IT Hardware Inventory Management is not easy, even for relatively small organizations with 20 or 30 employees. And as the organization grows, keeping track of all the laptops, printers, and other devices becomes akin to assembling a perplexing puzzle of ever-expanding complexity.
However, there is good news. With the right strategies and tools, you can conquer the challenges and gain control over your hardware inventory, maximizing its value and reducing costs.
The former is the backbone of successful Hardware Management. When complemented with the latter, you can gain a holistic approach to managing the entire lifecycle of IT assets, covering acquisition, deployment, maintenance, and disposal.
Let’s explore what a hardware inventory is, its importance, best practices, how to inventory computer equipment with InvGate Insight, and what to look for in Inventory Management software.
What is IT Hardware Inventory Management?
IT Hardware Inventory Management is the systematic process of tracking, organizing, and controlling the hardware assets within an organization. This includes all physical devices and equipment essential for the operation of an IT infrastructure, such as laptops, phones, servers, routers, printers, and just about all electronic devices that belong to the company.
Hardware Inventory Management plays a vital role in the broader scope of Hardware Asset Management (HAM), which, at the same time, is an integral part of effective IT Asset Management (ITAM) practices. So, the process serves as the foundation for successful HAM by providing a comprehensive and accurate record of all hardware assets owned and operated by the organization.
Its goal is to maintain an accurate record of all hardware assets, their specifications, location, warranty info, and usage status throughout their whole lifecycle. It enables organizations to effectively manage their hardware resources, ensure optimal utilization, reduce costs, and streamline IT operations.
Hardware inventory vs. software inventory
While hardware and software inventory must work together and are two essential aspects of IT Asset Management, they have distinct differences to consider. In this sense, hardware inventory refers to tracking and managing physical devices within an organization, while software inventory deals with managing the various software applications and licenses installed on the hardware assets.
Why do you need Computer Inventory Management?
The relevance of having a Computer Inventory Management system cannot be overstated. Here are the key reasons why it is crucial for organizations:
- Resource optimization.
- Software license compliance.
- Security and data protection.
- Budgeting and financial planning.
- Efficient IT support and maintenance.
Pros and cons of hardware inventory
IT Hardware Inventory Management brings several benefits to organizations, but it also has its own set of challenges for it to be done correctly. Let's explore its pros and cons.
Pros of IT Hardware Inventory Management
- Cost optimization - By tracking your hardware assets, you can identify unused or underused ones. You can use this information to make informed decisions about future purchases, upgrades, and replacements.
- Regulatory compliance - By maintaining an accurate inventory, organizations can ensure compliance with industry regulations, licensing requirements, and security standards.
- Asset security - IT Hardware Inventory Management helps monitor authorized hardware usage, identify unauthorized or unaccounted devices, and implement appropriate security measures to protect valuable assets.
Cons of IT Hardware Inventory Management
- Time-consuming - It requires dedicated resources to track, document, and update the inventory database. Without proper allocation of resources and the use of automated tools, managing hardware inventory can become a burdensome task.
- Scalability - Tracking and managing a larger number of devices across multiple locations can be overwhelming without robust systems and processes in place.
- Data accuracy - IT Hardware Inventory Management requires continuous effort to maintain accurate data. It involves regular updates as new hardware assets are added, existing assets are replaced or retired, and changes occur in hardware configurations.
How to inventory computer equipment with InvGate Insight
Creating a computer asset inventory is essential for efficient Hardware Inventory Management. This task can be overwhelming, but there's no need to panic. With InvGate Insight, you can create a unified asset inventory within just 24 hours.
The secret behind this is that it allows you to populate the inventory in a variety of ways, depending on your company needs and previous information. Let’s take a closer look at the different input alternatives InvGate Insight offers to upload and track assets.
1. Install an Agent on your devices
Installing Insight’s Agent on computers, servers, and mobile devices is one of the simplest and fastest ways to update your inventory. This method automatically adds devices to it and provides detailed hardware and software information. The agent periodically reports the device's status, allowing for alerts, health rule configurations, and real-time monitoring.
2. Discovery feature
InvGate Insight's Discovery feature uses a proxy server to scan the network and identify devices connected to the internet. By configuring the IP range, organizations can gradually map their assets, segmenting them by subnet or location. This process can be automated for periodic network scans, ensuring the inventory remains up to date. Plus, it’s a great ally to spot unauthorized devices connected to the company network!
