Asset tracking is essential for a data center to operate cost-effectively and comply with regulations. Learn when to find the right asset tracking solution, its impact, how to achieve it, and how RF Code helps you achieve 100% asset tracking accuracy.

Asset tracking is essential for a data center to operate efficiently and comply with regulations. You want the highest accuracy possible, but no tool is perfect, right?

A growing number of data centers are achieving 100% asset tracking accuracy, and it is not by accident. They are using active radio-frequency identification (RFID) technology to attain complete and consistent results.

As the IT asset manager at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange’s data center, Marty Johnstone was responsible for replacing the organization’s inefficient and error-prone manual audit and inventory processes. After testing different passive technologies and RF Code’s active RFID solution, Johnstone recommended RF Code’s active RFID. Johnstone saw the impact 100% accurate asset tracking can have on data center operations and the company’s bottom line. So impressed with RF Code’s technology, Johnstone joined RF Code and is currently helping other enterprise data centers eliminate rack-level blind spots.

Asset Tracking vs. Asset Management

Though they sound similar, asset tracking and asset management are two different things. Asset tracking reports the physical location of critical hardware such as servers. It’s “the nuts and bolts, the ones and zeroes of how you are looking at an asset,” says Johnstone. “Is it where I think it is? Can I verify that?”

Asset management is a broader term that encompasses the complete life cycle of that asset and the conditions around that asset, from when it arrives at your facility to when it is decommissioned. It’s a cradle-to-grave history that is recorded and reported in real-time.

Asset management within data centers is a challenging task due to the dynamic nature of the IT environment and the sheer amount of hardware and software components that need to be tracked and managed. If you have an asset tracking problem, it means that you have lost visibility of all your assets. On the other hand, asset management goes beyond just those assets that are deployed. Effective asset management requires a systematic approach to inventory, maintenance, and retirement, as well as clear policies and procedures for procurement, deployment, and decommissioning.

As a subset of asset management, asset tracking relies on several elements to succeed. Going a step beyond manual processes, improving audit and DCIM accuracy, and maximizing inventory and compliance controls means utilizing the right system to automate such elements.

Asset tracking and asset management are equally important, and best-in-class technology can improve both. Active RFID tracking marks a huge advance over previous passive technologies. Active RFID solutions and custom dashboards and reporting solutions can help develop complete visibility on all IT assets.

When to Seek a Better Asset Tracking Solution

While you can start looking for a best-in-class asset tracking solution at any time, many data center IT managers and engineers get serious about it after a problem occurs. For example, this could be a loss of critical assets—which happens surprisingly often.

“After a company loses a lot of money, it’s obvious there’s a need for better asset tracking,” says Johnstone. “And sometimes, those numbers are staggering regarding how much hardware is lost.”

People are often unaware of just how easy it is for equipment to disappear. For instance, assets can get shipped to the wrong data center. Or facilities may not confirm they’ve received new assets. Then, there’s theft. If you lack visibility, you don’t know.

asset tracking software

Managers or engineers might also seek a better asset tracking solution when they identify and need to fix limitations in their current asset management procedures.

In such cases, there’s a clear motivation. But even when the available tools seem to work, it’s worth seeing if there’s a superior solution. Exploring these questions may help:

What Can We Do Better?

You might start by looking at processes to improve. However, you’ll likely find that the available technology in your data center is inadequate. Modifying the processes won’t fix the lack of visibility, but new, innovative technology can.

Who’s Impacted?

Everyone in the data center is affected by inaccurate asset management resulting from old technology and manual methods. Those on the front lines, such as engineers and IT managers, are the most impacted, so they’re usually the ones to push for improvements. However, if an engineer gets pulled away from their true duties to search for lost assets, it impacts data center operations.

What’s the Actual Cost of Our Current System?

Passive RFID technologies used in data centers rely on manual processes. Manual processes in data centers fuel human error. By default, passive technologies used in data centers fuel errors.

The cost of inaccurate data that feeds critical decisions plus time-intensive manual processes searching for assets cost data centers over time. It’s only until an important asset is lost or a failed audit that gets everyone’s attention.

The cost of inefficiency and non-compliance can cost 3x more than investing in an automated asset management solution. Can you afford this risk?

“So what ends up happening is you start to create this tension among the teams,” says Johnstone. It’s an intangible cost on top of the lost assets and wasted time—all of which prompts the search for better asset tracking.

The Operational Impact of Inaccurate Asset Tracking

Inaccurate asset tracking imposes several costs on the data center. These costs include lost hardware, which is expensive to replace and may contain sensitive data. For instance, losing a hard drive with personally identifiable information exposes you to fines. Poor asset tracking also causes data centers to fail audits.

On the other hand, a proactive data center avoids fines and failures due to 100% accurate and continuous asset tracking data. Managers know where every asset is at any given time.

Active RFID is also cost-effective since you don’t spend nearly as much on audits, replacement devices, or unnecessary hardware idling in storage.

With such obvious benefits, why wouldn’t someone upgrade to active asset tracking? Johnstone says he’s asked himself this for 15 years. After seeing many companies suffer from poor audits, he’s learned about the underlying causes of bad processes.

Often, data center managers don’t want to disturb their current processes and only want to make small tweaks.

However, this is a false economy because outdated asset tracking typically loses far more devices than one expects, outweighing any benefit. Eventually, the losses will add up enough to fail an audit.

Instead of holding out while the losses build up, data center managers and teams should look at the quality of their asset tracking. “An average data center can lose 15% to 20% of its assets without even noticing,” Johnstone says.

