Best Practices in. Best IT Asset Management through Smart RFID-Enabled Software. Art Barton, Director of RFID Strategies, RFTrail

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1 Best Practices in RFID-Enabled Asset Management Best IT Asset Management through Smart RFID-Enabled Software Art Barton, Director of RFID Strategies, RFTrail

2 Chief Information Officers, finance managers, IT Managers and others who are responsible for managing the IT assets of their organizations are experiencing the pressure to cut costs, enhance IT asset security, increase regulatory compliance and improve their IT Asset auditing procedures. In response to these growing demands, organizations are increasingly turning to RFID-enabled IT Asset Tracking and Management systems to help achieve these goals. The Challenge: Managing extremely valuable fixed infrastructure assets is a growing challenge since so many of these assets are not fixed at all. The fact remains that many fixed IT assets frequently move, whether it s mobile IT devices - such as tablets, or desktop computers and servers within server rooms or large data centers. The tracking and auditing of IT assets is particularly challenging because of the rapid growth of mobile computing devices and applications, higher turnover of personnel, and the growth in computing power required by both internally hosted applications and third partyhosted applications. The relatively short life-cycles of many assets, and the need for frequent asset replacement due to constant technological improvements, only adds to the challenges of managing fixed assets. Complying with tough regulations, such as Sarbanes Oxley, makes the need for strict audit compliance greater than ever before. Audits are never easy, but when fixed assets aren t fixed any more, audits become even more difficult. The Technology. Fortunately, new technology exists that can greatly reduce or even eliminate your organization s challenges of managing assets with outof-date asset knowledge. In addition to reducing these challenges, it also enhances your organization s ability to comply with auditing standards and regulations. But what is this new technology and how exactly does it work? It s called Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) and it s presently being used in and around numerous offices, server locations, IT product development labs and data centers. Many organizations in private industry and government are using RFID to track, count, audit and gain better control of their valuable IT assets. RFID technology enables popular toll-bridge and automated toll systems, such as FasTrak and EasyPass, to function. It also enables animal tracking (pets, cattle) and is used widely in industrial automation applications. Modern passive UHF band RFID transmission standards now allow for RFID tags to be read at useful distances from 3 to 50 feet without batteries in the tags - dependent upon tag size and reader type used. The widespread use of this industry-standard battery-less passive technology has led to significant hardware cost reductions through hardware vendor competition. Advantages of RFID Technology for Asset Tracking RFID is an electronic radio technology, not an optical one. Unlike barcodes, no line of sight is required when reading RFID tags and they can be read in any light level. This makes it possible to read assets with very small RFID tags attached in low-light situations. There s no need for auditors to strain their neck trying to read serial numbers located on the backs of desktop computers or monitors. The need for knee-pads for auditors is eliminated along with the struggle to read serial numbers or barcodes on assets located on the bottom of server racks Several hundred tagged assets can be identified in just a few seconds with RFID. Mobile RFID readers allow operators to scan desktops, server racks and shelving from useful read distances. Mobile RFID readers identify and audit all the items in an area very quickly, without the use of permanently mounted RFID equipment. Powerful Fixed RFID readers permanently mounted in office locations, entrances or exits or doorways, can automatically identify all the assets and people that pass through them. Fixed RFID readers also can be mounted on mobile carts and wheeled through offices or even rows of a data center to rapidly read large numbers of tagged assets. This allows for fast, automated audits of very large areas of offices or multiple rows of a data center. Some organizations using RFID indicate their auditing time has been reduced from 1-2 weeks to 2-3 hours per facility since installing RFID. RFID tags without batteries ( passive tags) have become so small that the smallest data storage devices mounted in server racks, server blades, and other key assets with very little allocated rack space, plus small and thin mobile devices such as smart-phone and tablets, can be tagged and rapidly counted by RFID readers. So virtually all IT assets can be rapidly identified via RFID. 2

3 Business Solution Software Advances: The deployment of browser-based software applications designed to take full advantage of RFID technology has been a major factor in the accelerated adoption of RFID for IT asset tracking in recent years. These smart software applications control, filter, interpret and process the reading of millions of RFID tags located on millions of enterprise assets coming from several hundred RFID readers. These applications, combined with RFID, are now enabling asset managers to take full advantage of their enterprises investment in network technology. The benefit is that valuable asset status and history information is delivered to authorized managers at multiple enterprise locations. The most advanced smart RFID-based business solutions, such as the RFTrail solution, enhance asset management control and security by providing crucial real-time asset location. This information is delivered as an automatic or text message alert when certain assets are moved. As an asset approaches an exit or doorway that is deemed unauthorized, an or text message is sent to a pre-determined list of managers. For those who require advanced asset security, the smart software application generates audible alarms or visual alarms when specific assets are moved toward unauthorized locations. Another advanced feature found on smart RFID-enabled software is compartmenting which enables the tracking and managing of an entire data center system asset such multi-rack level enterprise switching system or server blade system as a whole & the individual racked components of that entire system. For example, the individual server blades or switcher line-cards & the relationship between the individual components and the complete functioning system is tracked. This compartmenting feature greatly enhances information clarity for audits and regulatory compliance. 3

