Managing Technology Assets
For many libraries, "managing software and hardware" simply means managing to gather enough money to buy them. While planning hardware and software purchases is definitely crucial for technology management, there are other important considerations for maintaining technology investments. Keeping track of your technology assets will enable you to plan for the future, avoid licensing trouble, and save money.
Why inventory and asset management? Here are several reasons to maintain an inventory of your technology assets:
If your library is considering an operating system upgrade, you need to know what your current computer configurations are. If you don't have enough RAM on half of your computers for a new operating system, you'll waste a lot of money buying licenses for all of your computers. In addition, you will probably need the serial numbers or license certificates to qualify for the often substantial upgrade discounts.
Pick the rotten apples
Tracking your computers and the problems associated with them can give you vital information about what technology is working in your library. Finding out that your 386 print server crashes on a daily basis may give you pause -- maybe even enough to buy a new one.
Avoid software licensing headaches
If you find that fifteen of your computers have Microsoft Office 2000 on them, and you only have five licenses for it, this is called a license discrepancy (before you think, "oh, we can't afford to have enough licensed copies" and skip to the next section, be sure to read our software licensing Software Licensing Tips. An updated inventory can help you keep track of your software to prevent illegal copies from floating around the library (or maybe you can pat yourself on the back for proving that open source software is saving you from the headaches of licensing).
How to keep track of things
So now that you are utterly convinced about the need for maintaining a technology inventory at your library (or bored into submission), some direction is needed. Depending on the number of computers and the complexity of the systems within your branch, there are a number of ways to keep track of everything.
Do it yourself (DIY)
For those of you who don't have many computers, sometimes the simplest solution is best. Creating an inventory database, spreadsheet, or chart may give you the custom solution you need -- and it's free. For sample inventory worksheets, see TechSoup's technology inventory worksheets.
Use asset management software
For larger libraries or networked branches, do-it-yourself solutions may not cut it. Instead, you may need to use some type of software to keep track of what you have. Often this software can be configured to run over a network and keep track of your computers and software automatically. Here are a couple of asset management programs that may be helpful:
Belarc: distributes BelManage, a comprehensive asset management, software licensing compliance, and performance monitoring software.
Isogon: develops several software asset management tools for large organizations.
GlobeTrotter: makes the SAMSuite package of software asset management tools.
LANauditor: supports automatic collection of hardware and software inventories across multiple network platforms.
Maintaining a software cabinet
Losing software disks and documentation is a common problem for many libraries. Establishing a central repository or a software cabinet for all of disks, manuals, and documentation is a very simple solution. Once you have placed the software in some central storage unit, you can start a system for checking software in and out. A tracking system is an integral piece of managing technology assets.
The Bottom Line
Asset management isn't fun. We would be lying if we said it were. But, it can make your work life easier and more productive. A good inventory of your technology can help your library avoid wasting money, track problems with your current configuration, and keep everything nicely organized. In the long run, it's more than worth the effort.
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