How to Build a Hardware Asset Management Process

Technology has become the backbone of the modern office. Whether it's servers, end-user devices like laptops, or networking devices, your hardware assets are fundamental to business operations. 

But managing such a diverse range of assets isn’t easy — especially if you are a school or enterprise with hundreds or thousands of devices. From tracking your inventory to managing hardware updates and planning for future upgrades, there’s much to consider. 

That’s why you need a hardware asset management strategy. Hardware asset management ensures you have a complete and accurate inventory of your physical devices and a framework for tracking and managing assets throughout their lifecycle. 

In this article, we’ll explain the basics of hardware asset management, why your organization needs to build an asset management strategy, and how to do so. Whether you're an IT professional looking to optimize your process or a business owner looking to safeguard equipment and reduce costs, this article will help. 

What is hardware asset management?

Hardware asset management is the process a business uses to acquire, track and manage physical IT devices throughout their lifecycle.

The main stages of a hardware asset lifecycle are:

  • Request: A manager, employee or administrator requests a new asset
  • Procure: The team responsible purchases the hardware asset
  • Deploy: The IT team configures the hardware asset and deploys it in the appropriate location or, in the case of a movable asset like a laptop, puts it into circulation
  • Maintain: The hardware asset is serviced throughout its life to optimize performance
  • Retire: Once the hardware reaches the end of its life, it is removed from circulation and replaced
  • Dispose: The hardware asset is disposed of immediately or recycled for parts. 

Hardware asset management is a subcategory of IT asset management, which also covers software asset management and the management of other systems and data sources.  

In the same way you need to keep the software on your machines up to date — and you probably have a written strategy for doing so — you need to manage your hardware assets correctly and repair them regularly to make the most out of them. 

Unlike software, however, hardware assets can be moved, damaged and are at risk of theft. That means it's even more important to have a strategy that looks after the asset itself, as well as the software running on the machine. 

What hardware assets should you track?

A hardware asset management strategy should account for all of your company’s technological equipment. 

You should create a system to inventory and track all of your company’s technological equipment, including:

  • End-user hardware like laptops (link to laptop asset tracking blog), desktops, tablets, smartphones, etc.
  • Telecommunication systems 
  • Data center equipment like servers and security devices
  • Auxiliary equipment like printers, scanners and fax machines

Benefits of hardware asset management

A thorough and detailed hardware asset management strategy offers a range of benefits to organizations. 

Improved loss prevention

A lot of hardware assets like desktop PCs, scanners and printers are unlikely to be moved. But many assets can. School laptops can be checked out by pupils who take them home. Telephone systems and tablets can be moved around the office or between buildings at your business. There is a risk of theft or loss anytime this happens. 

But hardware asset management creates an accurate industry that makes tracking and finding equipment easier. For example, you can record which pupil takes out which laptop. The same can be done when employees are given a company laptop when joining the company.

Even the location of fixed assets like desktops and printers can be recorded, so your staff knows exactly where they are. 

Stronger compliance

Some hardware assets like computers will need regular maintenance and updates to comply with regulatory standards. This can be particularly important if you are a government-affiliated organization. Hardware asset management creates a digitized inventory that makes this process much easier to manage. Key data — like the last update date — can be recorded so that staff can create alerts when a new check-up is required. 

Longer asset lifecycles

IT hardware assets have a finite lifecycle. But administrators can significantly extend the entire lifecycle of a product with a thorough and accurate maintenance schedule. A hardware asset management strategy makes it easier for administrators to keep track of the condition of every asset and to schedule and run routine repairs. 

Reduced costs

Ultimately, all of the benefits above can result in reduced costs for your organization. By preventing theft, you have to purchase fewer replacement assets. Stronger compliance reduces the likelihood of fines. Longer lifecycles mean less maintenance costs, reduced software spending, and having to replace assets less often. Your team may even be able to save money during the disposal process if machines are well cared for and can be sold on a second-hand market. 

But that’s not all. Having a centralized source of truth means it is much easier for IT and finance teams to accurately forecast asset purchases, reducing the amount of time they have to spend budgeting and allowing them to budget more effectively. When school districts are spending $48 million on new devices, this can make a huge difference. 

All in all, hardware asset management provides a return on your investment, both financially, and in regards to time. You stand to save a significant amount of money while also reducing the amount of time your team spends managing assets.  

How to build a hardware asset management system

Create your own hardware asset management system by following the five-step process below. 

Create an initial inventory of equipment

This is the first, and arguably most important, step in the entire process. It’s also the step that will take the longest to complete. 

