Creating an Asset RegisterManaging Warranties, Maintenance, and LeasingManaging Software LicencesResource BookingCreating Service RequestsManagement of Consumables

Our FAQs on school asset and service management using our software aim to answer some of the most common queries we receive. Click or scroll down to view the answers, and if you have any questions that aren't answered here, please do contact us!

 

Q. Why does my school need asset management?

At one time, school asset management was simple – assets were physical objects, consumables, or human resources. As we all know, this picture is now more complicated: IT, networks, electronic equipment, and the related software and consumables, are integrated into the fabric of schools, colleges, and academies, and any management systems need to integrate and report on them smoothly and seamlessly. Asset management, inventory control, and reporting are also becoming more critical for establishments leaving local authority control and finding that reporting requirements such as insurance or disposal are more complex and detailed than they previously were.

However, financial regulation and other statutory requirements now make accurate and up-to-date asset and equipment inventories a key management function for all schools due to the introduction in 2011 of the DFE Schools Financial Value Standard (SFVS) requirements. Particularly relevant requirements include:

  • Academies must account fully for assets with capital values typically between £500 and £1000, and these items must be audited yearly as part of financial returns.
  • SFVS requires governors to question school managers specifically about disaster recovery plans. This includes making sure that full asset and equipment inventories are maintained, and that insurance cover is adequate.
  • Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) regulations create a need to maintain an accurate equipment list, and to provide documentary evidence of correct disposal procedures. 
  • Health and safety regulations require routine testing of portable electronic equipment, and for the results to be documented fully.

CSE Asset Manager and Service Manager provide a tailored solution designed specifically to help education establishments meet these requirements, and to manage many of the core functions that keep their assets and processes running smoothly.

Please read our white paper on developing an asset management system schools and academies for more information.

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Q. Is Asset Manager limited to managing school ICT assets?

Absolutely not! The system is designed to allow you to handle any type of asset: you can even include assets such as school minibuses if you want. And by adding your own custom asset field, you could (to pursue the same example) include details such as VED and MOT expiration. Back to top

Q. Why do I need a helpdesk system?

A properly constructed helpdesk system provides accountability, management, and monitoring of your day to day support services. It also focuses your attention on processes and procedures relating to maintaining SLAs (Service Level Agreements).

Once SLAs have been defined, you can then automate processes and put into place escalation procedures that will monitor each service request and perform automated actions based on various triggers that you can define.
It also means that there is one place where problems and issues are reported, which ensures that support staff can access, monitor, update, and resolve issues quickly and efficiently. SLA-based escalations can raise the awareness of issues progressively higher up the management team using notifications sent by email.

From a management perspective, a helpdesk system provides monitoring and control facilities where the effectiveness of support services and procedures can be monitored and improved. Back to top

Q. Is Service Manager limited to managing ICT support?

Once again absolutely not! The system can be used for any process that requires a request and response system, including building maintenance, vehicle management, routine administration requests, etc. Separate departments can use the system without even being aware that they are sharing it with others. Back to top

Q. I already have a support desk/asset manager: do I have to buy both products?

Both Asset Manager and Service Manager can be purchased and installed as independent and free-standing products if required, but their close integration brings many benefits including:

  • Linking assets to service requests
  • Automatically creating service requests from system alerts (e.g. printer toner low)
  • Instant access to warranty information
  • Instant access to internal and external serial numbers
  • Instant access to configuration and software installed information

If you do choose to just implement one of them, upgrading to use both at a later date is a simple matter of entering another product key. Back to top

Q. How much work is involved in setting up the asset register?

Asset Manager’s powerful autodiscovery functions allow it to create and populate a register of your networked ICT assets automatically, including an enormous amount of detail on warranties, configurations, software installations, and much more.

It also allows you to import existing records from Excel spreadsheets, Access databases, and other formats via CSV files, which are useful for your non-ICT assets as well.

One of the main factors that will reward an investment in time surrounds Asset Manager’s ability to structure records hierarchically: it will be worthwhile putting some thought into how you structure your asset records to match your needs. This capability is one of Asset Manager’s great strengths, and from that point on, the power of Asset Manager increases in proportion to the quality and depth of data you wish to add.

CSE also offers a service to assist you in establishing exactly the configuration you need within both the service desk and the asset register. The software contains many features and advanced facilities, and this service will allow you to get the most out of your investment from day one. Back to top

Q. What are the initial and ongoing costs?

The introductory education price is £995.00 per domain per annum, with Service Manager provided free of charge (usual price £600.00 per domain per annum). This includes telephone technical support, software maintenance, and updates.

