For Miranda Clemson, the network administrator at Kimball Union Academy in New Hampshire, last summer turned into one big headache: Having little knowledge of the whereabouts of 40 tablet PCs would be enough to make almost anyone reach for the aspirin.

Luckily for Clemson, she found relief.

Kimball Union Academy’s remedy came in the form of ITAMDirect, a web-native information technology asset management system from SchoolDude.com.

“With several programs running concurrently during most of last summer, I wasn’t always sure where the computers were or who had them,” Clemson said. “Using ITAMDirect, now I know that I’ll be able to see who logged on last and will have a much better idea of where the computers are. Last summer was extremely stressful, and I hope to avoid that this summer.”

Clemson is not alone in her quest to keep track of her school’s IT assets. One of the most difficult problems facing schools today is managing IT hardware and software assets through their entire life cycle, from budgeting and planning to repair and replacement.

Without an effective management program, IT assets can cost far more than necessary owing to waste and redundancy, as well as overly complex management and maintenance. To protect those resources, many school technology professionals are beginning to implement IT asset management systems.

A recent survey of educational technology professionals conducted by SchoolDude.com echoes the importance of IT asset management and the growing desire for an efficient management solution. Nearly 80 percent of respondents indicated a need to more effectively track networked assets, and more than 84 percent believe automated data collection to be the most important feature of any IT asset-management tool.

Obtaining an accurate database of all PC hardware and software assets meets a tremendous need for school IT professionals by providing a critical foundation for long-term technology planning.

The 310-student Kimball Union Academy in northern New England is no exception.

“We wanted to track assets–see who’s using them, where they are, and what kind of machines we had,” Clemson said of the decision to purchase ITAMDirect. “There were many incidents where we knew there was a certain computer on the third floor, for example, but no one had looked at how much memory it had, and the old database couldn’t reflect that information. That’s what we wanted to track.”

The system’s ability to get a handle on hardware assets got Kimball Union Academy’s attention. Tracking software licenses sealed the deal.

“The fact that it could track software was something we hadn’t considered when we first thought of purchasing the product,” Clemson said. “That’s definitely a huge benefit of ITAMDirect and is what sold me on it. We didn’t think about long-range planning, but it will be a really good tool as time goes on. Now, when we add a new asset, we have the purchase order, the warranty, how much it cost, and that will help a lot with long-range planning.”

Keeping a precise inventory of IT assets allows educational professionals to be better stewards of their limited resources. The improved accuracy can be beneficial in planning and budgeting for resource needs. Plus, maintaining data in a computerized system enables IT professionals to view PC configurations and history without having to go to the machine’s location.

“The best thing about ITAMDirect is not having to go around making sure the database is updated,” Clemson said. “Databases don’t stay updated unless you do it. Having a product that reports back is great.” Integration with an IT help-desk management system makes ITAMDirect an even more highly effective tool. According to Clemson, the ability to interface with SchoolDude’s ITDirect has been extremely useful. Requiring that each tech-support incident generated be tied to a specific asset is a welcomed idea for the small but efficient three-person staff within Kimball Union Academy’s IT department. With ITAMDirect and ITDirect working together, detailed configuration information and asset history are readily available for incident resolution.

Added benefits of an integrated asset-management system include the ability to conduct proactive IT support management and better protect assets through improved security. Monitoring IT assets enables a technology department to look for certain problems before they occur. And a system that screens assets at a component level provides added security by identifying missing or stolen assets through monitoring and reporting.

Additionally, an IT asset-management system can track software licenses to ensure compliance and avoid penalties–while monitoring usage to optimize license management.

“I have a much better handle on software. That’s the main benefit so far. As time goes on, the benefits will be even bigger,” said Clemson, who is now able to manage more assets using ITAMDirect.

Even though Kimball Union Academy has been taking advantage of ITAMDirect for only a few months, the school already is reaping benefits. The solution’s ease of implementation, especially with the school’s PCs, provided a solid start for the IT staff and the 175 computers on their roster.

“It was really easy to implement SchoolDude,” Clemson said. “On the PC side, it was super easy. I was able to eMail people and basically say ‘Go here, run this.'”

Streamlining the entire IT management process with an effective IT asset-management system reduces the administrative burden, while increasing time savings, and allows for excellent record keeping and accountability for IT assets.

For Kimball Union Academy, and Clemson especially, the motives behind using SchoolDude are straightforward and result from a desire to maintain what they already have.

“We continue to use SchoolDude to keep track of where things are, to keep track of software packages, and to keep track of what’s installed on what,” she said.

Looking to the future, Clemson noted, “ITAMDirect does the job it’s designed to do. As we continue to use it, we’ll use it to more effect. It’s a process.”

With any luck, a process that is now a little less painful.

Links:

Kimball Union Academy
http://www.kua.org

SchoolDude
http://www.schooldude.com