IT Asset Management vs. Device Management

Written by David Worthington on March 20, 2024

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Devices are the gateways to our work, and IT professionals understand the importance of managing and securing endpoints as part of a holistic identity and access management (IAM) strategy. Yet, it’s impossible to control what you aren’t aware of. Shadow IT, the unauthorized use of devices, apps, and services that people use to perform their jobs, can bypass even the best security programs. 

The solution lies in IT asset management (ITAM), which underpins IAM by discovering and accounting for all resources, legitimate and rogue, so that IT organizations can maintain and support them. ITAM increases operational efficiency, reduces risks, rationalizes licensing costs, increases admin visibility, and improves security.

This article examines the differences between these categories: what device management is and why it’s important, as well as a primer on ITAM and the many benefits that it provides.

What Is Device Management?

From a security standpoint, device management is a vital component of Zero Trust security, which enforces the principle of least privilege and drives the concept that a system should trust nothing, verify everything when someone (or something) wants to access it. Devices exist in many places, with different forms and operating systems. Management ensures their secure, efficient operation.

The full definition of device management refers to the process of overseeing and controlling a fleet of devices that typically includes computers, laptops, smartphones, tablets, servers, and other hardware. It ensures the efficient and secure operation while minimizing downtime and maintaining compliance with organizational policies and any regulatory mandates. Devices may be owned and operated by the organization, or employee owned and enabled for secure, remote work; either way these devices are known entities to IT and granted specific permissions to access company resources based on their own internal policies.

Key Aspects of Device Management

The practice of device management can cover many different areas of work. In particular, device management tends to involve:

  • Maintaining an inventory of services throughout their lifecycle to ensure that company resources are being used efficiently and employees’ needs are met.
  • Managing configurations for consistent and secure device posture. Device posture is important for Zero Trust security. This includes controlling software installations, policies, patch management.
  • Deploying security services and ensuring that devices adhere to the organization’s standards (i.e., access controls, data privacy, and usage guidelines).
  • Regularly monitoring the performance of devices to identify issues before they cause significant problems.
  • The option for remote access and background troubleshooting so that IT managers can provide support and troubleshoot issues without the need for a physical presence. This is crucial in the era of remote work.
  • Implementing backup solutions to safeguard important data and having a robust recovery plan in case of device failures or data loss.

How Are Devices Managed?

Mobile device management (MDM) solutions like Apple MDM, Windows MDM, or Android Enterprise Mobility Management (EMM) can facilitate these tasks through a centralized platform. It’s also helpful to use agents for configuration management, OS commands, and gathering telemetry for reporting, especially when MDM is unavailable for a specific version of flavor of operating system (like most Linux distros). 

Managing devices on an individual basis is cumbersome, can lead to misconfigurations, and endpoints may fall out of compliance with organizational standards. Thus enterprise platforms exist to centralize configuration and policy work and distribute them as needed to registered endpoints. 

What Is IT Asset Management?

ITAM is a process to ensure that devices, SaaS applications, and other technology resources are accounted for and that appropriate lifecycle management approaches are applied to those assets. Those assets should be audited regularly to determine who has access to which resource. It is important for every technology asset that your organization uses to be identified, tracked, well-utilized, secured, and maintained. This means that ITAM should also include the methods by which unofficial “shadow IT” resources are identified and dealt with.

What Is Considered an Asset?

Generally speaking, IT would consider assets to be:

  • Hardware (i.e., technology that we physically own and use)
  • Software (i.e., technology that lives on the hardware assets we use)
  • (Cloud) licenses (i.e., technology that we don’t own directly and/or that doesn’t live within our environment)

What Challenges Does Asset Management Overcome?

In short: you can’t manage and support what you’re not aware of. ITAM overcomes this challenge through discovering, identifying, and tracking what you own and use. This makes it possible to:

  • Distribute/reallocate resources efficiently and cost-effectively, including licenses
  • Uncover shadow IT to effectively manage and secure resources
  • Ensure that compliance and security objectives are being met
  • Eliminate manual efforts that are time-consuming and prone to human error

How Does Asset Management Overcome Shadow IT

ITAM empowers IT departments to eliminate shadow IT to gain full visibility into all apps and cloud infrastructure. Managing your assets makes it possible for you to secure and streamline identity/device provisioning, handle access request management, and monitor utilization.

The Differences Between Asset and Device Management

Asset management and device management are related concepts within the broader field of IT management, but they focus on different aspects of an organization’s resources.

Asset management is very granular and focuses on questions regarding what we have, where it resides and is used, its lifecycle, and who has access to it. In the context of a device, ITAM helps ensure that they’re being utilized efficiently and that the licenses, warranties, and contract components are correct. The device is managed as an asset from acquisition to disposal.

Device management is more specialized and focuses on control. Activities involve how endpoints operate, who can use them (and to what extent), how to support them and maintain them for good performance, and how compliant/secure their configurations are. A device management scenario would include ensuring that devices are configured correctly, and regularly up to date and secure, so that the user of that device can access the resources they need to get their work done. 

How JumpCloud Protects Assets and Devices

Cross-OS device management is a critical component to control and protect modern IT infrastructures. JumpCloud pairs the ability to manage every endpoint with an open directory platform for IAM to secure every identity. That combined approach helps to ensure strong access control while consolidating your tools for increased IT operational efficiency. 

Our customers tell us that asset management is also important for security and IT operations. JumpCloud is enhancing its platform to unify SaaS, IT security, and asset management.

Learn more about how admins will be able to consolidate security, asset, device, access, and identity management with JumpCloud and how those features go hand in hand.

David Worthington

I'm the JumpCloud Champion for Product, Security. JumpCloud and Microsoft certified, security analyst, a one-time tech journalist, and former IT director.

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