IT Asset Discovery: A Guide for IT Managers

If you're just about to make your first foray into the world of IT asset management (ITAM), you may be wondering how to begin. It’s no wonder—organizations have more IT assets than ever, and tracking them has never been more important.

In this article, BlueTally will be looking at the concept of IT asset discovery—a crucial first step in effective ITAM. We'll explain what it is, why you need to do it, and the different tools available to help you do so.

Ready to start maximizing your assets? Let started.

What Is IT Asset Discovery?

IT asset discovery is (quite literally) the process of discovering the IT assets in your organization's network.

The word “discover” is apt here because IT departments often don't have full visibility over their entire network. This means that without a discovery process, they won't know what assets they own and where they are located.

Ultimately, the IT asset discovery process gives IT departments a solid foundation upon which to build good habits and effective asset management processes.

IT Asset Discovery Methods

When it comes to IT asset discovery, there are two main categories of approaches:

  • Active Asset Discovery: This refers to a method of asset discovery in which IT personnel actively search for assets by using scanning tools and manual processes.
  • Passive Asset Discovery: This method of asset discovery relies on monitoring tools to detect and collect data about assets (usually in the form of syslogs).

IT Asset Discovery vs. IT Asset Management

IT asset discovery is the process of identifying all the IT assets within an organization's network. This includes hardware, software, components, consumables—you name it. But once you’ve “discovered” all these assets, what do you do with them?

That’s where IT asset management comes in.

IT asset management tools like BlueTally can help you efficiently manage your network’s IT assets with features like check-in and check-out management, maintenance scheduling and reminders, reporting and analytics, and custom roles.

Checkout Log in BlueTally

That way, you can stay on top of your asset inventory and maintain control over who has access to what. Plus, when it comes time to rotate out or upgrade assets, IT asset management tools can make the process easier by tracking and managing the entire asset lifecycle.

Why Is IT Asset Discovery Important?

Ensure You're Not Using Illegal Software

One important reason to conduct IT asset discovery is to ensure that your organization is not using any illegal or unlicensed software. By discovering all the software in use across your network, you can check whether you are compliant with licensing agreements and avoid any legal or financial consequences.

Get a Better Understanding of Your Network

IT asset discovery can provide you with a comprehensive view of your network architecture. By identifying all the devices and software in use, you can gain insight into how your network is structured and identify potential areas for improvement.

Detect & Address Asset Anomalies

Another key benefit of IT asset discovery is the ability to detect any anomalies in your network. By monitoring your assets, you can identify any unexpected changes or unusual activity, such as unauthorized software installations, and take action to address them before they become bigger problems.

How To Efficiently Manage IT Asset Discovery

When it comes to efficiently managing IT asset discovery, there are several steps you can take. Here are some tips to help you streamline the process:

Like most projects, it’s best to start with a clear plan of attack to cut down on miscommunications, inefficiencies, and headaches down the line. So, sit down with IT  decision-makers and come up with a plan of attack that covers two key areas:

1. Create a High-Level Discovery Plan

  1. The assets that you need to discover.
  2. The order you want to discover them.

It's usually a good idea to start with most critical or sensitive assets— servers, network devices, laptops, etc. These will be the assets you'll need to monitor on a regular basis, so it makes sense to check them off the list early.

Plus, it gives you a chance to fine-tune your discovery process on assets that are (typically) pretty easy to fact-check.

2. Choose the Right Tool for Discovery

Many discovery tools are available, ranging from free, open-source solutions to more expensive commercial products. It’s essential to do your research and find the one that best meets your needs—the last thing you want is a tool that won’t be able to identify all of your assets.

Software for Discovery

Two solid options to consider:

  • SolarWinds Network Performance Monitor: A network monitoring and performance management tool that doubles as a great IT asset discovery tool thanks to robust scanning and cataloging features.
  • FirstWave Open-AudIT: FirstWave Open-Audit is a purpose-built IT asset discovery tool that runs scans on entire networks and tracks asset data in an online database.

Remember—the right tool for you will depend on your organization's specific needs and goals!

3. Work Out a Process

A process is different than a plan—you need both to develop a successful IT asset discovery strategy. Your process will be your team's steps for each discovery scan, from gathering data to cataloging it in an asset database.

You'll want to keep this step as organized and efficient as possible—the goal is to minimize manual entry and reduce the chances of human error during data collection. The process  should include:

  • Establishing an asset inventory goal.
  • Assessment of existing data collection sources and processes.
  • Gathering asset data in a secure environment.
  • Documenting any changes or modifications made during the scan.
  • Creating an online database for storing and tracking data.

Once you have a good process, you can look for the right IT asset discovery tool. That could be anything from a traditional spreadsheet program to more sophisticated software like Bluetally that can be used to manage assets after discovery.

4. Normalize the Data You Gather

Once you've gathered information about your IT assets, it's time to give it some structure—or normalize it, in other words.

We’re talking about sifting through the unformatted, messy data you collect and transforming it into something that’s actually useful to your department. A super common example at this stage is assigning a unique, sensible asset ID to each asset to use in place of the random ID generated by your discovery tool—because those are no fun to remember.

All in all, this stage is important because it’s where you determine what information is important enough to track—and what information you’re ok with relegating to the background.

5. Automate IT Asset Discovery Processes

Looking to make the discovery process more efficient? Consider automating some of the steps involved. 

There are a few things you might try, such as: 

  • Using software to automatically scan your network.
  • Setting up an automated inventory tracking system.
  • Integrating your asset discovery process into other systems.

Another way to up your efficiency is by using machine learning algorithms. These algorithms can quickly zero in on patterns and anomalies in your network traffic data by processing a lot of data at once. Then, you can use that data to make smarter decisions about which assets to prioritize.

6. Invest in IT Asset Management

As we mentioned earlier, IT asset discovery is the first step in a much larger and more important process—ITAM. If you’re new to ITAM software and want to learn more about the many benefits it can bring your organization, we recommend starting with our introductory guide.

For now, it’s enough to know that a comprehensive ITAM solution is the easiest way to keep your asset network secure, compliant, and functioning well.

Overdue for Audit in BlueTally

When you use an IT asset register tool like BlueTally, you’re able to see where all your resources are, how they’re being used, who is using them, and what their current condition is. This incredible visibility gives you the power to answer crucially important questions like:

  • Where’s MacBook Pro #27 right now?
  • Who has the charger for the office printer?
  • Are we running low on user Abode Creative Cloud seats?

BlueTally also takes the guesswork out of setting up alerts, so you’re always in the loop about upcoming and (more important) overdue maintenance and audits.

Setting up alerts in BlueTally

Last but not least, all that data you gathered in the discovery phase (like serial numbers, asset owners, values, etc.) can be stored using unlimited custom fields—perfect for keeping complex data organized, structured, and on hand. 

Support Your IT Asset Discovery Efforts With BlueTally

IT asset discovery isn’t the painstakingly slow process it once was thanks to advanced tools and software. Is it fun? No—but the benefits of having a reliable, up-to-date IT asset register far outweigh the time it takes to get there.

Once all of your IT assets are discovered, BlueTally makes it easy to manage them. With BlueTally, you can get real-time updates on your IT assets, track asset ownership and usage patterns changes, run detailed reports for better planning and forecasting, and set up alert notifications for maintenance and audits.

Ready to simplify IT asset management? Get started with a 14-day free trial of BlueTally.