3. Cloud integration
InvGate Insight allows the addition of mobile devices from cloud services like Azure, AWS, or JAMF. By logging into the cloud provider from the solution, organizations can sync the assets and view them alongside other inventory data.
4. Upload a .xls or .csv file
If you want to use InvGate Insight in an agentless way, you can create an inventory of physical assets by downloading the .xls template, filling it out, and uploading it to Insight. This method is particularly useful for migrating from an existing Excel spreadsheet inventory. Moreover, it also comes in handy if you need to track office supplies and other non-IT assets.
5. Create assets manually
While not ideal for large quantities of assets, manual creation is a basic method to add items to the inventory. It offers flexibility in customizing input information and is suitable for updating existing assets.
6. Import users and locations
You can unify your asset inventory by importing users and locations from a .xls file or cloud storage. These key assets can be linked to their corresponding devices for comprehensive Asset Management.
Once the hardware inventory is unified, you can leverage InvGate Insight's additional features to enhance your IT Asset Management strategy:
- Assign QR codes to assets for quick access to information.
- Track assets’ geolocation to retrieve them in case of misplacement.
- Create alerts to receive notifications about specific asset issues.
- Configure health rules for devices with installed agents to monitor their status.
- Manage contracts by linking asset information with warranties, vendor details, and financial information.
- Track asset depreciation by configuring the financial tab.
- Generate and schedule reports to monitor Key Performance Indicators.
- Utilize dashboards for a visual representation of asset metrics.
10 Hardware Inventory Management best practices
Let’s have a look at some IT Hardware Inventory Management best practices that will support and improve your process.
1. Use Hardware Inventory Management software
A Google sheet or an Excel file may be enough to manage your inventory when there are only a very few devices to take care of, and the organization is small. But investing in IT Asset Management software may be one of the few moves that can completely transform your hardware inventory, and your overall ITAM practice, for the better. It can help you keep track of your devices, make sure they’re secure, and have the latest updates, all without exceeding your IT budget.
Asset Management solutions such as InvGate Insight are designed to augment the IT team and reduce their workload. In particular, it comes with automated asset discovery and tracking features, and even helps you manage your purchases and expenses.
2. Add all the relevant information
For effective hardware inventory, less is better when it comes to device information. Data gaps may hamper the effectiveness of your system.
The type of information may vary with different device types. For example, the OS may be relevant information for a laptop, while the same may not apply to a router. But in general, information related to the vendor, where it is located, who is using it, its service history, etc., are added for all devices.
This data must also be constantly updated. New devices may get added, old devices may be replaced, new software updates may be rolled, and the inventory must reflect the latest data for best results.
3. Normalize your data
Data normalization is the process of organizing and structuring the information in a standardized format across your hardware inventory. It ensures consistency and accuracy and facilitates efficient analysis and reporting. By normalizing data, you avoid situations where the same assets have different names or are counted as different items.
With advanced Hardware Inventory Management software like InvGate Insight, data normalization is handled automatically, eliminating manual effort, saving time, and reducing the risk of errors.
4. Tag your devices
This applies to all devices, particularly those that move around a lot, such as laptops, smartphones, or tablets. Most organizations attach stickers or labels to keep track of their devices. But a faster or more effective option would be to use QR codes or RFID tags. They’re safe to use, easier to scan, and make it simpler to keep device info up-to-date. You can also use RFID tags to keep track and prevent losses in the case of expensive devices or devices with sensitive files or information.
5. Use automation
Automation is your friend when maintaining a detailed inventory of IT assets. Modern hardware inventory software comes with a whole host of automation capabilities. Even the process of creating the inventory can be automated. Asset Management solutions such as InvGate Insight can scan through the network to produce a detailed list of all hardware connected to it, along with information like software used, device status, and even the financial information related to the device.
Automation in IT Hardware Inventory Management serves multiple purposes. It enables the maintenance and tracking of assets throughout their lifecycle while facilitating proactive monitoring for real-time health alerts. Additionally, automation generates comprehensive reports on hardware utilization, warranty status, and maintenance history.
6. Integrate, integrate, and integrate
To get the best results, integrate your hardware inventory with other tools and software your IT team uses. For example, by connecting your ITAM tool with your service desk solution, you can keep your inventory updated and simultaneously deliver a better experience through your service desk. By integrating the Asset Management software with your ERP solution, the stakeholders can plan accurately for future projects.
