Why perform an inventory of your company’s IT assets?

Why perform an inventory of your company’s IT assets?

First of all, it is a legal accounting obligation. Every company must perform an annual inventory of its assets. Your Chartered accountant or Chief Financial Officer will certainly ask for it. If that situation occurs and you happen to not have any inventory software, it will surely take you quite a long time to comply with their request.
Nowadays, IT infrastructure has become complex as it consists of various asset types such as Physical Servers, Virtual Servers, Desktops, Laptops, Tablets, Monitors, Local Printers, Network devices like Switches, Routers, Copiers, Network Printers, Fixed and Mobile Telephony...etc As a result, managing the hardware is no longer enough because the cost of the installed licenses on the workstations, the servers is sometimes higher than the value of the hardware itself. Plus, inventorying a license manually is even more tedious and time-consuming than to inventory hardware.
The larger the company, the greater the number of IT assets in use. It is therefore essential to know the constitution of your IT infrastructure, to know where the assets are physically located, to whom they are entrusted (users) but not only that, … It is also necessary to know the administrative data such as the purchase date, the warranty end date, the purchase costs, the residual value, etc. It is also necessary to be able to identify the hardware components installed on PCs, servers such as Processor, Hard Disk Memory, Motherboard, Serial No., Manufacturer, Model, etc., etc. If you do not have all these information, the completion of an inventory will be the opportunity to fill them in.
Security: IT security has become a major issue in companies. One of the objectives of an inventory is to verify that the IT infrastructure is uniform, that the versions of the Operative Systems and the installed software are uniform and that the versions are up to date. It is also important to check that unreferenced or unauthorized software are not installed. The inventory is an opportunity to see if it is necessary to renew obsolete equipment, improve the general architecture of the network by simplifying it or reorganizing the information circuits.

What are the different methods of carrying out an IT infrastructure inventory ?

The aim is generally to update the data in the IT Asset Management module. The management is usually performed in companies with a standard software on the market, a specific development or an Excel file or other.
  • Manual Inventory

    This operation is long and tedious.

    It consists of manually inventorying the equipment, querying the system parameters in order to recover information such as, System, Applications, Devices, Network, etc.

    It will require the presence of inventory clerks on the workstations.

    Manual Inventory is a time-consuming operation that will cost a lot of money and may become obsolete in a few months and involve a significant level of error.

    It is therefore to be prescribed.

  • Semi-Automatic Inventory or Inventory with Agent

    This is the case of an inventory with an agent. A computer program called an agent is installed on each computer to be inventoried. Then, this agent inventories the hardware and software components and sends to the server an analysis file containing the recovered data. Many software use this technology because it works well and can retrieve more information from workstations in relation to a network analysis. The constraint is that you have to install this agent which will sometimes slow down the computer and compete with the other agents installed. Also, there must be a way to transmit the file to the destination directory so that it is processed by the server.

  • Automatic Inventory or network inventory

    The automatic inventory consists of installing a service (software) that will ping the network, detect all connected IP devices and analyze them. The principle is great because the process is automatic and there is nothing to do. The principle is based on the use of protocols such as WMI for PC and Windows servers, SNMP for network devices, or SSH for Linux or Apple environments. As we live in a world where profits unfortunately have constraints, it is necessary to have well architected networks because we have to have access rights to machines to be scanned.

  • Semi-Automatic/Automatic Mixed Inventory   

    For companies that have mobile PCs (Sellers, teleworkers) that are not remotely connected on the network via VPN, an automatic and semi-automatic mixed system must be used by installing an agent that will retrieve the return information by email, FTP, network connection script.

What is the difference between a scan with agent and automatic network scanning ?

As you have understood, both methods will allow you to automate the collection of information on PCs and servers and automatically update your asset management database. On the one hand, it is necessary to install this agent on the PCs and not to forget to do so, on the other hand there is nothing to install, but the network must be well configured and you need to make sure that the necessary access rights to connect to PCs, to Servers and to network devices are available. A point to the advantage of the scan with agent is that the program that is installed on the PC will allow to recover more information than a network scanning that uses protocols (SNMP, WMI, SSH) that allow to read libraries. Some agents can also be used to monitor equipment, check that services are active. We can thus go further than the simple scanning function.

What are the advantages of network scanning ?

The main advantage is that there is no agent to install and all necessary services are installed by default on the equipment. The notion of domain with an LDAP/Active Directory is now widespread in companies. Another advantage is that the system allows automatic detection of all IP devices connected to the network. Alerts on new IP devices detected or on those that have not been detected for some time. Wider range of scanned equipment notably with the SNMP protocol for all network equipment except for PC and Servers.
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