Additional costs for on-site professional services to provide installation, consultancy and configuration services are available on application from CSE by calling us on 01993 886688, or emailing assetmanager@cse-net.co.uk. Back to top

Q. Is there help and support available?

We offer a full professional support service, not only in getting Asset Manager and Service Manager up and running, but in helping you get the very most out of the system by working with you to define specific asset register and service desk requirements. For full details and costs please contact CSE on 01993 886688 or via assetmanager@cse-net.co.uk. Back to top

Q. Is it good value?

Asset Manager’s functionality and power are unique in an asset management tool, and it is priced extremely competitively compared to other products with less functionality.

More importantly, Asset Manager and Service Manager can enhance the capacity for money saving and improved efficiency across the establishment, ranging from total cost of ownership accounting to management of consumables, and from improved service response to more efficient asset usage. Back to top

Q. Aren’t there asset management packages that are free?

There are, but not with Asset Manager and Service Manager’s capabilities: neither are they designed specifically for education establishments.

Asset Manager has been created from the ground up to meet the needs of schools, and has been designed with the help of financial managers. Specific financial reports such as total cost of ownership, asset depreciation, and software compliance have been created at the specific request of school bursars. The integrated Portable Appliance Test database linked directly to all assets is unique. The room and asset booking system is specifically designed to fit with schools' often complex timetables, and it is HTML-based, making it compatible with thousands of mobile devices.

No other product in the market, free or paid for, offers the same level of functionality and integration as Asset Manager and Service Manager. Back to top

Q. Can I install these products myself?

The short answer is yes: we have a comprehensive set of step by step installation instructions.

The longer answer is a bit more complicated. We have created the software to work with a standard Microsoft Active Directory (AD) set up following Microsoft best practice. However, through experience we know that not all systems are set up in this way, and these circumstances installation issues may occur.

Your servers need to be fully up-to-date with the latest Microsoft patches. The AD should be error-free, and most importantly the AD and file replication system must be fully functioning and not generating significant errors. It is very important to have a properly configured and error-free DNS architecture, as Asset Manager’s automatic discovery system will use DNS to lookup stations and networked devices. A flawed or poorly maintained DNS system is likely to cause you general problems that are not specific to Asset Manager. If you can’t guarantee that these are in order, perhaps you should consider a CSE engineer-led installation. Back to top

Q. Is a client or agent required on workstations?

CSE Service Manager and Asset are clientless systems, meaning that no software needs to be installed on client stations.

However, the system does use Microsoft WMI (Windows Management Instrumentation) to gather information from your computers during automatic asset discovery. This is a standard and fully documented management system for Windows-based systems. The system is secure and requires the querying device to authenticate with the station before it can access the management information. Windows PCs need WMI enabled (which is the default) and for it to be fully operational and accessible via the network. Back to top

Q. What about Apple and other non-Windows devices?

The User Interface is written in Silverlight, which is a Microsoft technology but it is also available for Mac OS. Consequently, the system is available on both Windows and MacOS devices. On both PCs and Mac it is important that the latest version of Silverlight is installed.

As far as asset autodiscovery is concerned, a wide variety of device types are currently supported (including Windows, Apple, Linux, etc.) and an active development programme will ensure this is kept up to date. The system will discover any device that connects to the network with an IP address, but in the case of devices such as Android tablets and smartphones, only very limited information will be available. Back to top

Q. What about my other devices?

The system supports a variety of different management protocols, such as SNMP and SSH, to access and interrogate networked devices such as printers and switches.

Many network attached devices support some sort of management interface that allows one device to query another. SNMP (Simple Network Management Protocol) is supported by many network devices, such as printers, routers, switches and wireless access points. However some of these devices may need to have the SNMP services enabled.

It is a similar situation with SSH (Secure Shell). This management protocol is favoured by UNIX and Linux base operating systems, such as Apple's iOS. Before such devices can be scanned, SSH may need to be enabled and secure root level accounts and passwords configured. Back to top

Q. Is there a smartphone interface?

Mobile devices don’t generally support Silverlight, so the main web interface will not work. However we are developing a mobile app for iPhone, Android, etc., and when the user accesses the web interface it will detect the device type and provide the appropriate environment. Back to top

Q. What are the hardware/software requirements?

Asset Manager and Service Manager have been designed to run on Microsoft domain-based networks and is installed on a server that is a member of the domain and has been configured to run IIS (Internet Information Server). It has been tested on Microsoft Windows 2003 server, 2008 and 2008R2. It can be run as either a physical and virtual server.
The recommended server specification is:

  • 50Gb free disk space (for software and database)
  • 4Gb memory (minimum) – 8Gb recommended
  • Dual Core Processor
  • MS Server 2008R2 (member server)

In addition, client devices accessing the web portal will need MS Silverlight 5.0 installed.
If you are planning to allow external access to the web portals, you might also want to secure the connection by purchasing a SSL certificate. Back to top

Q. Is the database backed up?

The back-end database uses an industry-standard SQL engine. As standard, the entire database is backed up automatically according to a schedule, and the backups can be directed to be stored on external devices if required.

