IT Asset Management. Introduction to an effective IT management with Spider Asset

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1 25 years Innovation Quality Sustainability IT Asset Management Introduction to an effective IT management with Spider Asset What is the purpose of an IT asset management? Which advantages does it offer to the company? And what is the benefit for the employees? In a small company, the administrator knows «by heart» which computers are located in which department and how they are configured. If the company becomes bigger, you can often use simple tables in a spreadsheet program to save the data permanently. But, unfortunately, it is not possible to built a sensible management this way: The most important reasons are: Spreadsheets are prone to input errors. Only one employee has access to the data at a given time. The data are available at only a few work stations. The data amount is very limited - essential information is missing. In daily operation, the administrator, the service technician and indeed the whole IT department has to know which computers are used by whom, which monitor is connected, which printers are used, and which software is running on which workstation in which configuration. Also the colleagues from the Helpdesk, which are in charge of support requests, need to know in shortest time the current data for a certain workstation. This is the only way to ensure a quick support without cumbersome inquiries. For network operation, data related to the network configuration are required: IP address, subnet mask, etc. The commercial department is also interested in IT investments. Which devices have been purchased for which price? Are they still in use? How often has each model been repaired? Are they included in the service contract? When does the warranty expire? The IT team takes less care of the financial issues, since they are responsible for technology and maintenance. The main issues here are repairs, configurations and updates. What is the procedure in case of software updates or due replacement of hardware? Should the old computer configuration be determined manually and restored step-by-step on the new device? Or does the IT department support an authorized configuration and, by employing a standardized installation process, ensures that the software released for a workstation can be installed on a computer at any time? All these questions require specialized data collections. The often executed practice to collect the data in each technical department or even at each supervisor will cause problems: Each data collector is responsible for keeping the data up-to-date, the information cannot not be coordinated. But how can these data be collected in a structured form that makes sense for all purposes and could be saved permanently? How can they be kept up-todate in a cost-saving way? The solution is a centralized database which can be configured and evaluated depending on the request. In recent years, it has become clear that a hierarchical structure, which establishes a relationship among all elements of a configuration, is a reasonable option. Since individual elements of a workstation could be replaced, e.g. in case of hardware replacement, the hierarchy of the elements is essential.

2 Workplaces in the focus Spider Asset selects the workplace as a bracket for the management of a configuration. Since also server and print stations should be managed, the «workplace» in Spider Asset has an even more general definition: as function unit. A function unit is a group of hardware, software, network interfaces and user data. Each of these elements can be replaced without affecting the information of the other components. The computer replacement takes place without having to re-enter the network configuration of the workstation! This approach is reasonable mainly for networks with fixed IP addresses. A function unit can have several functions: It could serve as workplace or as server. Other functions are possible. Each of these functions requires other detail data to be saved. Despite that, all types of a function unit share a common information amount: Each function unit has a location, is allocated to a cost center, belongs to a department. The same principle applies for the hardware. There are computers which can in turn be subdivided in servers, desktops, and laptops. Off-line printers can be managed as multifunctional printers or as laser printers, since each of these devices has different features which are relevant for the operation. The term Asset has become common as a generic term for hardware. This term taken from American English has the meaning of «object of value», but also «economic good». It makes clear that mainly the hardware is considered an investment, which should be registered, protected and managed as an object of value. The hardware in particular has another problem: The abundance of detail information. Each model is delivered with another equipment. In some cases, the manufacturer will modify the delivered configuration without notification. For example, as of a certain date, a computer model is delivered with a bigger hard disk. Many business relevant features can be modified by upgrading or retrofitting, e.g. the RAM. All these detail information for a model should be entered in standardized form during the initial input process - you will need a model management which will detect the new devices with their current configuration and allows for subsequential, individual adaptations. Once all data are entered, the asset management is really fun: The data are available for all employees thanks to the internet technology. The multi-level authorization concept controls and guides the information flow. The result is that every employee will have access to «his/her» data regarding workplace, hardware and software. In general, you would set this feature in such a way that most of the employees will only have reading rights. The IT department can get every configuration on its screens, update the data or execute comprehensive evaluations. How many computers are currently in repair? Which models have failed most? In case of a scheduled software upgrade, the following question may become important: which workplaces have this software and do the related computers have sufficient RAM and powerful enough processors? Thus, it is possible to determine in advancement, what the upgrade will cost. The commercial department can distribute the cost of the IT operation purposefully and evenly. Since all function units and each hardware component save the corresponding cost center, an allocation to the payer is possible on short notice. Data of service contracts, leasing or warranty regulations are allocated to each asset. Thus, financial optimizations can be achieved with low efforts. 2