Besides the service desk, Asset Management also plays a huge role in other activities of the organization. It will improve the workflow and reduce dependencies. For example, new employees must be set up with their equipment during employee onboarding. The HR department can effectively plan the onboarding process by integrating the Asset Management software with the organization’s knowledge base.
7. Monitor continuously
As with most things IT, hardware inventory cannot be just made once and left alone until needed. It’s important to update it regularly to ensure all the hardware is in proper condition and functioning correctly. Continuous monitoring will prevent the loss or theft of devices and any cybersecurity threats.
With a large organization, different employees may be working at different times. If you’re using automated hardware inventory, you have to consider the possibility that all devices may not be online while conducting the inventory.
8. Plan your budget carefully
Budget planning is an essential activity in maintaining a hardware inventory. With careful planning, you can ensure your organization has the right hardware in the required quantities. It can help you deliver quality IT service to your organization without exceeding your IT budget.
When planning, consider not only the initial purchase cost of hardware assets but also the associated costs throughout their lifecycle. The Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) includes various expenses such as acquisition, deployment, maintenance, repairs, software licenses, and eventual disposal.
Advanced hardware inventory management software comes with financial planning tools to help IT managers accurately plan their budgets. For example, software metering tools can help ensure that licenses are utilized efficiently in the organization. Asset Management software can also notify you on upcoming hardware and software lifespans expenses.
9. Use the data and insights
Most IT Hardware Inventory Management software provides a ton of information that can make Asset Management more resource-efficient. It can show you trends and patterns, such as how long a certain type of device will last or the number of software licenses you may have to purchase in a year. You can also use this data to plan repair or maintenance activities without shutdowns or equipment downtime.
And as discussed above, you can also use the hardware inventory data for budget planning and purchasing decisions. The information can show the underutilization of hardware resources and bottlenecks in the workflow caused by hardware dependencies.
10. Don’t compromise on security
Hardware inventory plays a critical role in keeping the organization secure from cyber threats. But it’s also essential to keep your inventory process secure. Make sure that all the communication from the devices and the servers during asset discovery and monitoring is encrypted.
A hardware inventory that’s not following the proper security practices may act as a shopping list for bad actors. By taking over the hardware inventories, they could gain access to other devices and wreak havoc over the network. Along with your hardware, ensure your inventory management system is secure.
Hardware Inventory Management software must-have features
When it comes to IT Hardware Inventory Management software, there are several must-have features that can greatly enhance your ability to track, manage, and optimize your hardware assets. Here are some of the main features to consider.
Centralized asset database
An Inventory Management software should provide a centralized database where you can store all relevant information about your hardware assets. This information includes details such as device specifications, purchase dates, warranty information, location, and assigned users. A single, comprehensive database enables easy access to accurate and up-to-date information about your hardware inventory.
Automated asset tracking
Automation is a crucial feature that can save time and improve IT Hardware Inventory Management accuracy. The software should be able to automatically track asset status changes, such as device assignment, movement between locations, or maintenance history.
Installing an agent is the most effective approach to establishing and maintaining an accurate inventory with InvGate Insight. This agent ensures you receive real-time information on your hardware assets regularly, eliminating the risk of human error and minimizing unnecessary manual efforts.
Barcode or QR code scanning
The software should support barcode or QR code scanning capabilities to streamline the process of adding new assets to your inventory and updating their status. Scanning codes on devices helps automate data entry and minimizes manual errors, making tracking and managing hardware assets faster and more efficient.
The best part is that with InvGate Insight, you can directly create and assign a QR code to your devices, so you won’t need to use third-party software or specialized hardware for printing.
Inventory reporting and analytics
A robust inventory management software should offer comprehensive reporting and analytics capabilities. It should generate customizable reports that provide insights into asset utilization, maintenance history, depreciation, and other key metrics. These reports help you make informed decisions, identify trends, optimize resource allocation, and plan for future hardware needs.
With InvGate Insight, you can personalize your dashboards according to the key ITAM metrics most relevant to your organization. Additionally, you can generate custom reports, download them, and share them as per your preference.
Asset categorization and grouping
Effective inventory management software allows you to categorize and group your hardware assets based on various criteria, such as device type, department, location, or status. This feature enables you to organize your inventory to align with your specific needs, making it easier to locate and analyze assets when required.
With InvGate Insight, you can generate smart tags to identify assets, unauthorized moves, or changes automatically.
