The growing number of remote and hybrid work environments may increase your company’s productivity and cut down on some costs, but it does increase the complexity of your IT asset management. Without proper ITAM, your organization could be spending money on underutilized resources, could have a hard time maintaining compliance, or could be ignoring security risks. Facing those challenges starts with creating a database of your assets and making sure that they are properly identified. Today, we’ll help you get your IT asset management started with the ins and outs of asset tags.

The “Whys” of building an Inventory

The first step of managing your IT assets is to build up your inventory by identifying the assets. A large number of your assets may actually be licenses and services, even data or protocols; while these items can’t be tagged with a barcode, they can be tracked in your database just the same.

From big, obvious items like computers and server hardware all the way down to peripherals, hardware devices that your company owns should be able to be categorized, located, serviced, or replaced whenever necessary. In the inventory database, items will be associated with their location, owner, serial number, and purchase date, as well as any other important facts about the item. It’s especially important to keep this information for mobile devices and laptops, because not having a detailed account of where they are and who they are with increases the chances that they just “walk away.”

Having an up-to-date and reliable inventory creates value by helping you make decisions about your hardware. For instance, if you have a number of similar or identical items that were purchased around the same time, you can manage their life cycles together and replace them on time without waiting for them to break or become unsupported. This could be hard drives that, after a certain amount of use, tend to fail at the same time, or it could be older systems that need to be replaced when they won’t support the next operating system.

The inventory stores data that can track usage of assets, can be analyzed for potential problems with hardware, and is instrumental in planning for your company’s future. It can also be used to understand where your resources are and if they’re being properly utilized; in remote work, upgrading a device like a laptop or router means that the old hardware needs to come back to the office, for instance.

Asset Identification

Asset tags are physical items that you can use to identify a piece of hardware when it’s entered into your inventory database or your IT asset management software. In its simplest form, the asset tag could simply have a number that identifies that specific piece of hardware with its identifier in the database. If I have, for example, many of the same HDMI cable for use across my organization, that cable gets its own identifier in my organization, which I can tag it with upon receiving them. If I have unique items, they’ll be entered into the database with their own unique number on the tag.

The tagging should be obvious on the device so that technicians can find the part when it comes to them. Popular systems today have either QR codes or barcodes, since they can be scanned by smartphones or specialized hardware, and they can contain more information than just one identifier (if necessary). In some fields, assets are tagged with high-end radio enabled tags—these tags are designed for automating physical inventory systems and locating devices, which would be really convenient in a hospital, for instance.

QR code and barcode style tags can be ordered with your company logo on them, or could be printed on demand. The important thing to remember is that items need to be tagged when you receive them, which is also when they are entered into the inventory. This helps you keep everything organized and clear, instead of tracking down information when you’re already dealing with a problem.

-Written by Derek Jeppsen on Behalf of Sean Goss and Crown Computers Team