Nov 18 2010

Keeping Track

These five technologies can lead to better asset management.

It's no secret that IT departments do a lot more than just fix computers and answer questions. Somewhere amidst the hustle and bustle of day-to-day support, IT departments are expected to keep deployments, upgrades and refreshes moving forward. This can be done well, of course, only if the IT team has a complete picture of what needs to be deployed, upgraded and refreshed.

Effective asset management is key to the success of such efforts. The following five technologies can keep your asset management – and your school or district – on track.

1. Inventory Software

This tool can quickly give you a snapshot of your school's electronic assets. Typically, a central management console is installed on a network server, which then audits network-enabled clients offsite via remote procedure call (RPC) technology. Because no interaction is required from the end user, fewer machines can “slip through the cracks,” maximizing accuracy.

Employing an inventory solution is useful for hardware assets, but it also can be used to account for software assets, giving your school the data it needs to stay compliant.

2. Asset Tagging

This is one of the most cost-effective measures your school can take to help track computer equipment and peripherals. Simply put, asset tagging is accomplished by placing a unique sticker (usually containing a barcode) on a given piece of equipment so that your inventory can be managed electronically by a centralized system.

Generic and custom serialized tags are available as well, and are handy if you work for a large district and want to associate certain prefixes or numeric ranges with geographic locations.

3. Tracking and Recovery Software

Installing this type of software on mobile machines is a critical facet of asset management. When a device is lost or stolen, a lot more is at stake than the value of the item itself.

Consider a solution such as Computrace LoJack for Laptops, a subscription-based product from Absolute Software that can be used to disable, erase and even track stolen mobile devices using their built-in Wi-Fi and GPS technologies. Secure portable storage devices, such as IronKey flash drives, offer remote administration and security enforcement over the Internet, ensuring that your school's intellectual property stays where it belongs.

4. Software License Management Tools

These solutions allow you to monitor your licensing agreements. Many software companies offer inventory and reporting utilities free of charge through their websites, and value-added resellers can instantly provide custom license reporting based on your school's cumulative purchasing history. Make it a habit to run software audits at least quarterly to stay on top of your institution's digital assets and ensure compliance.

5. RFID Tags

Your IT department can track equipment using radio frequency identification (RFID) tags in two ways: When used in conjunction with management software, RFID tags can pinpoint the physical location of assets within your school or district at any given time. When used inside a set perimeter, they can help prevent theft (as they do at the exits of retail stores, for example).

Although this approach is a bit more expensive than traditional software asset management technology, RFID offers the highest level of accountability and protection.