3 Tasks of the asset management Each investment in the IT area of a company lives through a life cycle. It will be ordered, delivered, taken to the correct workplace, installed and eventually used. During its use, it will be maintained, repaired, transferred to another workplace, stored in the meantime and finally excluded from operation. Each of these work steps is related to management, efforts and cost. Spider Asset reduces the efforts for the management by preserving entered data in a structured form, logging the life cycle of the investments if it makes sense, and supporting automations. In order to get the most out of a complete solution such as Spider Asset, some organizational measures are indispensable. For the planning it is best to know the basic concepts and principles of Spider Asset. Element identification All objects, which should be managed centrally, must have a unique identifier - for humans and machines. The machine can be satisfied with cryptic identifiers such as serial numbers, MAC addresses or arbitrarily determined, unique character strings, whereas humans prefer easily to memorize names. The names must be unique for all objects, but should still be easy to communicate. Above all in daily operation, it is important that an employee does not talk about «my PC, that s a grey box with blue cover» but is able to identify his/her computer uniquely. Therefore, Spider Asset allocates an asset no. to each entered asset and an identifier to each function unit. These can be found also on the labels which have to be attached to the devices to ensure a safe identification during the entire life cycle of the device in the company. The function unit identification is also, if possible, attached to the workplace by means of a label in order to ensure a safe identification. This procedure does not only facilitate the operation of Spider Asset, but also supports the service employees as well as the Helpdesk. Additionally, the identification can be written into the registry of the computer to simplify the digital reading. Often, it takes a long time of contemplation about how to find these identifications. A unique system is often helpful. In case of the asset no. for identification of the devices, a simple running numbering will be sufficient for most cases. Some companies simply use the inventory number taken from the commercial system to derive the asset no. from that. 3 alternative procedures have been proved as very practicable for the identification of function units. If the company is organized as such that a workplace is used always by the same person, the function unit may be named after the owner (main user). In order enable a very simple identification, the login name will be used which is used by the user for identification in the network. If an employee should use several workplaces, for instance a stationary and a mobile one, you can identify the second one by an additional number. In bigger companies, several employees will share a workplace. In this case, the function unit identification can be assembled using a department abbreviation and a running number. Spider Asset supports this procedure by managing as many shortcuts as a prefix as you need. After selecting one prefix, Spider Asset will generate a running number automatically. If the department «Finances and Controlling» has the abbreviation FUC, Spider Asset will automatically create the function unit identifications FUC0001, FUC0002, FUC If also this procedure is not applicable, you may use free numberings. Using a freely definable set of rules, you can use identifications which are determined either manually or by using an additional module. The inventory module reads out up to 5000 devices on a regular basis and transmits selected data to Spider Asset. It uses the digitally readable serial number of the hardware for identification. 3

4 Configuration It is not possible to give a detailed standard for the management of the IT environment. The requirements are too different and the information to be saved too diverse. However, there are principles which could make sense for practically all companies. This applies mainly to the organization of the object hierarchy. At first, it must be determined what has to be managed: Hardware, software, employee data. These information has to be summarized in function unit. A function unit is thus a bracket which holds together a working place, a server or a print station in their components. Each function unit can host as many assets as needed. Contrary, one asset should always be allocated to one function unit. Per function unit, only one (active) computer, desktop or portable device, should be allocated. This is reasonable, since this is the only way to ensure the unique allocation of the other elements. Each function unit can contain as many software packages as needed. Each software has a general configuration which is valid for this package. The data, which are necessary for the actual individual installation, are added to the allocation. The assigned network interface saves the logical network configuration of the computer. The allocated employee(s) are required for the user management. Here, the central feature is the login name which is used for the network login. While this hierarchy cannot be changed, the addition features (parameters) of each element may be configured. Thus, it is possible to manage data of CPU and RAM for all desktops while the assets of the «LCD monitors» class save the screen size and the optimum resolution. After the initial installation, the desired parameters of the individual objects should be checked and adapted, if required. Rights management Not all employees are allowed to do everything. This goes without saying in the IT world. That makes a user management indispensable. In order to keep it simple, it combines the users authorized to use Spider Asset in one group which is used to allocate the user rights. Apart from granting access rights to forms and their data, the fine tuning of availability of individual detail information is indispensable for a regular IT operation. Spider Asset has a mechanism which is able to allocate the writing right to individual user groups and to control the visibility of individual data depending on the object type. Thus, administrators can see and maintain other data than the employees. Status sequence During their life cycle, the assets are subject to wear. They are purchased, stored in the warehouse, transported, installed, operated, repaired and sold or scrapped. These states are important for the operation. Spider Asset manages the current status for each asset and shows the time of setting the status. All states, which have ever been allocated, are saved in the history. So you can easily determine the length of stay of an asset in a certain status, e.g. the repair duration or the usage status. The company will decide which status would be important. The individual configuration describes for each asset class, e.g. desktops, laptops, monitors, etc. the status data which should be available. Some commonly used states are already set up in the basic configuration which is contained in the package. If an actual sequence should be implemented based on processes within the frame of a company concept, Spider Asset will also support the following: You can define for each asset class which status should be selectable in which order. Location management Each function unit and each asset is located in a certain place. And, of course, it is necessary to know this place. The built-in location management of Spider Asset realizes a structured management of the locations down to the room level. In a rollout, it can be easily determined which devices should be handled together because they are located on the same floor. In order to prevent typos and to ensure a unique allocation of the locations, Spider Asset contains a structure which can be 4 used to uniquely identify each floor and, if required, each room. The normal user can select from the list of predefined locations which will save much typing work. This will also help to create a correct list of all assets which are located in a certain building. If the locations would be entered by hand, the different spelling would cause problems.

