Protecting Assets and the Organization's Bottom Line
Protecting Assets and the Organization's Bottom Line

Jul 1, 2003 12:00 PM

Security and IT professionals understand the need to track and manage assets to reduce liability, but few have established an asset protection program that really yields results. The reason? They have yet to discover the full benefits of integration.

Once organizations make the big move toward integrating specific tools and techniques with asset tracking solutions, they will quickly see how effective asset management can reduce risk, increase productivity and positively impact their bottom lines.
The Basics

An asset can be defined as any owned item with monetary value ! in a corporate environment such items can include hardware, software or even intellectual property. Although employees are not "owned" by their employers, they have often been considered to be an organization's greatest asset. This is because employees ! and their intellect, skills, time and productivity at work ! are valuable resources that can affect the health (and wealth) of an organization.

While the definition of asset protection is a little broader, it can generally be defined as any methodology that assists in the protection of an organization's property. Employing the use of security solutions, such as simple intrusion systems or proximity tagging, can go a long way in helping to safeguard assets.

Asset tracking, which fits under the umbrella of asset protection, is a sub-set of asset management. It is the process of tracking and managing information and property throughout an asset's lifecycle. While traditional inventory systems provide information on "how many" assets a company has, often they do not address the critical information tied to that asset, such as location, costs, maintenance and utilization.
Taking Stock

Before deciding on an asset tracking solution, it is important to understand current assets and how they will change over time. Taking an inventory or audit of all assets within an organization can determine what assets are critical to the operation, bring value or create risk. Mobile or laptop computers, intellectual property, software licenses, tools and equipment, and vehicles are all assets an organization may wish to protect. Solutions and technologies to protect these assets include:

  • Software-based computer tracking

    Software solutions on the market today can help companies keep track of computers and help curb loss. To begin tracking, software is installed onto a computer's hard drive. It then dials into a central monitoring station on a scheduled basis via modem or IP connection ! if the computer is reported lost or stolen, it is flagged in a secure database, so the next time the computer calls in, its location is tracked. With the help of police, the asset is usually recovered. Software-based computer tracking systems can also help organizations to better track and manage how employees are using corporate resources and company time.
  • Software Tracking

    By monitoring software license use and compliance to license contracts, organizations can take control of their software investment while avoiding costly fines and penalties associated with non-compliance. Some systems also track hardware components and computer configurations and can generate alarms or alerts based on pre-determined conditions. Information gleaned from an IT asset management system can assist administrators in making more informed decisions about their IT assets.
  • Barcode Systems

    Barcode systems usually include barcode tags and readers such as handheld scanners, PDAs and barcode wands. These systems combine "location-centric" asset tracking, valuation and maintenance scheduling with other critical functions. Barcode systems are particularly useful for tracking the movement and changes of IT assets. Benefits of barcode systems include:

    • Increasing reliability by scheduling preventive maintenance and tracking warranty and contract expiration dates;

    • Identifying buying patterns, verifying that organizations are adequately insured, and enabling standardization of purchases for maximum volume discounts; and
    • Saving time by tracking equipment configurations and models for reliable upgrade planning and implementation.

  • GPS Solutions

    GPS and two-way satellite technology can be used to help locate assets such as vehicles and trailers. The data gathered from GPS technology is usually accessed via a Web-based software application and is available to those with permission. Some systems can incorporate features such as geo-fencing, which restricts the asset from wandering from a scheduled route and generates an alarm if a violation occurs. Integrating information from GPS technology with other databases can also be a valuable tool for any distribution, logistics or corporate fleet environment, and can quickly show return on investment from the initial implementation.
  • Proximity tagging

    Asset tracking uniquely linked to an access control system helps to deter theft, but should an asset disappear, its location can quickly and easily be tracked.

    For added security, tagged items can be linked to a cardholder to ensure that only authorized personnel can remove an item from a specific location. If a violation occurs, that area can be locked down and an alarm condition or event generated. Tagged assets can be displayed in real-time on a PC using a geo-reference floor plan. As assets move from one part of a building to another, movement can be displayed and tracked in near-real-time. Assets can be tracked individually, by groups, or by defined areas. With proximity tagging, administrators can also be notified of scheduled events such as maintenance intervals, expiration of an equipment lease, or asset assignment.
  • Video Motion

    While video motion is not a traditional form of asset tracking, it certainly does its fair share to protect and track critical assets. Through the use of proven applications in surveillance known as museum features, video motion enables the user to assign areas of motion within a camera's field-of-view and generate an alarm if an item is moved from its assigned location.

Putting the Technology To Work

In a corporate environment, assets can be operation-critical. Take a sample business that needs to protect software, for example. After an initial evaluation and audit of assets within the business, it chooses an asset management suite that tracks both software licenses and computer hardware, including system components (such as serial numbers) and hardware configuration. This solution also enables data to be exported in real-time to an external database, which can then be used by an access control system to generate an alarm when a pre-determined event occurs.

In this sample corporate environment, it is essential to track fixed assets such as copiers, printers and other key office equipment. Using emergency exit alarms on all non-essential exits within the facility and incorporating proximity readers at all other entry and exit points solves the problem. Next, the company tags its fixed assets so they generate an alarm when they are removed, and provides critical information on each asset.

After integrating asset tracking with the access control system, floor plans are incorporated into the graphical user interface location of an event to better identify an incident. This enables the tracking of log locations for employees, vendors and visitors to the facility, which helps formulate an emergency evacuation and contingency plan and assist in personnel accountability. Biometrics can help protect the network and access to databases and applications. Extensive video surveillance with video motion and event functionality provides essential graphical location and incident information.

Creating integrated reporting of asset information into one user-friendly report provides the organization with essential information quickly and efficiently. From IT upgrades, maintenance and accountability to employee, vendor and visitor accountability and safety, asset tracking provides organizations with the information it needs to make intelligent decisions about its operating environment.
The Bottom Line

Protecting assets ! such as computers, intellectual property, software, tools and equipment, vehicles, fixed assets and time and usage ! is absolutely critical to an organization's operational effectiveness. But before looking to technology to solve an organization's most pressing asset management needs, it is important to determine what assets need to be protected.

Employing the use of effective asset tracking solutions is a logical next step to protecting operation-critical assets, but it's only half the equation. Integration is the all-important other half. Once organizations take the leap and integrate specific tools and techniques with asset tracking solutions, they will see how effective asset management can reduce risk and liability, while bringing real value to their bottom lines.

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