Some information used by the system, such as icons and pictures, is not stored within the SQL database - this is to reduce size. We would always recommend that the whole system is routinely backed up using normal scheduled backup routines. Back to top

Q. How secure is the system?

The system runs inside your network domain, and therefore uses all the normal domain security facilities. If you are using the system internally, then you will have direct access to the various portals based on your logged-on credentials. If you are accessing the system from outside your domain (from home, for instance) you will need to log in using your usual domain account information.

Individual features within the system can be further protected using access control lists. Sensitive information can be made available only to certain individuals or groups if you so wish. For instance, software license keys saved within the asset database can be configured so that only senior managers can view them. Back to top

Q. Can you host the system remotely?

The system is currently offered as a locally-based service. CSE is actively considering remote hosting, and a decision on offering such a service will be made in the future. Back to top

Q. Can I access the system from home?

Yes. The system is presented as a series of web portals and these can be configured so that you can connect to them from home. We recommend that external access is protected by purchasing an SSL certificate, ensuring that external access is always encrypted. Back to top

Q. This all sounds really complex - is it worth it?

Introducing any new system can be disruptive, but by reading these FAQs and exploring the live demo site we have available, you can see that integrating many of the functions that Service and Asset Manager perform will add significant value not only to the management of ICT assets, but also to other aspects of the organisation, giving it the ability to get access to information it needs almost instantly.

The system is scalable from the smallest primary school to the largest academy, college, or consortium.  But you may well need help in implementing and training staff on how to use the systems and how they can benefit. That is why we can offer consultancy, implementation and ongoing support services. Back to top

Q. Can the systems automatically monitor my ICT assets and notify me that I need something needs attention?

Yes. Asset manager has a rules-based notification system that can be triggered to send email notifications out to the ICT management team. By scheduling regular network scans, the system can update the databases automatically, recording changes in the individual system's configuration and status. The notification rules will trigger if critical situations occur.

A broad range of notification rules are provided as standard, and these deal with common situations such as workstation disks running out of space, impending hard disk failures (as predicted by SMART monitoring), newly-installed software that is non licence-compliant, antivirus software that is not installed or out of date, a printer running low on toner or ink, or a device warranty or maintenance agreement that is about to expire.

It is very simple to add your own notification rules as well, so you can create custom notifications to pick up on and issue alerts on a wide variety of conditions. Back to top

Q. Does asset discovery work over VLANs?

Yes, the auto discovery system has been designed to work in VLAN environments. Back to top

Q. Can I use Asset Manager and Service Manager with Windows® XP?

First, Windows® XP is no longer supported by Microsoft®: see the CSE Blog for details on action you may wish to take. However, if you are still using XP the system will still work, but you will need to use a browser other than Internet Explorer.Back to top

Q. What is room and asset booking?

It is a very common situation within schools to have equipment libraries, where items can be loaned out to individuals. The room and asset feature facilitates this. But it is even more flexible in that it can be extended to allow staff to book practically anything: ICT rooms, laptop trollies, or even the school minibus

The system allows you to create multiple-week timetables allowing you to book items based on your class periods, but you can also base booking on time slots if you wish.

You can also create parent assets, so (for example) if an ICT room is configured as a parent, then individual assets belonging to that room become linked to it. If the whiteboard projector is away for repair, then when you go to book that room, you will be told that the projector is not available. You can them make the decision to go ahead and make the booking, or you could decide to book another room with a functioning projector. This avoids disappointment for staff and students, and removes disruption or delay in being able to deliver lessons. Back to top

Q. Can the system email notifications?

Yes. The system has a very sophisticated, rule-based notification system. These rules can trigger an email, for instance when a disk becomes full or a printer is about to run out of toner. These emails can be sent directly to individual technicians, so the requirement is satisfied without unnecessary fuss, communication, or disruption.

