Asset Tracking 101: Keeping tabs on all your devices

Derek Schauland

Corporate network environments are growing. More devices – from servers to workstations and even mobile devices – are being added all the time. It is now likely that many employees in an organization have several devices to use in their daily work. All of these devices need to be managed and tracked so that the IT team can best serve the employee and the overall organization.

assetHow does an organization keep track of all of these devices?
It is one thing to be able to remotely manage the software and applications installed on a device using tools like Remote Server Administration Tools (RSAT) or remote control tools, which will be most helpful to the user of the devices for support. This, however, does not help in tracking the devices and who they are assigned to.

Using asset tracking tags, any device can be assigned to a particular user, location, or even a role. This will make things easier for those managing these items. If the asset tracking tags are placed on all of the hardware devices, that's great, in addition the tags will need to be tracked somehow. This way the tags can be associated with the type of device, the name of the device, and other notable features.

As an example, suppose Bob in Marketing has been assigned a new mobile phone, which is configured with his email and work tools. When the device is assigned to Bob it can be tracked as belonging to Bob and things should work quite well. In a year, Bob hires an assistant and, to keep costs low he gives her his mobile phone and requests a new one. If he doesn't mention the change of device, the original phone and the new phone will still be assigned to Bob, making management and tracking more difficult.

Adding asset tracking tags to the devices and recording the details in a database, such as device type, model number, asset tracking tag, username, configured features, and service date, will allow the support group to ensure the device is truly assigned to the correct employee. When a new device is tagged and configured, the old device must be returned so that the information can be updated before the device is reassigned. This ensures that the device is accounted for and that everyone knows who has which device.

How can the asset data for a device be tracked?
There are many ways to handle this. The simplest of which is an Excel spreadsheet that contains a row for each asset. Data identifying the configuration, the device, and its user(s) can be recorded in the columns for the record.

This will serve the purpose of simply recording information, but will not directly work with other applications or systems within the organization. For features like this, an organization might consider a Configuration Data Management System (CDMS) which will have predefined fields for much of the information that might be tracked as well as tying the data to purchasing requisition systems to speed up any reorder work that be needed going forward.

Capturing this information about each device and asset tagging devices takes additional work up front, but being able to track devices down that are lost or simply ensuring the return of the device when a new one is deployed can make life easier in the long run for both the end user of the device and the staff supporting it.