Hardware Asset Management: Knowing When to Upgrade


IT Manager

When is it time to say goodbye? For a hardware device, that question can be tough to answer.  Though the device has been in the environment for several years, there is still usable life left.  So why would we retire and dispose the device and spend additional money on a replacement?

With the device’s lifecycle information, that answer becomes much clearer.  We know the intentions of the device manufacturer: When the device will no longer be available for purchase, when support will end, and when the device will go end of life.

The next related issue is a big one: if we know a device should be retired, do we know where all the similar devices are in our environment?  Without hardware asset management  (HAM), discovery, and normalization, it’s nearly impossible to answer to this question.

Enter the HAM 
Strong HAM processes capture information from the time of device purchase/receipt all the way to disposal.  In between, HAM will tell us where the devices are in our stockrooms and warehouses.  Next comes discovery, which tells us where in our environment these devices are installed. 

Discovery captures data from the device. This data will likely be captured with numerous variations in the manufacturer name, device model, and device model number.  This is where normalization solves the variation problem.  Normalization groups like devices together by standardizing the manufacturer and device model and model number.

Get proactive
For example, one company I know has been purchasing and deploying industrial routers throughout their environment since 2015.  The IT Asset Management (ITAM) team has had a HAM program in place since 2011, so they have vendor and purchase history for all these routers and track where in-stock routers are stored. 

Because of their HAM program, they know the manufacturer of the industrial router stopped selling that model at the end of 2019, so they can no longer buy replacements.  They also know the manufacturer will stop providing device and operating system support at the end of this year. Finally, they know that a vulnerability with these routers was recently discovered that allows attackers to intercept and decrypt network traffic routed through them.

Thanks to normalization, the ITAM team has a complete list of all its industrial routers, whether the routers are deployed or in storage. Discovery tells them the location of all the deployed routers. 

With all this information on hand and with the lifecycle support date at the end of 2020 as the finish line, they have an upfront runway to select the best replacement router for their environment, negotiate with vendors to get the  lowest price and set up a project to replace all the to-be retired routers in the environment. 

Be prepared
These are the benefits of being proactive. What’s the cost of being reactive?  First, you may have to pay for extended support from a manufacturer because devices can’t be quickly replaced.  And failure to track equipment through its lifecycle can create significant security risks. If you don’t know there is a risk or if you don’t know where all the risk-identified devices are in your environment, then your organization may be vulnerable.  A security breach is not a price you want to pay. 

If you’d like to learn more, watch the on-demand webinar: The ITAM Triforce – Discover the power of SAM, HAM, and the CMDB

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