5 Delivery notes One asset, e.g. hardware could be allocated to one function unit. If not, perhaps because it is in the warehouse at the moment, you will need another instrument to prevent disappearing in the asset flood - the delivery note. This object can contain any number of assets to establish another structure element. So you can consider the delivery note as an image of a real delivery note or receiving slip. Sometimes the «Delivery note» is considered a «Receiving slip». It is important though, that you must be able to combine the big number of assets in reasonable groups. To do this on a delivery note would be the most practical solution. Employee info In a company without asset management, the employees often do not care much about the provided devices. They are carried around, some employees exchange their monitors and in case of a department change everything is messed up. In most cases, tradition is the cause: A computer and its parts are considered as freely available goods and not as a valuable investment which has been made available for the employee and which he is also responsible for. If any employee would know which device have been made available for him and who had paid for them such irregularities like device exchange or loss would be prevented already at the scene of action: The employee realizes his responsibility and is interested to keep his devices. The employee information which is integrated in Spider Asset, a special form, which can be viewed by the employee without having other rights for Spider Asset summarizes all core information about the assets made available. By means of the asset no. label and the function unit identification attached to the device, the employee can check whether all his devices are present. Furthermore, it is easier for him to report malfunctions: When he is talking with the colleagues from Service, he will not use the term «My Computer» but instead use asset no. «R3423» which can be used by the service technician to uniquely identify the computer in the asset management. Reports The information collected in Spider Asset have a special value because of the reports. How many devices are currently in repair? Which models have been replaced most? How many computers are used? How often this software package is used? How high is the goods value which is booked to one cost center? Apart from these simple, but important questions there are more complex ones: How many computers which have a software installed which is to be updated, have a too inefficient CPU or a too small RAM? Spider Asset distinguishes among three report types: The more simple reports for uncomplicated information, the more sophisticated and more efficient reports with filter and sort function as well as the Excel reports. An XML Exporter provides data for external report software. All these reports are freely configurable. Depending on the purpose, the administrators defines the most different data collections, determines the filter options and grants access for user groups. So the IT department receives exactly the information it needs; the Controlling is informed about the current status with a few mouse clicks. Especially the Excel reports are very powerful: A workbook predefined by the administrator is loaded on the desktop and retrieves from now the current information. Using the Excel evaluation tools such as Sorting, Filtering and above all the pivot function, also complex evaluations are easily created and ready for presentation. 5

6 Exports The information provided by reports are not always sufficient. Often comprehensive data collections have to be submitted to other systems, e.g. for the comparison with bookkeeping data or for the very special report. For this purpose, Spider Asset provides the package generator. You can use this function to create and download predefined data packages which can also be more comprehensive via the web. INI Generator For the automated setup, i.e. the initial installation of a computer, Spider Asset provides an INI generator. It provides the information, which is needed by an installation script to prepare a computer without any further interventions for a function unit predefined in Spider Asset, such as workplace, server or printing station. Apart from the network configuration, the required software is installed automatically. If necessary, even the user name and his login are entered, so that the employee can log in directly. The information needed for this feature are taken completely from the preconfigured function unit. How do the data get into the system? Spider Asset is able to manage millions of detail data without problems. In smaller installations, the initial input of the data can be carried out during the daily work. In case of bigger data amounts, an automatic data collection makes more sense. Once the data are collected, the system load is reduced. However, data maintenance is still required. Reality and existing data can differ in the course of time if the data are not maintained up-to-date. Initial input Only in smaller companies, a manual input of all function units and assets could be handled. This procedure makes sense if a comprehensive rollout shall be carried out, or if a company is carrying out an inventory anyway, since no inventory system has been used so far and other systems could not be used to deliver correct data. If the data are already available in a suitable format, Spider Asset is able to load all data, which are required for a comprehensive input of all devices, their configuration and commercial data via its Importer function. You can also create function units. In general, you would at first export and prepare the data from the source systems such as inventory systems like SMS from Microsoft or ERP systems like SAP. Much too often, data are not precise enough or are available in a quite cryptical format only. Suitable translators can read out the model name from the serial numbers of the devices, asset no. and function unit identification can be created automatically. The raw data retrieved are loaded into the system after a thorough checking. You only need to convert the data to the defined XML format and load them into the Importer. 6

