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Do You Have an Asset Tracking or Asset Management Problem?

Posted by David Haut

The world as we know it is a data-driven one, and data centers are what make that world go ‘round. Digital transformation has touched all facets of daily life, and today’s data centers must have smart, easy-to-deploy solutions for tracking and managing their multitude of physical assets. But as the proliferation of data increases, which in turn creates the need for more physical equipment to house it, data center stakeholders are faced with a new set of challenges.

As a result of out-of-date physical asset management techniques, precious IT assets are often misplaced or go underutilized sitting in storage. Given that expensive IT equipment often moves in and out for maintenance or reconfiguration, data centers must up their asset management game if they wish to effectively and accurately keep tabs on and fully utilize their assets. 

When we look more closely at the root cause of these inefficiencies, signs point to manual methods of asset tracking, such as passive RFID asset tracking, as a culprit. We’re all trying to do more and spend less but penny wise, pound foolish is a short-term plug, not a real long-term solution.

Before you can determine whether your data center challenges stem from asset tracking or more systemic asset management issues, it’s important to understand the difference between passive and active RFID asset tracking systems. You’ll find that implementing active systems to effectively track assets with 99% accuracy and control can make all the difference in mitigating capacity inaccuracies, data oddities, time constraints, under and over provisioning, and more.

The Active vs. Passive Debate

Suffice to say, the world looks a lot different today than it did even twenty years ago. Back in the day, you may have been able to count your data center equipment by hand. Stopping at each rack on the floor and manually inputting inventory data into a spreadsheet was perhaps enough to keep the ship afloat. But data centers have come a long way in just a short period of time.

While it’s true that passive asset tracking systems — or counting your inventory through the use of a barcode wand — may still be relevant for smaller operations, such as retail stores or distribution centers. But for data centers that are handling an increasing amount of assets in the floor, inventory, loading dock, and decommissioning -- all with different networking, storage, and server needs, an accurate and automated path forward is needed.

This is where active RFID monitoring technology can be your best friend. Let’s take a quick look at the differences between these two asset tracking systems before ultimately providing guidance on which one is superior for data centers.

Passive Systems

Passive asset tracking systems rely on tags used for tracking assets to be powered by the reader. This means that the tag can only transmit data when it is in close proximity to the physical reader. The most common example of a passive system is a barcode scanner, which you’ll frequently see being used in retail stores, medical facilities, and distribution centers. Passive systems are ideal for organizations that utilize item-level RFID tagging, in addition to preferring a more cost-friendly system for asset management.

Active Systems

On the flip side, active asset tracking systems have their own power source, which allows them to transmit data regardless of its location. Active tags don’t require line-of-sight to be read, which can be a huge plus for large data centers that have hidden or hard-to-reach assets. Active tags also report on the chain of custody, meaning information on when, where, and who moves an asset is all fed to a DCIM in real time via an integration. These automated and real-time updates to the DCIM are key to ensuring DCIM data matches the reality on the data center floor and inventory. Best of all, active systems provide greater accuracy and efficiency when it comes to inventory management. 

Unlike passive systems, active systems track the full lifecycle of an asset, from the moment it reaches the loading dock to the time it’s decommissioned and every step in between. This benefit shouldn’t be overlooked, as ensuring the safety and integrity of your high-value assets should be a top priority for your organization. Keeping up with compliance, privacy, security, and controls regulations is critical for today’s data centers, which is why many are opting for active RFID technology that delivers greater oversight and enhanced accuracy.

The Winner?

Active RFID asset tracking systems. For data centers that need to track assets over a wide area, whether that be a warehouse or distribution center, active asset management systems enable you to transmit that data over a much longer range compared to passive systems. By having an accurate, real-time inventory of your data center assets, organizations can achieve greater visibility across all assets, all while maximizing their return on investment by fully using all the purchased equipment. 

While a passive asset tracking system may cut it for tracking inventory for non-dynamic environments like manufacturing plants with conveyer belts or inventory in retail stores, modern-day data centers need an agile, automated solution when it comes to managing their assets.

With all of this in mind, let’s move on to looking at the differences between asset tracking and asset management to help you determine where your data center can improve.

Call Out: RF Code’s active RFID tags are wire-free, making them easy to set up and deploy at scale.

Asset Tracking

Asset tracking relies on electronic tags or sensors to keep tabs on physical assets. It’s tasked with providing information on an asset’s current location, user, condition, calibration or repair date, and storage location. These electronic tags could be barcode labels or more advanced versions, such as RFID. 

When executed properly, asset tracking can bolster your data center’s ability to manage inventory in a number of ways:

  • Improve Efficiency: By digitally tracking their assets, IT admins can drastically reduce the time spent locating lost hard drives or servers and identifying ones in need of maintenance.
  • Proactive Monitoring: Along with easily locating lost or misplaced assets, data center asset tracking allows IT personnel to proactively manage critical equipment statuses like cooling and power levels.
  • Simplified Audits: Digital asset tracking eliminates costly and time-consuming human errors and markedly simplifies auditing processes.
  • Airtight Compliance: With a digital data center audit system in place, compliance issues are immediately addressed before they become full-blown compliance risks.

Oftentimes, data center stakeholders will search for an asset tracking solution after one or a series of negative events occur. Whether that’s losing an expensive asset or failing a portion of an audit, stakeholders will usually take action following a miscue. While this mindset of tracking assets is important, it’s also important to consider how assets are being managed beyond just tracking.

Asset Management

While asset tracking focuses on accounting for physical assets in the data center, asset management is responsible for overseeing physical items the data center is using to operate. This includes tracing the complete lifecycle of an asset, from when it’s purchased to when it’s discarded. Each asset has its own unique ID, in addition to automated, real-time full chain of custody documentation. As you can imagine, data centers that handle a large volume of assets have their hands full when it comes to asset management.

This is what makes optimized asset management processes so important. With the right technologies and best practices in place, data centers can see great benefits from their asset management procedures:

  • Reduce Downtime: Efficient data center asset management ensures that disruptions are kept to a minimum or eliminated.
  • Build Customer Trust: Less downtime means more satisfied customers. At a time when 90% of consumers worldwide consider issue resolution as their most important customer service concern, the value of stable uptime is simply crucial.
  • Optimize Value: High-end data center asset management systems ensure the efficient and optimum utilization of expensive assets before the end of their lifecycle.
  • Less Hands-On Maintenance: Efficient operation of data center assets means fewer complications, issues, and repair calls. In the end, it means more savings in maintenance and minimal disruption to operations.
  • Ensure Accountability: In the event of an unforeseen issue, cutting-edge asset management solutions empower an organization to immediately see the problem, who is accountable, and what is being done to fix it.

Where Does Your Data Center Stand?

Ultimately, determining whether your data center is lagging from either an asset tracking or asset management system can be easier said than done. Seeing as the two systems largely overlap, prioritizing your efforts when it comes to inventory management optimizations is no small feat. Having a proven partner who can help you pinpoint inefficiencies and provide tailor-made solutions can make all the difference.

RF Code’s continuous, real-time asset tracking solution enables your IT asset manager to drastically improve your asset management processes, delivering 99+% asset location accuracy across the entire lifecycle of each and every IT asset. By providing information on the location of your IT assets in real-time, RF Code solutions ensure inventory accuracy and deliver continuous savings by eliminating costly, time-consuming, inaccurate IT audit processes.

If you want to see how RF Code’s solutions could work within your particular organization, don’t hesitate to schedule a demo with us today.