A user-friendly interface is essential for efficient and intuitive navigation within inventory management software. The interface should be well-designed, visually appealing, and easy to understand, even for non-technical users. It should provide clear menus, icons, and labels that simplify tasks such as adding new assets, updating information, or generating reports. A responsive and intuitive interface enhances user adoption, reduces training time, and increases productivity in managing hardware inventory.
Integration with other systems
Seamless integration with other systems such as procurement, help desk, or Service Management tools is essential for efficient Hardware Inventory Management. Integration allows smooth data flow and reduces the need for manual data entry across multiple platforms. It enables you to leverage existing systems and processes while maintaining accurate and consistent data across different departments.
Security is a critical aspect of managing your hardware assets, especially considering the sensitive information they contain. When choosing a software solution, it is important to consider security features that protect your data and ensure the integrity of your IT infrastructure.
With InvGate Insight’s features, you can detect devices running unauthorized software, be alerted of devices running outdated and unmaintained software versions, and check assets with upcoming warranty expiration.
Alerting and notifications
The software should provide alerting and notification capabilities to stay on top of important events and changes related to your hardware inventory. This feature can notify you of scheduled maintenance tasks, low stock levels, or any other critical events that require attention. Alerts and notifications help you proactively manage your hardware assets and take timely actions to avoid disruptions.
Having reliable and responsive customer support is crucial when using IT Hardware Inventory Management software. Look for software providers that offer comprehensive support services, including access to a knowledge base, documentation, tutorials, and training materials.
Prompt and helpful customer support through various channels such as email, chat, or phone can greatly assist in resolving issues, answering questions, or providing guidance when needed. Good support ensures that you can maximize the benefits of the software and address any challenges that may arise during implementation or day-to-day usage.
IT Hardware Inventory Management is crucial for organizations to track, manage, and optimize their hardware assets efficiently. It is a central part of IT Asset Management practices and contributes to streamlined IT operations, cost savings, compliance, and risk mitigation.
Organizations can establish a solid foundation for streamlined Inventory Management by implementing best practices, including using hardware inventory management software, monitoring the practice continuously, and keeping it secure.
Creating a unified hardware inventory can be a daunting task, but with InvGate Insight, it can be a smooth process. Its core features help you to enhance efficiency, accuracy, and accessibility, enabling you to make informed decisions and optimize your hardware inventory utilization. Request a free 30-day trial or explore the live demo to see it for yourself!
Frequently Asked Questions
How do you organize hardware inventory?
Here are some general tips for organizing hardware inventory:
- Create a list of all of your hardware assets.
- Assign unique identifiers.
- Group your assets into logical categories.
- Implement a central database.
- Regularly review and update your inventory.
What is an example of a hardware inventory?
An example of a hardware inventory can be a comprehensive list or database that includes detailed information about all the hardware assets owned or used by an organization. Here is an example of how a hardware inventory entry for a laptop could look:
Asset Tag/Serial Number: LT00123
Device Type: Laptop
Make/Model: Dell Latitude 7490
Operating System: Windows 10 Pro
Processor: Intel Core i7-8550U
Storage: 512GB SSD
Screen Size: 14 inches
Purchase Date: 2022-03-15
Warranty Expiration: 2024-03-14
Assigned User: John Smith
Location: Marketing Department, 3rd Floor
What are the two common tools to create hardware inventories?
The two common tools often used to create hardware inventories are spreadsheets and dedicated inventory management software.
What are the four types of inventory management systems?
The four types of inventory management systems are:
- Periodic Inventory Management - It is the simplest type of inventory management system. It involves counting inventory on a regular basis, such as once a month or once a quarter.
- Perpetual Inventory Management - This type of inventory management system maintains a real-time and up-to-date record of inventory levels. It utilizes technology such as barcodes, RFID tags, or other tracking methods.
- Just-in-time (JIT) Inventory Management - This type of system only orders inventory when it is needed. It can help reduce costs but also lead to stockouts if demand is not accurately forecast.
- Material requirements planning (MRP) - This type of inventory management system uses demand forecasts to create a schedule for ordering materials. It can help to ensure that the right amount of inventory is on hand at the right time.
How do you keep hardware organized?
Here are some tips on how to keep hardware organized:
- Designate physical storage.
- Label everything.
- Create clear and comprehensive documentation.
- Regularly inspect and maintain your hardware assets.
- Implement security measures.
How to find a hardware asset ID?
To find a hardware asset ID, you can follow these steps:
- Look for a sticker or label.
- Check the documentation.
- Check the packaging.
- Utilize management software.
- Contact the manufacturer or vendor.