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Which IT Asset Management (ITAM) tracking system do you use for your network devices? It may or may not surprise you that many smaller computer and server room operators use spreadsheets to track their IT assets. Whilst this approach may be fine for smaller IT operations with assets running into the 10s, it is not efficient and can lead to out-of-date information, duplicates, inaccurate serial numbers and tag overlaps. The average error rate for spreadsheet-based IT asset management is around 15%. Larger facilities and datacentres have to take a more software-based approach due to the number of IT assets involved and some use smart tagging systems to track and improve physical asset security.
A fixed asset register is an inventory of the fixed assets belonging to an organisation. The purchasing process should trigger additions to the asset register each time they are made and installed. As assets should be tagged and their location and owners (person responsible recorded). Service and maintenance dates may also be marked on the register including regular inspection dates and for example PAT testing requirements. As assets removed from service and ‘retired’, they should be marked as such in the register.
To run a small computer or server room, datacentre, Edge environment or other remote site, it is vital to have an accurate asset register and to deploy an efficient asset management process. Even more so during a pandemic. COVID-19 has stress-tested many business process and asset management is one of them. Within the space of few days in March, organisations activated their business continuity plans and thousands of IT assets were removed from offices for use by remote home workers (RHW). Many IT managers were left trying to manage unfolding issues at speed, in addition to managing their on-site servers and storage facilities. Often without sufficient tracking in place. But just what do you track and to what level of detail?
If you picture a server room as a bill of materials (BoM), the complete facility can be viewed as layers or levels and drilled down to the lowest level possible i.e. that with a serial and model number. From smallest networking router to a blade or rack chassis.
During more normal times it is important to step back from the granular level and consider the reasons for tracking IT assets. A sound asset management policy helps to underpin and support the overall business strategy and its objectives.
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Organisations can carry out their own audits or employ an IT auditing specialist team to provide the service. An audit should be far reaching and provide a comprehensive overview of every IT device within an organisation. No matter where it is being used and covering all types from handheld terminals to tablets and mobile phones, desktop PCs, servers, storage devices and networking peripherals. You can also extend the scope of the audit to include any other network connected and critical infrastructure smart device including uninterruptible power supplies, PDUs and air conditioning systems. Why? Because these are assets, that require regular service, maintenance and sometimes firmware upgrades and because they are connected to the server room or datacentre IT backbone via an SNMP, Modbus, or other protocol.
Asset registers will provide a reference number (or barcode) for tagging an asset and most commonly this will be in the form of an asset management label attached to the device. In a smart and Internet of Things (IoT) world, this practice can seem a little archaic. Many organisations are now employing RFID asset tracking solutions to provide real-time monitoring and security.
RFID stands for ‘radio frequency identification’. Smart tags use electromagnetic fields to energise their circuits and transmit data to a compatible reader. All movements can be automatically tracked in a software database and the smart RFID tags can be used to alarm when an asset is moved outside of a designated secure space. Triangulation within a building is also possible to allow its location to be pinpointed. As the IoT and Edge computing rolls out, remote smart tag tracking will deliver a greater level of control and management to a DCIM package and central IT management team. RFID tags also make mini-audits far easier as the tags can be easily rescanned using and hand-held terminal. The days of marking-up paper and spreadsheet data are over.
With COVID-19 emerging earlier this year, organisations had time to consider and prepare their business continuity plans, even it was simply a few weeks. Whilst the pandemic is far from over, for UK businesses there are other events on the horizon to consider such as Brexit which one gain may require businesses to review their BCM plans and ensure that they can manage through the transition to independence from Europe. Knowing the 5Ws and H of IT asset management (who, where, when, what, why and how) is a fundamental part of business continuity planning and plan deployment.
IT Asset Management should be a day-one operating service for any server room or datacentre operator. When facilities grow exponentially and fast, it can help to use a specialist third-party such as Server Room Environments to provide an IT asset management service. Our comprehensive ITAM report will provide a basis for movement to a software-based management service including RFID smart tags and/or to a comprehensive DCIM package.
There are several hazards within a server room or data centre that can disrupt operations, lead to down time, and potentially cause personal injuries. A formal risk assessment process is a way to identify the hazards and implement control and monitoring measures to mitigate the potential risks. Risk assessments should be carried out by suitably trained personnel in order to comply with health & safety requirements and can assist in improving the overall resilience of a server room or data centre.
Earlier this year, almost every organisation in the UK had to initiate their business continuity plans and move to widescale remote working in a bid to protect the NHS and general population from COVID-19. For many, the speed and scale of the move increased the pressures on already stretched IT teams. It also brought a greater focus to an area associated with larger-scale datacentre operations and one that up to now has typically received more investment than is made in small-to-medium sized computer or server room installations; remote monitoring solutions.