What is IT Asset Tracking?

Discover the difference between asset tracking and IT asset tracking, as well as why and how it works.

Introduction

In recent years, with more organizations in all verticals undergoing Digital Transformation, the terms IT Asset Management and IT Asset Tracking gained importance and became widespread. Executives face the challenge to manage a large fleet of IT assets and might wonder, “Is tracking of IT assets any different from tracking of regular assets?”

The short answer is, yes. Although both of them have similar goals, IT asset tracking brings more than just physical tracking of the assets. It enables companies to monitor the status of both real and virtual resources they possess and through this, it can help optimize your company’s IT spending, reduce IT costs, help your company stay compliant, and decrease security risks.

Before going into details of how it works, let’s define the terms which we are using.

What is Asset Tracking?

In a general sense, asset tracking is a process to follow the location of a physical item or asset. For example, it’s used in e-commerce to enable customers to monitor their shipments or for baggage tracking in airports. Retail companies operating giant volumes of goods use asset tracking to monitor their moving throughout the supply chain – for example, through unique tags scanned at each facility. On large construction sites, GPS trackers help to control the most valuable equipment.

There are various techniques for tracking assets, ranging from basic QR codes and barcodes that devices can read to more sophisticated GPS tags and RFID tags. This method of asset tracking is utilized in industries and business processes where assets change their location frequently, like logistics, transportation, inventory, and stock management.

IT Asset and IT Asset Tracking

According to IT Infrastructure  Library (ITIL) – “IT asset is any financially valuable component that can contribute to the delivery of an IT product or service.” IT assets include tangible assets, such as workstations, laptops, mobile devices, servers, and routers, and intangible assets, such as software, databases, virtual machines, services, and documents, including contracts and specifications.

The term “IT Asset Tracking” refers to tracking, monitoring, and recording all technology assets in an organization’s IT environment. As previously mentioned, tracking of IT assets covers much more than just the physical location of the items. It may help spot illegal license usage, and alert about security breaches when software on a device isn’t updated.

IT Asset Tracking and IT Asset Management

IT Asset Management (ITAM) is much broader than IT Asset Tracking, and it addresses the entire lifecycle of IT assets, not just their inventory status, location, or hardware/software changes. The asset management process begins with acquiring an IT asset and continues through its retirement and disposal. That includes adaptation, correction, maintenance, reporting, auditing, compliance, etc.

IT asset tracking is only a part of ITAM as it deals with some aspects of asset management, such as collecting and storing information about IT assets, tracking location, ownership status, and more.

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Tracking of physical IT assets

When it comes to tracking of physical assets, teams normally go through the following cycle.

First of all, you need to define what exactly you need to track. That means, discover all physical assets, create a database to store information about them, and define the guidelines on how this information is updated and managed. An effective tool for this situation is network inventory as it allows for a fast discovery of all networked devices and updating of their configuration status.

The next task is a regular physical inventory. It leverages unique identification tags like barcodes or QR codes that are widely used in “classical” asset tracking. With mobile inventory, front-line workers can run inventory without manual data entry, by scanning tags that each asset is labeled with. After you scan the tag on an item, data about the asset is collected into the configuration management database (CMDB).

After we have a full picture of our IT infrastructure, we need to monitor their status and track changes., e. g. via network inventory solutions. Network monitoring tools can also help you check if the assets are working properly and, in addition, allow you to collect other useful information.

You can also use barcodes and QR codes to improve the process of equipment lending – be it laptops in a university library, or devices for your distributed team. With this workflow, every loaner device is labeled with a passive tag that is scanned when the device gets checked in or checked out. This gives administrators a picture of how devices are used: which ones are borrowed more often, and by which departments.

And eventually, all physical IT assets move into the retirement phase. That is when IT staff must carefully dispose of them because they might store sensitive information.

Tracking of virtual and software assets

Virtual assets are service subscriptions, documents, contracts, virtual servers, and similar. To track these types of assets, you’ll naturally need more than just physical location tracking. In many cases, the very term “physical location” is not applicable to such assets. Now that companies spend increasingly more on cloud infrastructure services, it’s essential to collect data about all those virtual resources.

Tracking of virtual resources enables you to:

  • discover networked virtual assets and track their changes (run network inventory), e. g. discover all installed software;
  • record the status of documents, contracts, and subscriptions;
  • set up rules to alert license expiration deadlines;
  • manage license compliance.

What are the benefits of IT Asset Tracking software?

Nowadays, every business is an IT business as much as it is dependent on its IT assets – virtual and physical resources to maintain IT processes. IT infrastructure needs constant maintenance to function smoothly, for which the ITAM framework is a recommended solution. IT asset tracking is, in turn, one of the critical components of ITAM. If the company has implemented an effective IT Asset Management solution, executives and leaders will see the following:

  • increased productivity,
  • reduced IT costs,
  • high level of compliance,
  • reduced security risks.

There are many more benefits to IT asset tracking – book a demo with Alloy Software to learn more about our ITAM solution.

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