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What Is Asset Discovery and Inventory?


Asset discovery and inventory is the process of cataloging the hardware (and the hardware’s software) connected to the corporate network. By regularly monitoring these devices, organizations are able to detect potential vulnerabilities and active threats, safeguarding their organization.

In today’s era of cloud solutions and remote work by laptops, PCs and tablets, asset discovery and inventory is no easy task. There are devices IT departments know about, like printers and company-issued laptops, and a growing hodgepodge of unknown devices, like personal gadgets, that employees use to connect to the network.

Add to this a revolving door of tools and technologies — some with approval and some without — and it’s easy to understand why many organizations don’t have a clear understanding of their IT assets.

This lack of visibility is a problem. Unknown devices without proper security measures pose threats to the company’s network. According to a Ponemon report, the number of cyberattacks caused by a third party’s unsecured IoT device or application climbed from 18 percent in 2018 to 23 percent in 2019. Moreover, just 51 percent said their organization is monitoring the devices used within their organization.

These unknown factors make it difficult for IT to strategically provision assets. Without a clear understanding of the devices it has, which ones are up-to-date, and which ones aren’t, IT is unable to accurately assess exactly what the organization needs.

Without this insight into the enterprise, businesses waste money on software licenses, time preparing for audits and opportunities to respond to threats. That’s where asset discovery and inventory can help.

Benefits of asset discovery and inventory

Organizations turn to asset discovery and inventory solutions to maximize the value of their assets. Not only does this process provide them a much-needed holistic view of their environment, it provides a number of other benefits, as well. They include:

  • Improved security. Detecting and tracking an organization’s known and unknown assets uncover endpoints that could be subject to malware, viruses and cyberattacks. With this information, businesses can act quickly to shore up their environment.
  • Penalty prevention. Unlicensed software is subject to fines from vendors if discovered during an audit. Asset discovery and inventory identifies potential compliance issues before they become a problem.
  • Insight into network architecture. By uncovering physical and virtual network assets, on-premise and cloud vulnerabilities, as well as potential attack vectors, IT is better able to understand the organization’s network architecture.
  • Simplified maintenance and optimization. Asset discovery and inventory informs a business about the status of hardware and software, enabling more streamlined network updates.
  • Cost savings. Visibility into the organization’s IT assets identifies unused licenses, duplicate software and the lifespan of devices — all of which cost businesses money.

Evaluating asset discovery and inventory solutions

Some organizations use a combination of manual processes, such as spreadsheets, and legacy tools to better understand their environment. This isn’t enough: Not only does it create significant security and operations concerns, it doesn’t provide accurate and ongoing visibility into their environment.

[Read also: Nine ways to make asset discovery and inventory fast and easy]

Businesses should look to solutions that are designed to operate effectively in dynamic, distributed environments. The solution should:

  • Consistently collect data to provide a current, reliable and comprehensive picture of an organization’s environment.
  • Maintain an accurate inventory of remote assets.
  • Analyze usage data across hardware and software assets to rationalize spend while deriving value from existing solutions.
  • Find unknown endpoints through constant monitoring.
  • Identify new endpoints entering the environment and bring them under control.
  • Track usage and unused percentage of installed software on each of the organization’s endpoints.
  • Secure and manage the health of the company’s endpoints by combining flexible discovery and automation to reduce risk.
  • Mitigate risk and inefficiency.

Protecting what you can’t see is nearly impossible. Consistent and comprehensive network monitoring, asset discovery and inventory can help organizations make the best decisions about their assets.

Kristin Burnham

Kristin Burnham is a freelance journalist covering IT, business technology, and leadership.

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