensors and new-age capital equipment central to business productivity and profitability.
Arthur offers the following tips to future-proof any asset management needs:
- Forget the value of the machines – value of data is exponential relative to the value of hardware
- Audits don’t have to be painful – with the right solution, you’re audit-ready
- Keep security top of mind – lock down every asset your organization possesses
- Democratize asset management – IT not the only gatekeeper; give all stakeholders direct access
- Don’t settle for the mondo suite – choose best-of-breed technologies tailored to your needs
- Think beyond the laptop – everything is a thing that needs to be managed
- Expand your sense of time – adopt track it before you receive it and after it dies as your motto
Benefits of implementing IT Asset Management tools:
- Removal of Risk: The more insight you have into your deployed software estate, the better you can protect it. Software Asset Management helps to guard organizations from financially crippling software audits that come fast and unexpected and can leave IT budgets tighter than anticipated at the beginning of the year.
- Increased Visibility: The average company adopts so much software each year that it can be difficult to keep up with the different contract terms and allotment rules. With a full report of this information, along with inventory and usage information, companies are able to make better decisions about the management and consumption of software assets, saving money through optimization and the removal of software license/compliance fees.
- Optimized IT Resources: Automating the management of your software estate gives your IT team back time and budget to focus on more business-critical tasks instead of manually tracking assets.
Best practices for IT Asset Management:
- Avoid Inaccurate Inventory: The key to getting any SAM project right is high quality data, but that data is wasted without the right processes and expertise. Organizations are faced with the challenge of collating software deployment data across virtual environments, cloud platforms, operating systems and hardware. For this reason, it’s imperative that IT leaders have accurate inventory data, so they have a clear understanding of how their operating model should look in the short term, and the long term.
- Dodge Complex Contracts: Deciphering software license agreement terms and conditions isn’t a new problem for IT teams, but with the rise of the cloud and increasingly complex IT environments, contracts have never been more complicated. This shift often means that software use rights are not fully understood or effectively leveraged. This is why IT teams need to take the time to break down their software contracts, or risk poor deployment down the road.
- Successfully Manage Entitlements: If contracts and entitlements are not fully understood, they cannot be managed properly across distributed organizations. IT professionals need an entitlement support system in place to ensure that every purchase is properly recorded with specific use rights. This is a problem in getting to successful asset management. The challenge is finding and deriving the right original license entitlement, which in some cases can be more than 10 years old, and then understanding each subsequent change, upgrade, true-up and associated license rights. Almost all of this original data is in multiple formats in multiple systems (pdf, xls, PO, invoices, etc.), making it difficult to properly decipher and often involving multiple manual processes.
Kevin Hooton leads the consulting and services group for North America at SoftwareONE, specializing in software asset management (SAM). Kevin has more than 20 years of experience helping clients increase revenues, lower costs, and make smarter business decisions, with a focus on enabling clients to maximize the value of their software investments.
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