4 The Benefits of Smart Software-enabled Business Solutions for IT Asset Management: There are numerous benefits when complete software-enabled solutions are implemented in an office environment, data center or lab: All of the assets in an office, cubicle, asset storage room, server room, lab or data center rack including routers, server blades and other racked components can be identified and audited in just a few seconds. This can be accomplished automatically or by using a SmartMobile hand-held reader. With a SmartMobile RFID reader in hand, an auditor and/or other authorized staff can find a specific set of assets which are reported as missing from previous audits or counts. The reader will ignore all other tags. An audible Geiger Counter is selectable on Smart Mobile readers. The Geiger Counter mode lets an auditor use the varying sound level to hone in on a missing or misplaced tagged asset of interest until the missing asset is found. Assets can be tracked with great read speed (up to 400 items identified per second) when moved in both directions when automated readers are mounted in office ceilings, facilities exit or entry doors, elevator banks, server room or data center portal door locations. Smart RFID system management software provides a time-stamped validation of when the asset left or entered the room. As an added benefit, when the employee moving the asset is wearing their RFID badge tag - the employee ID also is recorded. This permanent record of the move event makes asset management, full auditing, spot auditing and count reconciliations much easier. RFID asset tracking metrics: Managers Surveyed. Managers using industry-standard passive tag RFIDbased asset tracking systems surveyed by RFTrail reported an average decrease in time required to audit of 89% when using both SmartMobile readers and zoned fixed portal RFID readers. That means RFID enabled audits go, on average, more than 9X faster compared to using manual or barcoding counting methods. And some managers reported improvements of over 10X. Asset tracking managers report an average decrease in auditing time of 63% using a hand-held SmartMobile reader alone. This indicates that substantial benefits can be derived from using low-profile portable RFID technology, though improvements will not be as dramatic as when using both fixed and mobile readers. Asset managers report that capital expenditures for assets can be reduced by 10-12% because of the improved asset visibility RFID solutions offers-and the reduction of un-necessary asset duplication that results. 4

5 A Comparison of IT Asset Counting and Auditing Methods Traditional - check serial numbers or apply inhouse-readable labels Barcoded label scanning, combined with serial numbers RFID tagging of IT Assets Time to identify/count Slowest. Identify one at a time. Identifying one asset at a time, but a little faster when line of site is available High speed. Simultaneous reads of large numbers of assets. Degree of automation/ Accuracy Manual: Accuracy dependent upon auditor eyesight, skill and visibility of serial numbers. Better: Many assets are blocked from line-ofsight. Accurate serial numbers recorded if barcode is visible and not dirty or torn. Automated reading not practical. Full automation: accuracy approaches 100% on first pass or first audit, and portals can track asset movement automatically between audits. Ease of Deployment Manual system: Kneepads available for auditors? Medium: Barcode printer, basic software installation required, still slow to audit. Highly scalable and flexible. Suitable for a single server room or giant enterprise with large data centers. Suitability for Sarbanes Oxley and other regulatory compliance Lowest: audits take a long time and are challenging to document. Low to medium; audits take a long time, but accuracy does improve. Highest: Audits up to 90% faster, documentation is accurate and comprehensive. Reconciliation is easy in-between audits. Cost Highest auditing costs. Can be very high if regulatory compliance is not met. High auditing costs. Modest outlay, labels are inexpensive. But does not insure against noncompliance costs. Lowest auditing costs. Higher initial outlay. Regulatory compliance becomes easy and far less expensive. Other Management Features Auditors get to spend more time counting assets in your business centers, like it or not. Spot audits of selected asset sub-sets are usually incomplete. Better record keeping than manual counting, but not much faster Spot audits of selected asset groups are now easy and quick. System creates relationship between parts and whole systems: Example: server blades can be tracked individually and as a component of whole blade server system. 5

6 Benefit Summary: When the RFID technology benefits listed here are combined with industry-leading business application software solutions capable of handling and optimizing the automated identification of assets that RFID offers, the overall benefits experienced in actual data center situations are: Audits, spot audits and inventory counts achieve (or approach) 100% accuracy and completeness. Regulatory compliance is as a result much easier to meet. Audits and inventory counts are completed 50-90% faster than counts done with manual or barcode methods, saving both valuable personnel hours and substantial auditing cost. A more effective trail of asset history, including asset movement between counts, leads to easier reconciliation of audit counts and provides greater asset visibility. This increased visibility leads to improved asset utilization. Asset ownership or responsibility is far easier to track and reconcile. This is an especially important benefit during office moves, facilities or data center expansion, consolidation situations or in IT lab environments. It also adds to audit compliance ease. Through greater asset visibility, and through the use of smart alarms, asset security is vastly enhanced. Best Practices in RFID-enabled asset management systems: Best practices established in RFID asset tracking systems dictate the need for an intelligent software system matched with hardware that : Configures readily to the business rules, retention/asset retirement, naming conventions of the enterprise over a few weeks in the project schedule-no customization required. Tracks multiple classes of enterprise assets and configures to different ownership or auditing rules without requiring customization. Obtains positive and measurable results more quickly with lower cost to implement, because customization is reduced. Provides management visibility to assets from anywhere on the network via a browser. Uses the most reliable and highest quality international standards-based RFID readers and tags available to insure consistent results from site to site and year to year. About RFTrail and the RFTrail Asset Tracking solution: RFTrail, a division of FileTrail, provides customer-proven Enterprise RFID systems for tracking and managing physical assets. We have provided expert tangible asset visibility, control and security to our valued customers since Our Unified Asset Management (UAM) solution provides clients with a single cost effective tool for managing and controlling all their IT asset types and classes, including assets distributed throughout your office or production infrastructure, or in your development labs in one convenient place. And UAM is highly efficient and saves both cost and integration time. Best-in-class software and powerful industry-standard RFID technology combine to make RFTrail the leading RFID asset tracking solution, with over 100 organizations worldwide experiencing the benefits of our solution within their enterprise. Our RFID technology offers companies and organizations the benefit of ensuring compliance, increasing the visibility of your assets, strengthening security and streamlining auditing processes. For more details on our RFID solutions, go to or or call (US)

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