Upgrading to active solutions and improving the overall workflow proactively will correct this problem while providing continuous real-time visibility.

As Johnstone puts it, a data center can say, “Hey, we have a process; it’s okay. Why not be great?”

Data Center Dilemma: How to Achieve True Real-Time Asset Tracking

According to Johnstone, the industry standard for asset tracking accuracy is around 85%. And the asset data goes out of date as soon as it’s collected. Even if a vendor claims their passive tool can be accessed in “real-time,” the data itself is not real-time.

Ideally, a data center should aim for 100% accuracy and true real-time tracking. Active RFID technology accomplishes this.

man installs blade server

When combined with the right people, processes, and resources, active RFID brings asset tracking about as close to ideal as possible. It’s the difference between knowing with confidence where all the hardware is versus having large areas of ignorance.

Even more important than the hardware itself is the data stored on it. Replacing a hard drive is relatively affordable, but losing customer data isn’t. For example, a data center that loses assets for a banking institution faces serious repercussions.

Consider this: a data center with a thousand assets that hit the industry standard of 85% accuracy doesn’t know where 150 assets are. That’s too big of a risk when each of those assets could lose invaluable data. What company wants to find itself in the news for a massive data breach?

Going for a real-time, 100% accurate solution takes a small upfront investment, but the dividends keep coming for years. “It saves (data centers) so much more time down the road,” says Johnstone. In addition, many customers tell him, “it just works.” The asset tracking works so smoothly, they forget it’s there.

People often want to know if 100% asset tracking accuracy is even achievable. “It’s about 99.998%,” says Johnstone. “I’m an engineer at heart.” While any system leaves open some possibility of error, data centers can now eliminate the regular losses of IT equipment and sensitive data.

The Solution Starts by Recognizing the Problem

A problem in asset tracking is often a symptom of a larger asset management problem. But when you see the bigger picture, you can address systemic problems instead of just covering up the symptoms. The sooner you take action, the better.

You don’t want to wait until poor asset management starts impacting your operations. Think of it as preventative healthcare.

asset tracking on a tablet

Some managers and teams don’t want to admit their data center has an asset management problem. Others aren’t aware that new technology can improve their asset tracking. They may not know their procedures' inaccuracies or haven’t heard of active RFID yet.

Regardless, data center teams take the initiative and effort to improve their current workflows and performance. Those who fix the problem bring excitement to the project, make their companies far more effective, and see real savings.

In one case study, tech leader IBM implemented active RFID wire-free sensors and real-time automation, which is forecasted to yield $42 million in savings over five years.

Don’t expose your data center to the risks of poor asset management. Evaluate the performance of your system honestly to determine the best course of action. Active RFID lets data centers accurately track and manage their IT assets cost-effectively.

Achieving 100% Asset Tracking Accuracy

RF Code active RFID technology offers the only 100% asset tracking solution. Real-time information tells you on the spot where each asset is. This is the right approach to managing fast-paced activity within a modern data center.

RF Code active RFID identifies the rack-level location of each asset, plus it measures the temperature and other data. It works before, during, and after the asset is in use to give you a complete picture. You can see at a glance that you have 100% asset tracking accuracy.

Unlike passive technologies, RF Code active RFID covers the complete extent of your data center, including loading docks and storage. It also continually sends live updates for each asset. These beacons can tell you about humidity, air pressure, and electricity in detail. You’ll finally have the clarity necessary to manage IT assets.

With 100% accurate asset data in real-time, you no longer need to do costly IT audits manually. That saves a lot of time and labor you can redeploy to maintain and improve the data center. You can also avoid over-provisioning because you’ll have exact data on what hardware you own rather than guesswork.

With 100% accuracy, a virtual audit is as good as a physical audit and much faster. Automating audits also saves money. For instance, RF Code active RFID solutions helped IBM correct its accuracy from 71.7% to 99.7%, saving time and wages on reconciliation.

There are still some use cases for bar codes and passive RFID for a process-based system. However, they’re not good enough for data centers.

Think of the passive tags in retail stores that often fail to accurately set off the security alarm. That low accuracy doesn’t work for IT assets, plus it lacks the range, automation, environmental monitoring, power monitoring, and other advantages of active RFID.

Take Your Asset Tracking to the Next Level With RF Code

Data centers should always aim for 100% asset tracking accuracy. This is the gold standard and is now attainable with RF Code’s genre-defining active RFID system. This solution includes tags that are simple to affix, tag readers, and the CenterScape software.

Custom dashboards and active reporting systems are powerful tools for understanding all IT assets. The interface shows you details on where each asset is as well as the environmental conditions. Now, you can instantly locate any device in the data center. Moreover, exhaustive audits can be performed at any time without manual labor.

RF Code active RFID lets you maximize the value of each IT asset. It’s now easier to keep each device working throughout its life span, from purchase to decommissioning. That efficiency and cost savings quickly repay the RFID investment.

The system is also simple to use: the tags connect to assets, then you browse the visual dashboards. You can also configure reports or integrate the asset data with other software.

If a server rack starts to overheat, you’ll know immediately—before it slows down or fails. You’ll also be alerted to any leaks near IT equipment. Keep tabs on the electricity going into each rack and ensure the entire data center runs without a hitch.

Of course, none of this would be safe, feasible, and affordable without the 100% accurate real-time asset data from the right active RFID solution. Data centers worldwide are already transitioning to this automated asset tracking solution. If you want to explore how active RFID technology can address your unique asset tracking use case, you can schedule a call with Marty Johnstone.