We'd like to track I.T. assets across different organizations and I have a bunch of questions:

  1. What is a good, systematic method to choose a universally unique asset tag (i.e. name)?

    • What method should we use for PCs? Can we use a serial number printed on the case somewhere?

    • If different, what method should we use for other assets (e.g. network devices, servers, etc.)?

  2. For PCs, should we keep the asset tag and the hostname in sync? How does one do that? Do we simply set the hostname as the asset tag when we provision the PC? How does/can DHCP and LDAP play into the picture?

  3. What are some of the most important attributes to track per asset?

  4. Lastly, what does your asset tracking processes look like? Are your systems fully automated, partially automated or manual? How many assets do you track? etc.

Much thanks!

  • I'm also interested in the responses to this, as we can't afford an enterprise system like Siebel, and are currently tracking roughly 100 servers through spreadsheets.... – tdk2fe May 8 '13 at 13:45

We use the service tag (mostly a dell shop) to uniquely identify our hardware. This can be used directly as a host name or map this asset tag to to a naming scheme such as - . There are plenty of fields in AD to include the service tag for management purposes as well.

For any other assets that need to be tracked we generally use the manufacturer and serial number.

Date of purchase, ram, disk space, CPU, video card and software inventory are the top attributes I've seen tracked. Other than date of purchase this can all be tracked programatically via scripts, landesk, some patch management apps, etc.

Only the mapping between the internal host name and the service tag is a manual step.

I track about 300 systems.

The tracking is about the same for servers and network devices just minus the unused fields.

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  • Thanks for the tip for Dell PCs, but does your team have a systematic method for generating asset tags for non-Dell PCs? What software, if any, is your team using for asset tracking? – AlfaZulu May 8 '13 at 14:57

Asset Tracking is a very specialized task - you should really investigate dedicated asset tracking tools for your organization.

Specifically addressing your questions though:

What is a good, systematic method to choose a universally unique asset tag (i.e. name)?

Well first off, "name" is usually an AWFUL asset tag. Don't use names.
Similarly vendor serial numbers are usually poor asset tags (because a Dell serial number is different from an HP serial number which is different from an IBM serial number...)

Now that we've ruled that out, there are a bunch of options:

  • The simplest system is numbers, starting with 000001 and going up from there.
    Lots of companies use this system. There are even a lot of variations on it:
    • Site ID & Serial Number within a Site (e.g. 001-000001)
      This is good if you have independent sites doing their own procurement/asset tracking.
    • Purchase Year & Serial Number (2012-00001)
      This lets you track when an asset was purchased very quickly
    • . . . I'm sure you can make up some more on your own.
  • GUIDs are great for making up unique IDs. You could incorporate them into asset tags.
    (This almost requires that you use a bar code / 2D Bar Code, and makes manually reading the tag harder as even ASCII-notation GUIDs are really, REALLY long to read off!)

What's important is that you come up with a scheme that works for your company, document it, and enforce it.

For PCs, should we keep the asset tag and the hostname in sync?

My personal opinion? No.
Like I said before, names make AWFUL asset tags. What's more important though is that Asset Tags make HORRIBLE names -- would you rather have a server called onyx, or one called 3F2504E0-4F89-11D3-9A0C-0305E82C3301?

This is really a question you and your team need to answer internally though. You can certainly have DHCP hand out asset-tag-based hostnames, or make it policy that all systems are configured with the asset tag as the hostname, but personally I think that's a lot of work (and a lot of ugly hostnames) for limited benefit (being able to scan assets using DNS).

Good asset tracking software will allow you to interrogate your devices to find their asset tags. That gives you similar benefits to using the asset tag as the hostname, but without all the associated ugliness.

What are some of the most important aspects to track for each asset?

This aspect of your question (and the part about "What do [our] asset tracking processes look like) fall under the category of "Too Localized" or "Not Constructive" -- What works for me may be too much, or too little, for your environment.

Asset Tag (ID), Location, Department, Vendor, (vendor's) Serial Number, Purchase Date, and Warranty Expiration Date are my personal minimums - I've tracked them with dedicated software, spreadsheets, or paper on clipboards at various jobs throughout my career.

Again, good asset-tracking software will have pre-defined fields and give you a good idea of what you might care to track.

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