How To Manage Your Software And Hardware Assets

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By Prasanna Kulkarni.-

Building an embedded and sustained Information Infrastructure is at the very center of most organisations today. Be it for a digital transformation initiative, compliance, cyber security or a pure cost efficiency initiative. Increasing number of organisations are looking to optimise their IT Infrastructure effectively than ever before.

But how exactly do you manage these assets properly to obtain ideal results?

In this article, we discuss best practices in hardware and software asset management, which you can apply to your own organisation. And because these assets are normally part of a corporate network, we’ll look at some tips in network management as well.

Best practices in software asset management

1. Build a strong foundation for your SAM program

A SAM program won’t be able to run smoothly without a solid foundation. Before diving into the thick of software asset management, make sure you’re able to win full support from the top. Without executive sponsorship, you won’t have enough financial and human resources to carry out an effective program.

Other prerequisites include the following:

  • Collaborating with people in your organisation who have the technical, legal, and managerial expertise relevant to the program;
  • Establishing a baseline to compare your results with;
  • Defining metrics, timeframes, and processes; and
  • Choosing the right software asset management tool.

2. Determine exactly what and where your software assets are

Once you’re all set, the first order of business should be to conduct a comprehensive software asset discovery. You need to know what software applications are running on your systems, which of them have proper licenses, and other pertinent information.

Because you will have a multitude of applications running on a wide range of devices (servers, desktops, laptops, and even mobile devices), a purely manual discovery process will be time consuming and prone to errors. You can save time and avoid mistakes if you perform discovery using a combination of automated (using a tool that scans your network) and manual (in cases where automated scans are not applicable) processes.

The information you gather would typically include hardware configurations, disk space utilisation, license type, contract terms, and so on. To a certain extent, your software inventory will be in a constant state of flux. Hence, you need to keep it updated on a regular basis.

3. Monitor software usage

Although the end result of discovery can provide a snapshot of your software inventory, it can’t tell you the whole story. In order to gain insightful information that can help you in maximising current assets and guide you in future purchasing decisions, you need to monitor software usage.

Actual usage data can help you identify which applications are being used by a majority (or minority) of your employees. You can also use that data to discover applications that are unnecessarily hogging your network (like non-work related streaming videos) or eating up your employees’ productive time (like games and social media sites).

4. Compare software inventory, usage, and license count

It’s important to determine how the number of licenses in your possession compare with actual inventory and usage data. If the number of licenses is greater, that could mean you purchased more than your company actually needs. Less is not good either, for it could also mean some people in your organisation are using unlicensed software.

The process of comparing and reconciling all these pieces of information can be a pain if the data sources are found in different places. It would be much easier if all the information you need is stored in a centralised database.

Best practices in hardware asset management

Even if your organisation is heavily dependent on the cloud, chances are a considerable part of your IT infrastructure is still on-premise. That means, you still have to manage hardware assets.

Hardware asset management (HAM) best practices have similarities with those in SAM. You still need someone from the top to sponsor your HAM program if you want sufficient leverage once you start the ball rolling.

Of course, you also need to take an inventory of all your hardware assets. You need to record their physical location, specific configurations, associated contractual and financial details, and so on. Because your hardware assets can undergo various changes in their lifetime, you need to incorporate several processes like deployment, decommissioning, and disposal into your HAM program. To streamline these processes, it’s strongly advised to apply change management every step of the way.

As with the case of SAM, hardware asset management can be carried out more efficiently if you employ the right technology. A HAM system that scans your network for hardware assets and stores all relevant information in a centralised asset repository or database (mostly a CMDB) can greatly simplify many time-consuming and error-prone tasks.

Best practices in network management

Your network is the backbone that supports and connects all your hardware and software assets. Hence, it’s very important to manage it properly. Here are some best practices for doing so.

1. Employ a vendor-agnostic network management solution

It’s now almost impossible to find an enterprise network consisting of devices from a single manufacturer. Major network device manufacturers likely have their own network management solutions. But because most networks have a high level of diversity, it would be more practical and efficient to use a network management system that’s capable of supporting a wide range of devices, regardless of make.

A vendor-agnostic network management system will enable you to gain more autonomy and flexibility. It will also simplify things from an administrative perspective because, instead of learning multiple management interfaces (one for each set of devices), your network administrators will only have to acquaint themselves with one.

2. Adopt a proactive approach to fault detection and remediation

Network managers are able to detect faults by monitoring certain metrics such as CPU utilisation, network bandwidth, and latency. You can be more efficient by defining thresholds and creating alerts that notify admins when those thresholds are reached. This will enable your admins to take corrective action before anything goes wrong.

3. Incorporate virtual and cloud infrastructures

Most enterprises are now using virtual and cloud infrastructures. As such, they also need to deal with the added complexity of managing the networks that interconnect their various infrastructures (virtual, cloud, and physical) as well the virtual and cloud-based networks themselves, which have their own intricacies altogether.

It’s therefore critical to choose tools that readily incorporate virtual machines and cloud-based assets into their inventory, monitoring, and management modules. Without this capability, your organisation will fail to gain complete visibility of your corporate network.

Tangible benefits to the company

HAM, SAM, and network management initiatives can deliver tangible benefits to your company. Once you’ve gained a more in-depth understanding of what you have, you can be more deliberate when procuring additional assets. For instance, you can avoid unnecessary purchases, negotiate better contracts, and maximise spending.

Having better visibility of your assets will also enable you to  streamline your compliance and security initiatives and ultimately avoid hefty fines for non-compliance or violations. Lastly, you can improve productivity because well-informed service desk agents will then be more capable of troubleshooting and resolving issues.