7 Data maintenance during the operation One of the most important points for a successful operation of an asset management is the embedding of the system in the daily operation. If the service technicians are accustomed to modify the installations on request, if the employees are allowed to install software on their own and exchange devices, the uniformity of the IT cannot be sustained very long. A regulated, planned IT management is not possible anymore. However, if all modifications of the units entered in the asset management are requested via Spider Asset and started from there, the data quality can be ensured. Change requests, i.e. special service requests for the IT department could be entered into the system via the task planning of each employee and accepted by the service technician. His willingness to book his modifications instantaneously in Spider Asset could be raised considerably by this integration. Often, some organizational changes are required, when Spider Asset is introduced. If Spider Asset shall introduce clarity and structure into the IT operation, the official channel «shortcuts» should be avoided to ensure a clear organization. Inventory Many companies use programs (e.g. Inventory) which automatically search for computers in existing networks and collect selected information from these systems. In this way, you have always all information about the hardware existing in the network. Unfortunately, these inventory systems are not able to prepare the data for practice: Therefore, important detail information such as the commercial data are missing. Furthermore, not all technical data which are important for the operation could be collected. The inventory module of Spider Asset is used to import data converted to the XML format from an arbitrary inventory system and writes them into the Spider database. Since most of the inventory systems can read out the serial number of the computer, this feature is used for the unique identification. However, we recommend to save the asset no. and, if required, the function unit identification in a format readable for the inventory system on the computer Both these data will enable Spider Asset to make clear statements about which device is allocated to which function unit and when it was the last time part of the scan. Import module An automatic data synchronization is required for a seamless embedding of Spider Asset in the company-wide data environment. The Spider Asset import module comes in form of a service, which can automatically import predefined XML packages and synchronize them with the saved information. Whether it is about the import of current employee data from the employee management or about comprehensive bookings, such as on the occasion of a big relocation or a rollout: Spider Import will solve the problem. Practically everywhere: The intranet One of the outstanding properties of Spider Asset is its company-wide presence: Spider Asset can be used fully without the need for installing something at the workplace. Only an Internet Explorer is required. This program is included in all Windows versions. By simply navigating to the Spider server (sometimes it is named «Spider») employees, service and controlling will have access to all information which they need for their work. This could be the information about their own workplace (employee info), a quick booking after a change at a workplace (function unit) or one of the reports: Spider Asset is everywhere. Since the call of an individual page contains all information about the data to be displayed, and since the authentication can be carried out automatically, you can even exchange information via Spider Asset by . In the most simple case, an employee could copy the address of a function unit from the Explorer into an and send to his colleague. With one click he can be at the same location as the sender, if he is entitled to do so! 7

8 Conclusion Spider Asset makes the knowledge required for the IT operation globally available throughout the company. While the data maintenance is done automatically in many areas, the query and correction of data by the employees can be carried out in the whole company from each workplace - if the authorizations are set accordingly. The results are quite impressive: Up-to-date statistics, evaluations regarding the error frequency, basic data for cost calculation are delivered as precise as the key data for investment planning. If you know the facts, you can decide safely. Headquarter Brainware Solutions AG Sumpfstrasse 15 CH-6300 Zug Tel Germany Spider LCM GmbH Paul-Dessau-Strasse 8 DE Hamburg Tel United Kingdom Brainware Technologies Ltd. 7 Warnham Court, Grand Avenue Hove, East Sussex, Berkshire BN3 2NJ, United Kingdom Tel Asia Brainware Japan Inc. Anzen Building Residence Motoakasaka Minato-ku, Tokyo , Japan Tel Africa Columbus Technologies (PTY) Ltd. Corporate Corner, Block 8 5 Marco Polo street, Highveld 0169, Centurion, South Africa Tel brainwaregroup All rights reserved

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