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November 11, 2014

Skeletons in Your IT Closet?

Vidya Vasu, Head of the ManageEngine Community and Free Tools, discusses how to manage your IT assets and taking control of your IT estate.

By Cbr Rolling Blog

The good old adage that what can’t be measured can’t be managed holds true for IT asset management as well. That is, in the absence of a thorough inventory of software and hardware assets in your network, managing the assets could be a daunting task. IT asset management (ITAM) helps you make informed decisions about hardware and software purchases and measure their quality and quantity regularly and thereby manage them well. Therefore, it can be said that an IT asset inventory is the backbone of services that enable businesses. Efficient IT asset management upholds a business at multiple levels, enabling it to:

? Maximize the value of IT estate, from planning to disposal
? Avoid or eliminate issues that interfere with profitability
? Gain visibility into the state of the assets

Let’s now take a quick look at key asset management challenges that create some of the dreaded skeletons in your IT closet.

Visibility into the Organization’s IT Assets

Having near-zero or minimum visibility into your company’s IT assets is like navigating the Amazon jungles blindfolded. You will end up making wrong decisions involving your IT assets. For instance, decisions about managing or retiring existing assets or procuring new ones may not only be inaccurate, but could also be costly in terms of time, money, and risks. When asset management is a challenge even with basic tools and people, little can be said about the environments that lack resources. They are left groping in the dark.

Gaining clear insight into the organizations IT assets is therefore essential. But how do you do that? The first step towards effective IT asset management is to inventory all your IT assets. Inventorying and tagging helps asset tracking and prevents asset abuse.

Asset Maintenance

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Very often, organizations invest precious time and effort in maintaining assets that do not require frequent maintenance. Obsolete assets may also be on the maintenance schedule because they get lost in the galore of available assets. The maintenance costs of these assets are also steep. In fact, deploying newer assets will be economically viable and you can also be assured of asset performance, without worrying about maintaining assets that have reached their end of life.

Identifying assets that require maintenance is critical to ITAM. This is possible when there is a clear understanding of the relationships among IT assets as well as among IT and non-IT assets. Scheduled maintenance can be carried out for assets depending on their criticality. The criticality of an asset can be determined when a business service goes offline. An impact analysis of non-availability of assets requiring low and high maintenance will also serve as a reality check.

Just like servicing cars at regular intervals, maintenance of critical assets like virtual hosts, web servers, or CMS servers must be put on a maintenance schedule to ensure there are no surprises. As far as software assets are concerned, organizations hit a deadlock when they overlook timely upgrades. Staying on the latest versions ensures support validity and helps the IT teams stay current.

Assets Utilization

Underutilized assets plague businesses, especially data centers. These assets lead to unforeseen drops in productivity. The primary reason for underutilization of IT resources is procuring more assets than necessary, typically to accommodate long-term expansion. But as technology evolves, the assets go out of fashion long before their anticipated end of life. We are seeing this happen with storage devices now as enterprises move away from traditional HDD arrays like EMC Clariion and HP 3PAR and move towards flash arrays.

There are also instances where an asset is stretched beyond its capacity, leading to quality degradation. Asset abuse leads to inventory sprawl and results in poor capacity planning. In addition to underutilization, it also impacts data centers and server rooms by consuming resources such as power and cooling. Proper capacity planning and optimizing the use of IT assets is possible with effective (and effectively monitored) asset inventorying and tracking.

Effective Risk Management

IT teams are usually on high alert for high-profile issues such as security breaches and disaster recovery. But it is the smaller, easily overlooked faults that quietly pull the rug from under your feet. It is therefore critical to factor in a comprehensive risk management plan as part of your IT operations and asset maintenance tasks.

Both IT and non-IT asset management must follow processes for assessing the risks at every stage, from inventorying to maintenance. This ensures that the assets are optimally used and mitigates the risk of underutilizing or over utilizing the assets, both of which lead to lost time, money, and resources.

Striving for Skeleton-free IT

A methodical approach to managing assets will go a long way in addressing the issues discussed above. Implementing an automated solution to manage assets eliminates the basic issues and also reduces the scope of forced errors. It gives the necessary visibility into the current state of your IT assets and helps prepare for challenges.

Inventorying assets, scanning of software and hardware periodically, and keeping tabs on software license compliance are some basic yet critical tasks a solution lets you accomplish. They help weed out unlicensed components from your network, help utilize resources to their optimum capacities, and aid in making informed decisions. ITAM eliminates the need for a postmortem, and instead creates room for proactive management.

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