When you think of best practices in IT, what comes to mind first? Maintaining a very solid security posture? Sure, that’s a big one. But what about IT asset management? (Or IT inventory management, as the case may be.) If you don’t know what's attached to you network you're likely a lot less secure than you think.
Where are your laptops?
Early last year Coca Cola announced that personal information belonging to 74,000 employees, contractors, and suppliers had been compromised. This massive loss of data wasn’t the result of a malware attack or a determined hacker. Instead, the information was accessible through a number of laptops lacking encryption controls that had been stolen by a single employee.
The employee’s responsibility at the company had been to maintain and dispose company laptops after reaching their lifespan. Unfortunately for Coca Cola, employees whose information was accessible on the unencrypted laptops sued the company a few months after the loss was revealed. Laptops are just the start. Looking across your entire network you need to have strong IT asset management in place for all of the following:
- Operating systems
IT Asset Management: Why It Matters
The story about Coca Cola’s stolen laptops should serve as a warning to companies of all sizes. IT asset management isn’t easy to do. For one thing, devices like laptops and smart phones are on the move with the people who use them. And people are as imperfect as the technology itself. At the end of the day, if you have the following three pieces of information in hand you can truly get to know your network a lot better, and secure your data more effectively:
- Detailed physical connectivity
- Asset or device type
- Configuration information
Aside from the issue of security, IT asset management is vital for a number of reasons. Are you thinking about upgrading or purchasing new software and equipment? How are you going to do that if you don’t know what software or equipment needs to be bought or upgraded? Don’t forget about warranties on software and equipment. Do you know when the warranties or service agreements on your IT assets (be they hardware or software) are going to expire?
Troubleshooting is another area in which IT asset management comes in handy. It’s possible that the reason one of your routers isn’t working the way it should is because of another router that you didn’t even know existed. More importantly, you might be legally obligated to keep an up-to-date inventory of your IT assets. If you’re in an industry affected by FISMA, SOX, PCI DSS, or HIPAA, you will face legal penalties or fines for not complying.
How to Implement IT Asset Management
The size of today’s networks is enormous. How can you possibly track every asset connected to a network? The answer is “automation.”
A number of IT asset management software products discover and map network assets, then create an inventory which automatically updates when a device is reconfigured or its status changes. These software products collect the manufacturer and model ID, the serial number, hardware or software and firmware versions, chassis ID, module inventory, and all relevant data about the device’s hardware such as power supplies or fans.
What should you look for in IT asset management software? The solution should collect information across a variety of protocols and should function over a range of technologies. These include ARP, SNMP, SSH, Virtual Infrastructure Management, IP addressing, ICMP, LLDP, WMI, and Telnet.
Spoiler alert, we sell such a product called Ipswitch WhatsConnected.
Effectively Manage Inventory and Configuration Changes
Join us on December 8 at 2pm ET when Michael Roth from the University of North Georgia will share his case study during our webcast “Effectively Manage Inventory & Configuration Changes”. Michael is going to share how his university adopted automated IT asset management across its entire network including more than 500 servers. In this webcast Michael will share how you can do the following:
- Discover the hidden challenges of inventory management
- Explore the tools that transformed a time-consuming, semi-annual audit process to an automated, continuously updated process
- Learn how the University can assess current system state across the whole institution, spread across five locations.
Stay tuned for the next blog in our ongoing series on IT best practices, and let me know what you think about this one.