Modern corporations are embracing the Digital Age! Now more than ever, companies are happy to provide digital equipment to their employees so they can work faster and smarter. This has created a huge influx in the amount of computers and electronic equipment. So, what’s the downside? Information Technology (IT) equipment all comes at a cost.
Not only do IT assets incur an upfront cost that will hit the budgets but, more importantly there are ongoing logistical costs. Tracking IT assets — the location and movement of all the computers, servers, printers, smartphones and other IT equipment in any large organization is a massive undertaking.
Keeping Track of IT Assets
To even further complicate the situation, many of these computers and IT assets contain highly sensitive and valuable company data. This requires the data to be stored in secure areas or at the very least tracked and managed carefully. Maintaining frequent and regular accountability of the data and the storage devices along with managing the location and the status of this equipment can be a major security issue along with being a formidable logistical challenge.
It’s no surprise that in the past decade IT asset management has gained more and more attention. Especially since there is an increasing number of government and industry regulations (Sarbanes-Oxley, FISMA, HIPAA to name a few…) that require accurate, auditable tracking of IT assets throughout their lifecycle.
As you can imagine, performing manual inventories on all of your company’s computer equipment at this scale of magnitude is difficult, time consuming and risky. Today’s organizations don’t have the luxury to perform manual inventories on their digital equipment — there’s just too many items and not enough time. Recording serial numbers with a clipboard or even with a spreadsheet is error-prone and very labor intensive. In short, using a manual method to track IT assets is asking for trouble.
Corporations need to be able to automate their IT asset management process in order to maintain accountability, track each individual asset and fulfill any required audits.
Auto-ID Asset Tracking Technology
The most common Auto-ID Asset Tracking Systems in place today utilizes barcodes. Barcodes have been accepted as an asset tracking best practice for many years and organizations around the world have relied upon its effectiveness. Not surprisingly, barcode asset tags have been placed on IT assets for decades; however, it’s far too common that the barcode is never used for actually tracking the IT asset. Using barcodes for tracking items is only as good as the last barcode scan that recorded the assets’ location. If an item moves without a new location being assigned it can sometimes require a full search effort and multiple man-hours invested.
The Problem with Barcodes
One of the inherent elements of a barcode tracking system is that you’re working with assets one at a time. When you need to perform a physical inventory — you will need to use a barcode reader to scan each and every item. This means that you will need to physically find and access each barcode — even if they are hidden in a container or embedded in an assembly. For better or for worse, barcode technology relies on a line of sight between the scanner and the individual barcode ID.
Tracking IT Assets with RFID
Radio Frequency Identification or RFID has been around for many years; but, is just recently gaining greater acceptance and adoption as the costs reduce and the technology performance improves. Similar to barcode technology, RFID is applied with a unique tag (or a “license plate”) which is associated with a unique asset — however, assets can be scanned at a much faster pace as the scanner does not need a line of sight to the asset tag. With an RFID asset tracking system, you don’t need to “touch” each item individually. In a well-designed scenario along with the proper implementation RFID has the potential to provide instant accountability with the pull of a trigger.
RFID enables the use of mobile computers to locate missing assets with Smartphones coupled with mobile RFID readers. Mobile RFID allows a user to walk through an area and quickly capture all of the RFID tags within read-range. A painfully slow process of physically searching for an asset can be reduced to finding that asset within minutes using a mobile RFID system
Fixed RFID readers can also provide significant visibility to the movement or current location of IT assets within a facility. As assets move, readers that are mounted in areas such as a doorway or dock door will capture the RFID asset tag of the item in-transit and record that items date and time of movement while recording location change.
Compare this to barcode asset tracking for a moment. If you were to attempt to take an inventory, for example, of an office space that contained multiple rooms of computers and digital equipment. Using a barcode system for this inventory you would need to find every barcode on each piece of digital equipment. The barcode capture process would require that you methodically go through your rooms and handle each unique item so that the barcode reader had a direct line of sight with each barcode and scan them one at a time.
If that same office space was utilizing an RFID tracking system, the employee could have walked through each room and within a matter of minutes captured a complete inventory.
Learn why your organization should leverage RFID technology in order to automate your IT asset management capabilities. Get a better understanding of how RFID systems work and how it can improve accuracy, security and save time for your organization.