IT asset tracking is a method for tracking an enterprise’s IT assets. IT asset tracking systems track the location and status of physical assets, like laptops, servers, smartphones, and peripherals, and virtual assets, like software, cloud infrastructure, and SaaS licenses. IT asset tracking helps enterprises control costs, improve employee productivity, and deliver better security and compliance.
IT asset tracking is considered a part of IT asset management (ITAM), a broader discipline that covers how enterprises manage the entire lifecycle of IT assets. This covers everything from asset procurement to employee onboarding, to patching and maintenance, to auditing and compliance, and, finally, to retirement. In asset tracking, IT teams track physical devices by scanning barcodes or by using RFID or GPS tags that broadcast location data. IT teams also use SSO or software agents to track usage and ownership of non-physical assets like software, SaaS and cloud servers.
In this article, we will cover all aspects of IT asset tracking, from how it works to its benefits and disadvantages to best practices. Specifically, we will cover:
Asset tracking management solutions capture and store information about IT assets. This allows an enterprise to track the location, status, and ownership of an asset. Asset tracking is a core functionality of IT asset managers (ITAMs), a category of products specifically designed to track, analyze, and manage the lifecycle and security of IT assets. Asset tracking also includes software asset management (SAM) and cloud asset tracking.
The two basic types of IT asset tracking are “presence-based” and “usage-based.” Presence-based inventory management, also known as physical or material tracking, is usually reserved for assets with short life cycles such as paper documents. Usage-based management uses software tools to track what employees are doing on a given computer.
IT asset tracking, also known as ITAM, is a process that enables an enterprise to track the location and status of its physical and non-physical assets. Physical assets are devices such as computers, servers or laptops that need to be tracked for insurance purposes. Non-physical assets include software like cloud services and SaaS applications, which may not have any physical form but still need monitoring.
Until recently, asset tracking focused primarily on physical products or installed software. Today, because so much more infrastructure and functionality is now running in virtual realms – either cloud or SaaS – newer tracking systems include the capability to track and monitor SaaS and cloud infrastructure. IT asset tracking works differently for hardware and software products. It may use multiple layers of tracking, depending on the asset. Some asset tracking systems are “agentless”. They work by aggregating data from existing asset tracking systems to create a unified asset database that is more accurate and up-to-date.
Broadly speaking there are two types of IT asset tracking systems – passive and active. Passive IT asset tracking systems pull in information broadcast automatically via software agents or asset tags. There is no need for the owner of these assets or IT staff to do anything. The assets automatically send out key telemetry detailing their location and status. Active IT asset tracking systems rely on humans to scan or input data about an asset. Some systems combine active and passive mechanisms, depending on the activity or the input workflow.
For hardware, an IT administrator might scan a barcode or MAC address on a laptop prior to sending the device to a user. The laptop is associated with a record of its purchase date, warranty information and installed software. More modern IT asset tracking systems can be integrated with procurement systems and the shipping databases of IT resellers such as CDW or SHI. This integration allows a laptop or other piece of hardware to arrive with all information pre-populated in the enterprise purchaser’s database and a barcode or asset tag is already affixed. When the device is scanned after it is unboxed, this activates the now complete asset records and changes the status in the asset tracking system.
IT asset tracking also deploys software agents on more expensive hardware, such as laptops, servers or mobile divides. These agents running on the laptop may send data back to the IT team about whether the laptop is properly encrypted and patched, as well as where it might be located based on IP address usage. In most cases, the laptop is associated with a specific user via the enterprises’ employee directory or HR system. If there is a problem with the laptop, the asset might alert IT asset managers and the support desk so they can open a ticket and resolve the issue.
For traditional licensed software, IT asset tracking is usually included in a category of products called Software Asset Managers (SAM). Asset tracking systems for software can also be active or passive. In addition, many broadly targeted asset tracking systems have manual entry formats for installed software. More advanced systems use agents on devices or services to identify what software is running on what device, whether it is licensed, and whether that user is out of compliance. Identifying overages in licenses used or when licenses will expire is crucial. These agents run periodic scans to identify newly installed software and compare its license data to the existing databases of purchased software licenses and permitted users. Large software vendors actively seek violations so they can leverage expensive “true-ups” against non-compliant enterprises.
Often a third IT asset tracking system is deployed to monitor virtual and SaaS assets. This system is usually a passive data collector that automatically captures usage, location and security data for virtual assets. Virtual assets might include cloud servers located either in public or private clouds or assets running on VPCs or other hosted servers not owned by the enterprise. SaaS products include the growing array of services for graphics and creativity (Adobe, Figma), office productivity (Office365 or G Suite), or financial functions (Expensify for expense tracking). For cloud assets and SaaS licenses, asset tracking systems pull information from single-sign-on systems or other authentication systems. Alternatively, they may receive information from agents included in the standard builds of all cloud servers. This is particularly important when cloud servers are frequently shut down and relaunched. Older IT asset management tracking systems tuned only for physical assets often struggle to adapt to this modern world of high-velocity, permanently ephemeral cloud infrastructure.
IT assets are among the most costly line items for any modern company, running into the thousands of dollars per employee per year. As digital transformation has shifted more and more processes and work from physical (paper) to virtual and digital, IT assets have become more important in helping companies produce products or services. With this transformation, digital attacks have increased and securing IT assets has become a crucial part of keeping a business running safely. Internally, IT teams struggle to identify and manage unauthorized “shadow IT”. For companies wishing to give employees a better experience, efficient IT asset tracking can reduce time wasted on support tasks and enhance employee up time.
An asset tracking database is an important tool for managing the hardware refresh cycles, facilitating audit, providing better security and ensuring compliance with regulations. Overall, asset tracking databases offer benefits to IT teams, security teams, finance and procurement teams, legal and compliance teams, and HR teams. Lastly, asset management software helps enterprises to ensure compliance with regulations such as SOC2, ISO 27001, GDPR, and CCPA. Asset management software is often used to track the life cycle of IT assets. This includes laptops, desktops, mobile devices, network equipment and data center components.
Identify the problems you want to solve with IT asset tracking
Do you want to help HR onboard employees faster? Help your IT team work more efficiently and eliminate repetitive tasks? Help your security team improve response times and reduce the number of assets out of compliance? Various asset tracking products have different features and strengths for each of these questions.
Perform a comprehensive audit of the types of assets you wish to track
Perform a comprehensive audit of the types of assets you wish to track
Oomnitza is the most modern and advanced IT asset tracking system for enterprise on the market today. It is designed for flexibility, agility and extensibility. Lightweight and agentless, Oomnitza requires no modifications to your IT infrastructure. With dozens of pre-baked connectors to key IT systems for ticketing, SSO, and asset monitoring, Oomnitza simplifies and improves asset tracking by automating many repetitive tasks and boosting data accuracy and recency. Some specific features and benefits of Oomnitza include: