As part of the IT team, how often are you asked what assets are present on your network? As somebody responsible for finding, tracking, and monitoring the usage of assets on your network, our guess? Far too often.
However, this can be a massive and tedious task, especially when you are a part of a larger organization with hundreds of assets on its network. This is where the network asset discovery process comes into the picture.
This process helps you identify and monitor all the assets within your network at all times—manually or automatically. In either case, it’s an essential aspect of IT infrastructure management. For this reason, the Global Software Asset Management Market is expected to reach $5.4 billion by 2027, rising at a market growth of 17.3% CAGR during the forecast period.
In this article, we will discuss the concept of network asset discovery, how it works, and how businesses can benefit from its usage.
What is network asset discovery?
Network asset discovery is the process of discovering, mapping, and describing all of your IT assets. It is an essential step in any IT infrastructure management strategy as it provides a detailed inventory of all your assets. This process can be conducted using an asset discovery tool.
Asset discovery tools can also help you understand:
- What software is installed on each device
- How much storage space is available
- Who uses and owns each device
- Where all your devices are located
This information is valuable for identifying problems within your network environment. It can also help you make informed decisions about future purchases or upgrades based on facts rather than assumptions or guesses.
This process can be done manually too. However, it is often more effective to use an automated tool to quickly gather all relevant information and display it in an easy-to-read format.
Challenges of managing software assets
Before trying to understand how network asset discovery works, let’s understand why it is essential in the first place.
Here is a list of challenges of tracking and managing software assets within your network:
Lack of visibility into the entire IT infrastructure
It allows IT teams to look into their entire infrastructure and gain visibility into what assets exist on their network. It will enable the team to preserve, protect, and prioritize devices critical to business operations.
For example, now that remote work is the norm—it is far too common for employees to connect multiple devices that do not always belong to the company. It is also important to inventory these assets, as avoiding them could result in various security and compliance issues down the line.
Also, this process will indicate when devices were last upgraded or changed out, which is helpful if you’re maintaining the asset inventory.
Regular asset failure leads to a longer downtime duration
It is easy to underestimate how complex network infrastructure is, especially when functioning correctly. When something goes wrong with even one system component, it can cause a chain reaction that affects the entire network. It is particularly true for highly distributed environments and spans multiple locations, such as cloud infrastructure or data centers.
In 2020, 25% of respondents worldwide reported that their servers’ average hourly downtime costs between $301,000 and $400,000. So, a longer downtime duration could result in a loss of millions of dollars.
Unnecessary disruptions to IT services
Managing a network with hundreds of devices can be a challenging process. There are several reasons why this can happen:
- Lack of processes to manage these assets
- No dedicated network asset discovery tools are in place
- No clear separation of monitoring duties
- Lack of a security structure
In either case, when you do not have a set system in place, that could result in regular service disruptions—leading to frustrating experiences for employees and customers.
Applications and programs freeze often
The most common cause of system downtime is a malfunctioning component within a network infrastructure. The discovery of network issues often involves troubleshooting by IT personnel, which can be time-consuming and expensive.
Regardless of how well a company plans, one or more servers might experience hardware failure that prevents them from working as intended. It can happen to any system regardless of whether it is an integral part of an organization’s operations. It’s unrealistic to physically visit each server to run tests every single time this happens.
Increasing costs of using and managing IT assets
In today’s businesses, computers and network devices run various processes. A failure in any of them can lead to a loss of valuable data, irrecoverable documents, or incomplete work. Employees must deal with the issues and breakdowns if a computer is offline.
The same is true of faulty network equipment. The company’s employee’s productivity will be affected by the number of working computers and other assets.
When something breaks down in a small office, it takes the IT staff quite some time to find out what failed and why it went wrong. Hardware issues are not always clear-cut. Sometimes an outdated device or software can malfunction or crash because of a virus. In some cases, it needs to be restarted after not being used for too long.
Network asset discovery tools can use various methods to discover assets on your network. Some network asset discovery tools are manual, and some are automated.
An example of a manual technique would be going into the Basic Input/Output System (BIOS) of each machine in your network to look for identifying information about each device.
Automated techniques include port scanning, which sends packets across each computer to determine what services are running at those ports. Then, it uses this information to identify the machines that run those services. Manual techniques, like reviewing BIOS settings or inspecting manually, take more time than automated asset discovery. However, they also tend to provide more detailed information about every device connected to your network.
Agent vs. Agentless discovery
The two most common types of network asset discovery are agent-based and agentless.
Agent-based discovery: In this case, the IT asset management discovery tool places a target on each system that collects data and consolidates that information in one place. They are hosted locally and are usually manually deployed to ensure it is done properly.
Agentless discovery: You do not need to install probes/agents at the endpoint manually. Instead, all the data is gathered remotely using a tool run on a server. While they save time on manual deployment—they cannot access complete information about a software asset. Plus, they might suffer from issues like latency, packet loss, or poor connections.
Using a tool that offers both options is best, and you can create a workflow that works best for you.
Benefits of network asset discovery
There are several benefits of implementing network asset discovery processes within your organization.
Tracks all your assets in one place with minimal manual intervention
A good asset discovery solution will provide insight into each element of your IT infrastructure. These assets include hardware and software components like servers, routers, switches, firewalls, load balancers, databases, application servers, storage devices and printers.
Once you know where these assets are located and connected to, you can use this data to plan for upgrades and other network changes that might be necessary later.
You get a bird’s eye view of all your assets at any given time—ensuring security, service management and reliability, and efficiency. Ultimately, it gives you complete visibility into your entire network.
Manages your software licenses in one place
Another critical benefit of asset discovery is software license management. It involves maintaining a database of your organization’s third-party providers and their contracts. This process will help you keep track of registered and unregistered software on your network.
Software licenses can be free or paid, depending on the product. They exist in many different forms—agreements with service providers and subscriptions—that require extensive tracking.
Unregistered or pirated software can lead to penalties for the stakeholder or client, costing your company thousands of dollars. You can prevent such issues by tracking the software your employees use. It also helps you reduce redundant technology purchases—driving operational costs down over time.
Facilitates data-driven decisions for asset usage and management
You can use asset discovery data for many things, including planning, troubleshooting, and security. For example, you will know exactly how many software licenses need replacement because you can consolidate this data centrally. You can also assess whether the software licenses were worth the investment by monitoring their usage across the network.
Moreover, you can employ efficient troubleshooting—dramatically reducing IT maintenance costs in terms of money and workforce.
Always keeps stakeholders informed about the state of your assets
Your organization needs to be aware of the assets that support your employees and their associated services. Without this awareness, you cannot assess the impact of a data breach or cyberattack. It means you must learn to take action when the unexpected happens.
Employing a network asset discovery tool helps you gather critical information about these assets and inform employees during an outage or breach. This practice ensures that employees know what is happening during a critical event and can take the necessary steps to rectify the issue (based on internal protocols).
Additionally, if there is an update in your network, the discovery tool automatically identifies this change and intimates the necessary personnel. It ensures that no asset is left hidden within the network.
Flags critical IT issues before they become actualbusiness problems
Network asset discovery is a way to protect your business from malicious threats like malware and viruses. Without this protection, viruses can spread to other devices on your network, affecting everything from your employees’ productivity to your company’s reputation.
This allows them to determine which devices are authorized to access the enterprise network and which should be blocked. If you’re using a bring your own device (BYOD) solution, you can scan an employee’s laptop to see what software and hardware is installed by locating its port and components.
This way, the IT team can take proactive measures to ensure that employees’ devices can only access the enterprise network when required. Also, employees can continue using their laptops for office use. The discovery tool can help prevent an external attack from spreading to other users connected to the same network when such a vulnerability has been identified.
Helps you optimize IT costs by identifying redundant purchases
When you use an asset discovery tool, it becomes much easier to track all the devices, applications and related licenses in one place. It’s fairly common to see companies spending too much on their IT infrastructure without realizing that some of their purchases are redundant or irrelevant. Using such tools, it will become easier to monitor these aspects.
For example, if two users in the company are purchasing different project management tools, you can remove one of these purchases. This practice ensures that all internal users are working with similar applications and there are no unnecessary expenses.
Generates automated reports and monitors assets continuously
It is crucial to have access to comprehensive reports that detail every aspect of your infrastructure. When you use a discovery tool that generates these automatically at specified time intervals, it frees up your IT team to focus on more pressing tasks. It also ensures that they have a hold on every single asset at any given point. This capability in turn allows them to identify issues in time—ensuring effective monitoring 24×7.
Manage your network infrastructure with Virima
Network asset discovery is a crucial part of any IT infrastructure management strategy. It allows you to keep track of all your servers, switches, and other devices to ensure they are working correctly.
This aspect is vital if there are any problems with these devices. It can cause major disruptions in productivity or even security breaches if not addressed quickly enough. Businesses need this information because it is vital to understand what they are working with when it comes to the hardware side of things.
For example, you can use Virima’s asset discovery tool that helps you scan multiple environments like data centers, cloud, and edge to gather all your assets in one place. Moreover, it ensures that your data and credentials are always encrypted, using secure discovery at every step.
You can also use agent-based or agentless network discovery based on your needs, as each option has pros and cons. When you take advantage of both probe types, you can access a broad range of devices on your network.
This process’s primary advantage is that it uncovers information about these devices in real time, including vendor, model, and serial numbers. It will help you keep track of all the devices on your network, which is especially useful in an organization with many different types of employees or user groups.If you are looking for a network asset discovery tool for your business, schedule a demo with us today.