To create an effective hardware asset management system, your team needs to create a detailed inventory of all of your equipment. That includes every desktop, laptop, printer, scanner, and phone — literally everything you want to track. The only way to maintain accurate records going forward is if you spend time creating accurate records in the first place. 

Create and attach asset tags

Once you have completed your inventory, you’ll need to create an asset tag for each IT hardware asset. An  asset tag is a unique identifier, usually in the form of a barcode or QR code, that you can use in combination with a scanner to record assets quickly. 

If you use a sticker-based asset tag, you can print these on-site. Other tags, such as metal asset tags, will need to be ordered from a manufacturer. Once the asset tags are created, attach them clearly to each device, as shown in the image below. 

Asset tags can also take the form of RFID tags, although these may prove problematic with electrical equipment that can interfere with radio waves. 

Purchase scanners and asset tracking software

In order to effectively use your new asset tags, you’ll need to purchase scanning devices and asset tracking software. There are several dedicated scanners available to organizations, like Zebra's TC52x. This is one of the most rugged and reliable scanners on the market. It lasts for over 14 hours and has a large sweet spot of up to 24 inches away, which makes it easier to capture information at close range. Alternatively, you could use an app-based scanner that works on your smartphone. 

In either case, you’ll also need asset tracking software that integrates with your scanning solution and records data. Given that this software will become the central tool through which you manage hardware information, it is essential to choose a solution that is easy to use and integrates with your other tools. RedBeam, for instance, provides REST APIs, which let you integrate our software with almost any other platform. 

Record key information

Your asset tracking software is going to become a live database that provides up-to-date information on the status and location of all of your IT assets. But it will only be as good as the data you store in it. 

Make sure you record essential information about every asset you scan. This should include:

  • The assets make and model
  • The date of purchase
  • The asset’s location
  • Any assigned users
  • The assets condition
  • Its repair history

There should be existing data fields for each of these data points in your asset tracking software. But if not, use custom fields to ensure you capture as much information as your team needs. The more complete an asset’s profile, the easier it will be to track and maintain the asset moving forward. 

Set up an ongoing maintenance schedule

Creating and conducting a regular, ongoing maintenance schedule will ensure records remain up to date and your assets remain in the best possible condition. You can also set up alerts for warranty expirations and scheduled maintenance in your asset tracking software. 

You’ll want to keep things as simple as possible. It’s common for ongoing hardware asset management programs to fail because they become too complicated or cause employees to spend too much time managing them. 

The easier it is for IT teams and office administrators to run an inventory, update your asset management software, and maintain your assets, the more likely they’ll be to do it and the more value you’ll get from your asset management strategy in the long run. 

Hardware asset management best practices 

Building an effective hardware asset management system is one thing, but ensuring it operates at its best requires following a set of best practices.

Make sure asset tags are clear and readable

Asset tags play a vital role in your hardware asset management system — they are your primary identifiers for each piece of hardware. Therefore, it's crucial to ensure these tags are clear and readable. It starts by placing them in a uniform and obvious position on each asset. For example, place them on the front of every printer in exactly the same place as in the image below. 

You also need to make sure that asset tags remain in good condition. Regularly inspect and replace any worn or damaged tags, and review the accuracy of electronic data periodically to ensure it reflects the current status of each asset.

Map out asset lifecycles

The main objective of a hardware asset management strategy is to increase the lifecycle of your IT assets. So make sure you have a clear idea of exactly what that lifecycle looks like and at which point in that lifecycle each asset is at. 

By mapping this out for each asset, you can anticipate when equipment needs to be replaced or upgraded, effectively budget for future purchases, and reduce the impact of hardware failures by preemptively servicing or replacing aging equipment. Lifecycle mapping also supports sustainability efforts, as it ensures assets are responsibly retired and disposed of at the end of their useful life.

Prioritize the best asset tracking software features

Every organization will need a core set of asset tracking software features: think custom fields, detailed history, and secure data storage.

But your business may have specific needs that not every software provider can meet. For example, do you need to be able to access and edit records offline? Does the software need to be mobile ready? Do you need role-based access?

By understanding and prioritizing your unique needs, you can ensure you choose a software solution that meets your needs now and in the future. 

Create a hardware asset management strategy with RedBeam

Creating an effective hardware asset management system is vital in today’s tech-focused environment. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a school or a business, every organization needs to keep track of and maintain their IT assets. 

In doing so, you can increase the lifespan of your equipment, improve your asset security, and significantly reduce the costs associated with acquiring and maintaining assets. 

RedBeam’s asset tracking software is the ideal solution to record and manage your hardware assets. Schedule a demo to see what RedBeam can do for you.