Tech Spotlight: Asset Management

January 5, 2021
Tech Spotlight: Asset Management Effective IT Asset Management During COVID-19 | Essentials for Productivity, Security, and Resilience

ChangeGear’s new Asset Management module was designed to help everyone in your company gain a deeper understanding of your organization’s tangible and intangible assets across their lifecycles. Its advanced capabilities can be used to manage valuable company assets such as computer hardware, vehicles, electric generators, artwork, and just about anything else that your company owns. Important attributes including an asset’s value, depreciation, warranty, contract status, Software as a Service (SaaS) subscription information, and other details are all monitored in real-time, keeping your entire organization up to date on the status of the items that each employee cares about most. Your Director of Finance, for example, would likely be interested in knowing the cost of an asset and seeing its depreciation schedule, while your Compliance officer would feel more comfortable knowing that an installed software package is properly licensed with documented evidence.

Tangible vs Intangible Assets

A tangible asset is an item that is purchased or acquired by a company, has monetary value, and is physically present. Things that we can physically touch, feel, and see are called tangible assets. Examples of tangible assets include computers, land, building, machinery, manufacturing equipment, and any other property that has long-term physical existence or is purchased for the purpose of conducting normal business operations.

Assets that cannot be touched, such as intellectual property, are known as intangible assets. Intangible assets do not have a “real” physical existence. Examples of intangible assets includes software, goodwill, patents, brands, copyrights, trademarks, and permits. The useful life of intangible assets is usually greater than one year. Most people would consider computer software an intangible asset because it is not a physical material and it cannot be touched.

ChangeGear’s Asset Management module includes a consolidated customer-driven user-interface that provides a strong foundation for the convergence and unification of IT data. Simply put, ChangeGear’s Asset Management module helps companies like yours ensure that their financial investments in valuable assets—tangible and intangible—are properly tracked and being used to their greatest potential. Almost any type of company (regardless of how unique it may be) can use one or more of the following “methods” to import its existing asset data in ChangeGear:

Command Prompt DataUtil

ChangeGear’s new Asset Management module includes a Windows Command Prompt data utility, which allows you to import and export data to and from the ChangeGear database. You would begin by creating an XML schema file (.XSD) to define what elements and attributes may appear in your XML document—or you can modify an existing template from our library. Here, you will also define the relationship of those elements and what data can be stored in them. For example, you can create an XML file to export data from Microsoft Excel or another application that you may have been using to manage your assets.

After you have created an XML template file, you would run ChangeGear’s Data Utility executable via the Windows Command Prompt using one or more parameters, depending on what goal you want to achieve:

  • Search your database (using any SQL expression) for specific records to import into ChangeGear’s Asset Management module
  • Merge your records (as defined by the XML template that you created) into our Asset Management module to add/create new assets
  • Update pre-existing records with information from your XML file and create a new record—if it does not already exist
  • Create new records from your XML file and update the records in ChangeGear—if they already exist
  • Read information from ChangeGear without modifying it
  • Delete records from ChangeGear, based on the elements and attributes that you defined in your XML file

SunView Software also provides sample XML templates that you can use (and modify, as needed) to define exactly what entities and columns you want to include during the data import process.

Resource Discovery Expert (RDE)

One of the greatest challenges in implementing an IT Asset Management (ITAM) system is maintenance. Without data being continuously updated in the ITAM system, staff members lose confidence in the ITAM system and auditing becomes much more difficult. The lack of credibility results in less frequent use of the ITAM system, fewer updates, and, eventually, a failed implementation. ChangeGear’s Resource Discovery Expert (RDE) ensures your asset data stays up-to-date and your ITAM implementation becomes an indispensable tool for everyone in your organization.

Our automated discovery tool reduces data entry errors for complex numbers and is less time-consuming to implement than other methods, freeing your staff from most of the data entry necessary to keep your Asset Management module up to date. Automated discovery also makes it easier to track changes to CIs via scheduled discovery and scanning activities.

Manual Data Entry

Depending on your organization, it is likely that many processes are still performed manually so the IT data related to those processes may not be discoverable using automated collection methods. While ChangeGear’s Resource Discovery Expert (RDE) does an amazing job at identifying most items, assets that are not connected to your network or included in any other known list of assets need to be entered manually. Assets can be added, edited, and deleted at any time, provided the user has been granted the required privileges.

Software license types (e.g., concurrent, site, perpetual), software end of life (EOL) dates, the physical size of data center hardware, and application compatibility are just a few examples where manual data entry may be required. Your Finance and Compliance departments typically need this type of information to make informed business decisions to reduce costs, increase efficiency, and successfully complete countless other tasks. Knowing your software EOL dates, for example, makes it easier to plan, budget, and procure new applications and properly manage their software lifecycles. The physical dimensions of data center hardware can help your IT and Facilities teams manage a consolidation project, while hardware and software compatibility information helps IT managers plan migrations to cloud and virtual environments.

ChangeGear can install and remove software based on parameters set by your IT staff, and it can help you assess your users’ requirements for having the software installed on their computers in the first place. Internal audits become much easier to conduct when ChangeGear provides your Compliance team with the usage statistics they need to challenge your end-users’ real versus perceived requirements.

Although contract negotiations still require the finesse of human interaction, ChangeGear can advise you when a contract or maintenance term is up for renewal or due to expire. Change Gear’s Asset Management module can help highlight the risks and allow you to enter and track your notes, which helps you make informed decisions.

If you think outside the IT box, you will realize just how important manual asset data entry can be to any organization—especially since much of the missing or incomplete data tends to originate in areas other than IT.

Configuration Management Data Base (CMDB)

The Configuration Management Database (CMDB) is a component of ChangeGear that allows users to copy all or only specific CIs (Configuration Items) from the CMDB module to the Asset Management module. CIs are mainly hardware and software items characterized by their attributes (recorded in each CI’s Configuration Record) and their relationships to other CIs. It is important to remember that not all assets are CMDB CIs, but all CIs are assets.

The simplest way to understand the Configuration Management Database (CMDB) is to think of it as the central repository for information about IT infrastructure that allows your IT team to discover, track, and manage your company’s assets. Your current CMDB most likely contains detailed information about your servers, memory, installed software, and other items. Visibility into these things provides your IT team with an instant assessment of potential threats to your organization’s operating capacity.

ChangeGear’s REST API

An Application Program Interface (API) defines the types of calls (i.e., interactions) that a program can make, how it can make them, the data formats it can use, the conventions it must follow, and much more. The integration of two or more APIs provides a connection between disparate software applications, allowing them to exchange data. API integrations allow businesses to run processes that keep data in sync, enhance productivity, drive revenue, and execute many other tasks ranging from general to specialized.

“REST,” also known as “RESTful,” is one of the most popular types of API. While Representational State Transfer (REST) APIs were designed to be used over almost any protocol, they utilize Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) to communicate between Web-based applications.

Like our DataUtil application, ChangeGear REST API Web services can be used to import data into the Asset Management module. This API can be used for one-time, large data imports. More commonly, though, it is used for ongoing integrations to keep the data periodically updated from external sources such as other Asset Management databases or Network Scanning software.

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