IT assets come in all shapes and sizes. From the obvious (computers, routers, and other physical assets) to intangible software programs, most modern businesses couldn’t function if they didn’t have access to these assets. However, the sad truth is that most modern organizations have no clue what IT assets are on their networks, let alone follow IT asset management best practices.
What is IT asset management, and why is it important? Here’s an explanation of the benefits of IT asset management, and the pitfalls of not having a process in place:
Explaining IT Asset Management
If you were to ask three different experts what “asset management” means, you’d get three (or possibly more) answers. The role and purpose of asset management may change from one person to the next.
Some might say it’s “getting the most value of out a business’ assets.” This isn’t technically wrong, but it’s not why asset management is important for your IT network components. Others might say that an IT asset management process is “inventorying all of the assets on your network,” which would be a partial answer, at best.
The IT asset management process is an all-encompassing program for tracking what assets are on the network, verifying that each asset is up-to-date with any security or software patches, as well as ensuring that each asset on the network is sufficiently protected and properly configured. It’s also an ongoing process—one requiring continuous vigilance on the part of your IT department (or managed IT/security services provider) as you phase out old assets and integrate new ones.
Basically, IT asset management is a lot of work—which may explain why so many companies fall behind on this critical task. But, the importance of asset management for your company’s IT components cannot be overstated.
Reasons Why IT Asset Management is Important
There are numerous benefits of asset management systems for businesses—and potential pitfalls for failing to have a comprehensive IT asset management process in place. Some reasons why IT asset management is important include:
Improperly Managed Assets Can Become Cybersecurity Vulnerabilities
Failing to track what assets are on your network means that there may be weak points in your network that you don’t know about. This was the case in the 2014 JP Morgan Chase data breach. According to an article by Reuters following the breach, the breach “JPMorgan’s security team had apparently neglected upgrading one of its network servers with the dual password scheme” that had been applied to other servers. The forgotten server became the entry point for attackers who then stole the data of roughly 83 million JP Morgan Chase customers. Had the IT asset been tracked and kept up to date, the breach could have been prevented.
Obsolete Assets Can Negatively Impact Workflows
Not knowing what assets are available to your employees can have a negative impact on their work. Obsolete assets on the network could be causing slowdowns for critical business apps, or otherwise negatively influencing user experience. Tracking these assets and finding ways to safely upgrade or replace them can help improve productivity.
Not Knowing Your Single Points of Failure
Redundancy is crucial for creating a stable and reliable network where employees and customers alike can get the resources they need from your IT assets when they need them. Without a solid map of your network infrastructure (something you’d create as part of your IT asset management process), it can be hard to know what your network-breaking “single points of failure” are and how you can fix them to ensure business continuity.
IT Asset Management Can Be Crucial for Regulatory Compliance
Numerous industry regulations are nearly impossible to follow if you don’t have a comprehensive IT asset management process. Take, for example, the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). Part of GDPR compliance is giving “data subjects” the “right to be forgotten.” If you don’t have a complete picture of all the assets on your network, including the data you hold about people, how can you ensure that you’ve removed any data that you have stored about a person? The truth is that you cannot. There may be a backup, a random workstation, or another asset with that data you aren’t supposed to have on it, and you wouldn’t know without a comprehensive asset audit. This, in turn, could lead to a compliance violation with a massive fine attached.
Incoming Assets Need to Be Properly Tracked and Accounted For
Businesses are constantly phasing out obsolete assets and introducing new ones to the network—often far more frequently than they might assume. Failing to keep track of new IT assets or to account for the removal of obsolete ones can lead to inaccuracies in the network architecture map, wasted time/effort spent looking for missing components, and gaps in your cybersecurity protections. Having an IT asset management process in place helps you keep track of changes so you can avoid these problems.
Outgoing Assets Need Proper Disposal
IT asset disposition is a major concern for regulatory standards such as payment card industry data security standard (PCI DSS). If an asset ever held any kind of sensitive information, that asset’s storage drive needs to be carefully cleansed of any trace of that data—or destroyed beyond any reasonable hope of recovery. IT asset management systems can account for the disposal of IT assets in a documented process that ensures that your sensitive information cannot be recovered.
One note: Even when you have a comprehensive and well-executed IT asset management system in place, it’s important to carry out an IT asset audit from time to time as well.
Because, even the best-laid plans can fail from time to time—letting things such as employees’ mobile devices or other small and frequently-changed items slip through the cracks. IT asset audits can help you identify network components that may have been improperly documented for one reason or another so you can have a complete picture of your network.
Need help setting up an IT asset management process in your organization? Or, just need more information? You can contact the experts at Compuquip, or download our guide to IT practices that might be putting your business at risk at the link below: