Network asset management software creates and maintains an inventory of all network components, including workstations, switches, routers, modems, printers and other network-attached equipment. It is part of an overall IT management strategy along with mobile device, network performance and security management components.
Network asset management software consists of a central management component that communicates via the network with embedded agent software installed on each tracked device. The central component periodically scans the network to detect added or removed equipment and records any changes to previously installed equipment.
For each item, the network asset management product records the equipment type, when and where it was purchased, and warranty information. For workstations, the software records usernames and email addresses. Additionally, it records each device's CPU type, serial number, BIOS revision level and the amount of memory and storage.
Network asset management also performs the following tasks:
- tracks installed software revision levels and software licenses;
- maintains usage records; and
- detects when a software application is no longer used so teams can remove the software and stop paying license fees.
The benefits of network asset management software
Because network asset management software monitors all equipment on the network, it provides several benefits for enterprise network teams.
Alerts about installed software and security issues
Asset management software detects when a user installs additional software and determines whether the added software is allowed. Alerts can signal when someone shuts off antivirus software or installs a dangerous application.
The software can also prevent user downtime by signaling when available space on a hard drive drops below a certain point or when CPU usage rises above a preset level. Additionally, teams can configure the product to block execution of certain software and signal that it did so.
Automatically pushes software updates
Another benefit of network asset management software is automatic updates. Because OSes and application software require quick updates when a new attack is announced, network asset management software automates updates by transferring the updated software to applicable components and triggering the update process to all affected equipment.
Maintaining records on each network component can aid software problem-solving. Asset management maintains records of earlier statuses, recording all changes and the dates of changes. For example, if a problem began after a system change, the software could trace the problem back to the change and potentially reverse the previous change.
Monitors web use and enhances security
Many network asset management products can monitor and control web use by tracking and recording which URLs each user accesses and the amount of time each URL is active. They can also limit which URLs are accessible and make some unavailable.
Some products also enhance security by offering features, such as two-factor authentication, to ensure that unauthorized attackers can't access the network even with a legitimate employee's password.
Network asset management and WFH
The move from the office to working from home (WFH) has greatly increased the value of network asset management software. Asset management software has become a necessity as many network teams can no longer gather information from workstations and other equipment by walking through the office.
With more people working remotely, network asset management software has increased in value, while also raising potential questions about how teams use it -- similar to questions regarding employees and mobile devices, such as cellphones and tablets. For example, does the company supply phones, and if so, can employees use them for personal calls and emails? Or do employees carry two phones? Similarly, does the company require employees to take their office workstation home, or can they continue to use personal laptops for full-time office work? If so, can employers insist that network asset management be installed on personal laptops?
Network asset management products
Network asset management products are available from a number of vendors. For many vendors, network asset management is part of an overall package with other management functions. Some provide support for a range of workstations, cellphones and tablet software environments.
Some asset management software products originally focused on cellphones and tablets. Others began as office-oriented products that vendors released and updated long before the COVID-19 pandemic. Most vendors added mobile device support when phones and the internet became capable of business use. These products have integrated features common to both environments and, more recently, have been updated to support full-time WFH. Products will undoubtedly continue to evolve to support changing work environments.