The system supports SMTP protocols for sending messages out and IMAP, POP3, EWS2007 and 2010 protocols for inbound messages. Inbound messages allow you to import email support requests directly into the helpdesk system. The system is unique in that it supports multiple mail box channels. Back to top

Q. What are SLAs?

Service level agreements (SLAs) are the agreements made between service providers and their clients (e.g. IT departments and their users) and can be used to define the level of service that users can expect under defined circumstances.

Service Manager allows you to establish SLAs that define a series of procedures to monitor your service requests and create automated escalation rules, if necessary. These rules enable the system to a raise the profile of individual service requests automatically and report whether response target have been missed. This includes the ability to trigger actions, and send notification to people informing them that targets have been exceeded and prompt for intervention.

The SLA reporting facilities allow you to monitor how well the service function is performing, and identify shortages (or excesses) of resource. Back to top

Q. Is there a knowledge base?

Many requests for help can be answered easily using stock replies. To assist with this, the system has a knowledge base to make simple answers to common problems available to your end users. The download facility can also provide your end users with quick access to common files and documents. Back to top

Q. How can I track the location of my assets?

You can produce reports based on asset location to list all the assets in a particular location. You can also set up notifications that will trigger when an auto-discovered asset has been moved between switch ports on the same switch and between switches. When viewing an asset, the system displays which switch and port it is connected to. Back to top

Q. What about managing licences, warranties and maintenance agreements?

We all know that managing the paperwork in these areas is often a thankless task, and keeping on top of the situation is difficult and time-consuming. That’s why Asset Manager has been configured do most of this for you. The system will monitor your agreements and will notify you by email when they are about to expire.

In addition, there is a standard report template that can be used to generate reports detailing the status of your agreements and what the costs are. This information allows you to analyse the costs involved, and potentially save money by renegotiating your agreements to get better terms. Back to top

Q. Can the system help manage warranty claims?

In many cases you will find third-party organisations will need serial numbers and model numbers before they can help you with warranty or maintenance claims. The asset database will provide this information almost instantly, and you'll no longer need to dig around the backs of your servers looking for serial numbers.

In addition, the system will discover the serial numbers of assets such as disk drives and memory modules for you, automatically, allowing you to provide instant responses to maintenance providers, and cutting down on the time taken to log faults.

Additionally, the system will interrogate HP and Dell's automatically to establish the warranty status of systems manufactured by these suppliers and update the register automatically. Back to top

Q. Can the system be used to maintain my spares inventory?

Yes: your spares inventory can be entered as a series of assets. You can even create your own spares inventory categories to store them under, and restrict access to them. When a spare is used, you can delete it and assign the appropriate disposal code. In that way, you keep a fully traceable and accountable audit trail. Back to top

Q. Is there a way to use Service Manager to keep my users informed of the system's status?

Yes, there is a couple of way of keeping your end users informed. Firstly the end user portal can display a message at login, and important information or instructions can be displayed on their start page when they first log in.
The system also has a news feature, in which more long-term articles or information sheets can be placed. Back to top

Q. How are end users kept informed about their service requests?

The system can be integrated with your email system so that automatic notifications are sent to individuals when a service request is updated or closed. The inbuilt notification system is pre-configured to send messages without you having to do anything. However, the sophisticated rules-based system can be configured to meet your own requirements if you wish.

Since Service and Asset Manager are integrated with the domain's Active Directory, they will read email addresses directly out of the AD. This means if your system is using MS Exchange or Exchange 365, they will automatically pick up the email addresses directly from the users account records. Back to top

Q. Can service requests be automatically generated via email?

Yes. The system can be configured with multiple email input streams: end users can simply email requests to a published email account. The system will then read in these emails and create service requests for you automatically. The system also allows email attachments to be imported and directly attached to the resulting service request. Users can add attachments such as screenshots or error messages, thus helping to diagnose the issue. Back to top

Q. What sort of reports are available?

We have provided a wide range of templates that can be used to create reports for the service desk and asset register, such as open service requests,  asset depreciation, disposals, warranties and leases, software licence compliance, and many more. These reports can be customised and run as needed, or can be scheduled to run on certain days. The resulting reports can then be emailed directly to your chosen mailing list.

In addition, we provide a custom report wizard. This allows you to select the contents you want to view and create multi-level filters to format the retrieved data the way you want to see it. These custom reports can be generated and saved in your own report library. They can also be exported in a number of formats for use in other systems and processes. Back to top

Q. Can you print asset labels?

Yes. The system includes a facility to generate barcode labels (including QR Codes) that can be printed out and then used to mark your equipment. It will also print PAT test labels. Back to top

Q. How can I measure my helpdesk's performance?

By default the service desk supports up to five independent timers. One timer is fixed: this is the main system timer, and the other four can be customised to meet your own requirements, though the default system has three of these timers preconfigured for you.

