To Asset Tag or Not?

Hi ITAM Forum peeps,

Curious to know within the vast space that is ITAM, how many companies/orgs have utilized asset tagging? If so, what type of asset tag? Barcode? QR code or something different? Is it on all assets or selected assets? Has the asset tag helped in tracking the asset?

Appreciate anyone who can provide some guidance within the wonderful hardware space.

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Good Question. I am curious as well. Also now days there is ZTE (zero touch anablement) - How would tagging work then? Not sure if any one has ideas here.

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Hi James - we actually implemented ‘virtual’ tagging. We create a tag which is just a JSON or txt file that is deposited on each device. Then we use our Asset Management platform ‘Snow Software’ to read the tag and deposit the information into the database. This has been useful to collect metadata that is not normally discoverable by an agent such as environment or division. Admittedly it still requires a touch of the device to create and deposit the tag but we have automated the collection of the data. Hope that helps - Rick

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Hi Rick,
Thank you so much for the insight. Currently in my company there is no asset tagging so i am planning to implement the process. By any chance do you have any documents or reference articles that i can look into for this virtual tagging. Any information about this will be a great help for me.

Thank you!

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Hi all,

Yes, we tag assets with barcoded tags that our team prints up in-house. At one time we had tags made from an external vendor, however they couldn’t barcode them and they were expensive. After some cursory research I was able to procure a label maker with enough supplies to generate 20,000 asset tags at the same price it would have taken us to order 500 from the external vendor. Massive savings, plus the ability to customize tags and add barcodes. We opt to retain physical identification tags due to the nature of our environment and how our customers need the info at-a-glance, though I do like the JSON idea. At this time QR is unnecessary for us and RFID tagging is too cost-prohibitive, though I wouldn’t mind having that level of detail.

Regarding the decision to tag, here is some criteria I’ve published to our teams that indicate what goes into the tagging decision. Many agencies will set a dollar threshold, however for our reporting needs we’ve expanded on the criteria. Note that not all criteria need to apply to decide to tag:

  • Is the IT department procuring?
  • Is the IT department supporting?
  • Is the IT department tracking and documenting?
  • Will this item live on or interface with the business network?
  • Is the item serialized?
  • Is the item warrantied?
  • Does the item have heightened risk?
  • Does the item have high value?
  • Do our customers have an elevated accountability to the item and a need to report back on it?

Not necessarily exhaustive, but also serves to get the point across and subliminally advertise the value of our ITAM program.

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We buy barcode tags from a vendor and apply them only to data bearing devices. We do find it easier/faster to scan the equipment when doing inventories, when processing returns, and when doing disposals. I would see diminishing returns on applying asset tags to peripherals/low cost/one-time-use items.

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Hi Rick - thanks for sharing! Curious what information is embedded in the JSON file?

James

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Hi James, we put metadata that is not auto-discoverable. Things like division, business unit, technical contact, business contact, environment type, etc. Really the list is infinite, just depends what is valuable to your organization.

  • Rick
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Hi - We just utilize the standard technology and processs available in Snow Software. We did not do anything customized.

  • Rick
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I’d offer this - Remember first that most IT assets have a serial number, and many but not all also already have a scannable barcode embedded on the device to match the serial. This may or may not address your need - at a historical basis, people chose to add asset tags because that was not always the case, and they wanted faster methods to identify a unit without having to bring out the magnifying glass or booting the unit up.

If you want to proceed, then start by setting an Asset Tag policy standard: For that, you need to make some decisions based on usually 2 criteria - Cost, and Risk.

  • At what Cost minimum should you tag items knowing the work to tag items initially, and to maintain the relationships between the manual asset tag and other systemic data like serial number. The number matters less than you establish one and then stick with it. Try not to vary it based on Model or Category. (and it’s not really useful for Software assets generally). So even just round numbers $1000. Then Evaluate if its capturing a usable & complete list of items that are important to track in this manner.

  • Use Risk - are there items that are below the cost threshold but offer substantial risk to the company that drive a need to more closely track the inventory and asset functions going forward?

One other consideration - some organizations do not what “third parties” to know that a given piece of hardware belongs to them in order to reduce risk of specific theft targeting. There are old stories of specific thefts at airport security (assuming they’re not old wives tales) in order for competitors to try to capture protected information. That may or may not be relevant to you. Most organizations want their name on it assuming that makes it easier for them to prove ownership. Which of course assumes that an offending party wouldn’t be smart enough to remove identifying stickers in that case…

Then as was mentioned above in other comments - you want to determine your style (as mentioned QR and RFID have additional costs), then select your media (not all stickers are equal - you may or may not need something special depending on the conditions), your numbering system, and the system that you’ll track the relationship of asset & serial in.

Lastly determine what your plan will be to asset tag the deployed assets that meet the defined thresholds. You’ve likely got hundreds or thousands of assets in the “field” that will need to be touched in order to get to compliant. Adding them to newly bought gear is usually easier to plan, but then you might be at the whim of your lifecycle before getting to an appropriate level of compliance to your standard.

Hope that helps some
James

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With many of our workforce being remote we do not apply asset tags to all devices. Instead there is ownership requirements to both register and maintain their records via automation and starts at deployment to the customer (PC or Server owners). Two custodians (Owner of, Manager of) as well as CI Group ownership for area are documented in our CMDB. When devices fall outside the windows, i.e. inventory health gaps what follows then is request for update to the CI record. These processes continue through the entire lifecycle through final decommissioning and disposal where appropriate. All of this led by our central hardware governance teams globally via policy, controls that are enforced.

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