What is Hardware Asset Management?

Hardware asset management (HAM) describes the processes, tools, and strategies of managing the physical components of computers and related systems.

A subset of IT management, hardware asset management focuses exclusively on the physical components of information technology. HAM begins as hardware is acquired, continues through the life of the hardware, and ends with the final disposal of the defunct component. Hardware asset managers take the lead in this responsibility, and must be intimately familiar with all relevant company hardware, and capable of working closely with departments and management across all levels of the organization.

A hardware asset is something of an umbrella term that describes any tangible, physical company technology asset, including those currently in use, those in storage, and support equipment.

With this definition in mind, hardware assets are generally grouped into four primary categories:

End-user devices

End-user devices refer to any company hardware used directly by employees in their day-to-day work. This includes computers, tablets, smart phones, SIM cards, and more. Hardware assets also encompass personal devices used to perform business tasks within an organization.

Network/telecom hardware

Network and telecom hardware is support equipment that helps facilitate digital and analog communication. This includes routers, load balancers, switches, and telephone- and video-conferencing systems.

Data-center equipment

Data-center equipment describes all hardware that allows data centers to function effectively, including servers, utilities, and security devices.

Peripherals

Peripherals are the significant support equipment found throughout the modern-office environment. Peripherals may include scanners, printers, monitors, keyboards, headsets, projectors, and even cables and adaptors.

Bear in mind that the modern workforce is not exclusively confined to the office; it extends to remote workers who operate out of their homes. Hardware asset management needs to be able to meet the needs of the remote workforce, and to account for the physical equipment they use to perform their jobs.

As previously stated, HAM covers the entire service-life of the hardware asset. This lifecycle can be described in six parts:

Request

Organizational hardware needs are defined by a variety of factors, including priorities, customer and business data, incidents, compliance, and budget. But all of this really comes down to two specific questions: What hardware is necessary to fulfill the business need? And, how much funding is available?

In the request stage of HAM, these questions are addressed, hardware solutions are identified, and requests are submitted.

Graphic showing hardware asset management lifecycle

Fulfill

With budgets finalized and hardware selected, the next step in the lifecycle is to fulfill the hardware requests. To do this, organizations need to understand which vendors are available, what levels of technical and warranty support they offer, and whether their hardware is compatible with other IT assets within the company.

For businesses that operate within a bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policy, the fulfillment stage helps ensure that all personal devices that may be used for company work have authorized, secure access to internal systems, are logged by the corporate body, and are accounted for in terms of financial reporting.

Deploy

After tagging the asset for future device servicing and organization, it is ready to be configured and deployed. For end-user hardware, this step may include having an employee ‘sign out’ the device, as well as read and agree to any established acceptable-use policies.

This stage also includes transporting the asset from storage to the designated work area (including any remote-work environments), configuring the asset, and integrating the asset with any other relevant technologies.

Monitor

Once hardware has been deployed, asset managers must now do what they can to mitigate risk and ensure effective hardware performance. This involves creating a comprehensive view of the entire hardware asset estate through ongoing monitoring.

Monitoring deployed hardware allows managers to keep a closer eye on aging resources, prevent assets from showing up in unexpected places on the network, and eliminate risks from outdated software. Integrating with IT and Security Operation workflows improves monitoring capabilities and accuracy.

Service

Hardware naturally requires regular maintenance to ensure ongoing effectiveness. This stage of the lifecycle encompasses any scheduled maintenance, updates, or upgrades, as well as any unscheduled emergency repair work.

During this process, HAMs have the responsibility of reviewing the state of the hardware in question to determine whether the asset may need to be recycled, reassigned, or retired.

Retire

As the asset reaches the end of its service life, is unrepairable, or includes unpatchable security vulnerabilities, the final step is to decommission it from active use. Alternatively, in the case of BYOD equipment, hardware will need to be retired from service in the event that the employee who owns it leaves the company.

The status of the asset will need to be updated within company systems, and any and all corporate information will need to be wiped from the device. After which, the device may be returned, sold, donated, recycled, or properly disposed of.

Business hardware doesn’t always seem like a very safe investment; it depreciates in value quickly, sees ongoing wear and tear, and demands regular maintenance and occasional repair work. Effective hardware asset management helps counter these drawbacks. The advantages of HAM include the following:

Improved loss prevention

Keeping an accurate catalog of all company hardware—in use as well as in storage—makes it easy to track equipment and identify missing hardware. Asset tagging, assigning ownership, and tracking the asset’s location give organizations the information they need to mitigate risks associated with incomplete asset knowledge. It also allows HAMs to identify which assets are idle and thus more likely to be targeted for theft.

Enhanced productivity

Without an established hardware asset management strategy, the responsibility of handling and keeping track of equipment often falls to employees. Without established HAM best practices, these employees may rely on inefficient, ineffective, or time-consuming processes. Proper asset management not only ensures accurate cataloging and distribution of essential equipment, it also frees up employees to make more efficient use of their time—predicting asset issues before they occur, and allowing organizations to automate many asset management processes.

Optimized usage

Hardware management best practices and well-organized maintenance and upgrade schedules helps ensure that employees are using company equipment properly, and are getting the most out of it. At the same time, accurate asset inventories protect organizations from overspending, reducing overall spend and getting more for their hardware investments.

Increased security and compliance

It’s difficult for security teams to protect what they can’t see. Effective HAM provides a complete listing of all hardware assets accompanied by relevant version information. This allows security teams to create complete coverage strategies, while also identifying assets that may be vulnerable to emergent threats. Working in conjunction with ITAM, hardware asset management can also identify unapproved hardware assets and ensure compliance with established policies and regulations.

More-effective lifecycle management

Perhaps most importantly, HAM gives businesses complete visibility and control over the asset lifecycle. For every piece of equipment, asset managers have easy access to product and vendor details, usage history, current ownership and tasks, and more. Relying on this data, HAMs can then make more-informed decisions related to vendor contracts, servicing, replacements, and more.

Taken all together, these benefits provide a clear advantage for organizations that invest in effective hardware asset management. Top-quality HAM systems and strategies quickly pay for themselves, both in terms of time and money.

Cost savings are a part of essentially every benefit associated with hardware asset management. Here are several ways that HAM helps reduce company spend:

  • Reduced maintenance costs
  • More-accurate hardware budgets
  • Less hardware spend
  • More-efficient disposal processes
  • Minimal manual work

Hardware management is an essential, yet often-overlooked component to business success. Now, businesses can place HAM in the spotlight, with ServiceNow Hardware Asset Management. With advanced automation technologies, easy-to-use dashboards, and powerful audit and analysis tools, any organization can gain deep visibility and control over their physical assets for improved effectiveness and productivity.

The ServiceNow Hardware Asset Management solution provides complete end-to-end asset visibility, provides businesses with accurate insights to reduce asset costs and risk, and incorporates automated asset workflows to ensure an effective hardware asset management lifecycle. Available as part of the ServiceNow IT Asset Management toolset, Hardware Asset Management eliminates the daunting complexity of managing and maintaining the equipment businesses depend on.

Graphic of ITAM on the Now Platform

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