Discovery & Inventory – Where to start
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It’s simple, without an accurate and up to date inventory of IT assets, everything else becomes that little bit more difficult, that little bit more incorrect and potentially that little bit more expensive.
Having a clear, accurate and regularly updated register of both network connected devices and non-networked assets will give you an advantage in so many ways. You will be in a position to plan more effectively, be able to meet compliance requirements more quickly and accurately and have confidence that you have control of your assets. From here you can understand what potential risks exist across your organisation and importantly give you the time and space to focus on value-add activity.
In these days of hybrid environments and the democratisation of IT with many types of devices and remote users the challenge of keeping your asset register up to date is constant, requiring a dynamic approach and the use of multiple techniques that all work together to present a single view of the truth.
Where to Start – Discovery
Discovery is about finding all those assets connected to your network, that are used (or unused) and even those things that you can’t see and touch or think exist (virtually or physically). All too often, and if assets are logged at all, they are often stored and tracked in an unstructured manner such as by using spreadsheets, historic documents and by individuals.
A place to start could be with the purchasing process, recording the assets at point of acquisition, but this cannot be done for existing assets or solve the issues around democratised IT, where users source their own services and assets. Neither can it completely solve the issue of virtualised estates and cloud services where users can spin up their own environments on-demand.
THE DYNAMIC DIFFERENCE
A dynamic approach to discovery uses a combination of multiple processes and technologies to capture a constantly changing landscape. Without a multi-faceted approach, the “single truth” will never be achieved, let alone remain accurate. Dynamic Asset Discovery utilises multiple techniques to cross reference and consolidate from multiple data sources. With inbuilt flexibility to include mobile devices and mobile or remote users and assets, it should not differentiate between physical, virtual or cloud-based environments, and importantly it must be repeatable, continuous and adaptable. A complete discovery environment needs a complete discovery tool, a tool that has multiple techniques, a tool where the different techniques complement each other and not cause duplication and confusion.
At the very least your discovery tool should include a combination of:
Using your existing platforms, your LDAP environment should give you a head start in understanding the assets connected to your network. It’s no secret that without constant management LDAP environments can quickly become out of date, and this should raise concerns. Using LDAP as a basis and then cross referencing with other techniques can not only create a more accurate list of assets but help to clean up your LDAP environment.
Active Directory Integration
DeskCenter Active Directory Integration demonstrates the possibilities of leveraging the platforms you already have. Easily reconcile asset entries both ways, identify un-used assets and accounts and use the structure of AD to automate.
Not everything will be known and even in the smallest of estates, surprises can be had. For example, the one XP machine that sits under someone’s desk or that asset connected to the network by the “DIY IT Expert” that seemingly can get things done quicker than IT. It is essential that an agentless discovery is performed regularly to help identify unknown network assets. Even just knowing that something is there, is better than not knowing at all.
Scan your networks wherever they are, across domains and subnets. find all devices, reconcile against already identified assets and automatically identify there types.
Intelligence Lead Discovery
Scanning Networks and relying on LDAP are not the only ways. You will have devices and services on your network that can provide a different level of intelligence. Being able to integrate with existing services, such as DHCP, can add to your understanding of what’s connecting to your network, what services are being used and sometimes by who.
Agent Based Discovery
The three above are all about getting started and keeping your assets list up to date. Using an agent-based approach at the time of commissioning can streamline this process by auto registering assets within your ITAM tool. An agent-based approach is ideal for continuing inventory processes especially with remote and mobile assets.
API Based Discovery
Not all assets will be on your network. Hybrid and cloud first strategies are a part of most environments. Being able to too keep track of these services, whether they be Software as a Service or Infrastructure as Service can be challenging. A complete discovery environment must be able to integrate with these services by using one of the techniques above or using direct API integrations.
Using a combination of the techniques above will ensure you get, and importantly maintain, an up to date and accurate register of network connected assets. Used in combination these discovery processes should work together to give you a single truth, not a confusing view of multiple sources. But this will not solve all of your discovery needs. IT assets don’t always exist on a network, home workers may acquire assets that you can never discover and that’s why its also important to look at processes, such as purchasing.
Providing users with a self-service environment encouraging them to always purchase through an approved process and starting discovery before you even own the assets will keep you informed and, importantly, keep your IT estate safe and secure.
Learn more about what you have discovered – Inventory
Discovery and Inventory are two very separate things, they can be incorporated into a single process, but the results are different.
If you haven’t found it, you can’t inventory it.
During discovery you will have found a range of different device types – computers, servers, hypervisors, laptops, printers, routers etc. The list goes on and will only get bigger as more network connected devices are used, fridge’s, TV’s. Is the IoT a blessing or a curse?
But there are saviours, and those come in the shape of standards or at least commonly accepted protocols e.g. SNMP, or at least they should be saviours.
Using a solution that can dynamically use these standards, and deal with various implementations to learn about your assets is key. Being able to differentiate between a hypervisor, printer, router or computer and inventory each according to its type is also essential. Only using this dynamic approach to inventory can you gain the level of intelligence you need to make informed decisions.
It is essential that the inventory processes capture complete and relevant data points, hardware configurations, services, installed software, relationships between assets and more.
Complete and Dynamic Inventory
Regardless of type, capture all of the relevant data points – hardware, services, software and configuration. Only a complete inventory will give you the knowledge you need.
Not all of your assets will be on the networks all the time, for example remote users and some assets will be in secure environments where perhaps the ability to provide regular inventories of those assets is even more critical. Any inventory tool must provide support for these situations and many others.
Having a clear understanding of the assets managed by IT can, and inevitably will, provide a unique insight into your IT estate. This knowledge can benefit the business in many ways starting as a basis for IT decision making.
Accurate inventory makes IT budgeting more accurate, it allows more precise planning for projects such as OS migrations, supports security and compliance processes and as an invaluable source of information can further support and streamline many other business processes, such as preparation for acquisition, onboarding of new services and people etc.
There are so many reasons to maintain an accurate inventory of your IT Assets, many not mentioned here.
If you want to know more about how DeskCenter can deliver this level of control to your organisation get in touch and let us show you.
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