The main system timer records the overall time from the point that the service request enters the system until the point when it is closed.

The custom time to respond time measures the time between the point at which the service request is entered and the point at which a technician responds to the request.

Time on hold measures the total time that a service request is on hold. Service requests are typically put on hold when you are waiting for clarification from an end user or supplier.

The last timer is configured to provide time to repair. This the total elapsed between the call being opened and closed - the time that the service request is active. The main difference between this and the system main timer is that it stops whenever the call is placed on hold.

We should also point out that the custom timers only run during the hours that the service desk is open (and opening times are customisable). It is not appropriate to measure performance out of hours or over weekends. Specialist reports are available that allow you to measure your overall performance against agreed service level agreements (SLAs). Back to top

Q. How are service requests assigned to technicians?

You can assign service requests to individual technicians manually if you wish. However, the system can also be configured to assign specific categories of requests to named individuals or teams of people automatically. This allows you to automate the process by delegating certain categories of request directly to the in-house expert.

Take as an example requests around your MIS. You probably have at least one person who is trained in your MIS and it is probably appropriate to assign any queries about this system directly to them. Using what is known as a routing rule, you can create a series of filters that take incoming requests and redirect them to the person who handles this type of call automatically.

Another benefit that this feature enables is the ability to use the system for services other than IT. By creating categories and responders for other functions (e.g. building maintenance) the system can be extended without the IT department needing to be involved at all. In fact, Service Manager can be used for any function that requires a closed loop request and response system. Back to top

Q. What about really urgent requests?

Within your organisation there are probably some classes of support calls that require instant action. The system can be configured using routing rules and Service Level Agreement (SLA) escalation rules so that these requests are trapped as soon as they are entered, and appropriate actions are triggered automatically.

The system has a method of enhancing critical and urgent service requests visually so that they stand out from the crowd. This is the service request impact level. By default, all service requests have a normal impact level. By using an SLA escalation level you can raise this level to urgent or critical. Critical requests are displayed at the top of the of the service request table, highlighted in red. Requests with the urgent impact level are displayed bordered in orange. Finally, a scrolling message appears in the portals header informing you that there are urgent and critical requests within the system. Back to top

Q. Is there a way to trace what happened to a service request forensically?

Yes. First, there is no way of deleting a service request from the database. Second, we create a transaction history for all service requests. You can access this by looking under the history tab that is displayed within each service request.

Every single action - who did what and when - is recorded in the history log. Double-clicking on a history log entry generates a report that explains the action in great detail.

We also log all notifications sent by the system, allowing you to trace emails, who they were sent to, and what the contents were. Back to top

Q. What regulatory requirements are addressed?

PAT testing is the requirement that all portable electrical equipment is tested regularly for electrical safety by a qualified electrician. Asset Manager allows the user to hand over a set of pre-printed labels to the tester, identifying what needs to be tested and providing the necessary sticker showing successful completion.

Depreciation is the financial process whereby the value of an asset is reduced over its life until disposal. This is important information for the establishments financial accounts and audit. Asset Manager provides automated depreciation of assets using a choice of industry standard methods.

Energy consumption – although not regulatory, the issue of power consumption has considerable financial and environmental focus. Using the designated power usage of devices combined with hours of usage and power costs, Asset Manager can present the total power consumption and cost of individual devices or the entire network.

Asset Disposal – Environmental legislation (e.g. WEEA) is becoming increasingly rigorous about the responsible disposal of assets (particularly electrical and IT goods). Asset Manager allows administrators to document how and when assets are disposed of, and retains these records for future reference.

Audit – Education establishments are often responsible for asset inventories worth millions of pounds, so,demonstrating proper control and up-to-date knowledge of the whereabouts and condition of these assets is vital. Asset Manager allows all assets to be recorded and maintained, but also provides additional benefits: IT asset locations can be discovered and maintained automatically, notifying administrators when they are moved. The built-in asset booking system allows a record to be kept of who has borrowed assets and when.

FITS and ITIL are the industry standard best practise processes for IT support, and whilst they are not regulatory, education establishments are increasingly being required to demonstrate that they conform to them. The combination of Service Manager and Asset Manager allows a complete set of compliant processes to be defined. It is not really practical to state that the products themselves are compliant since these are processes not products, but they are a tool that can be used to create, regulate, and control compliant processes in all the relevant areas. Back to top

 

 

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