Tutorial: Assets management done the easy way

Keeping track of assets is something most IT departments need to handle, including tracking things like laptops, keyboards, mice, and software licenses. This is often done in a haphazard way using a spreadsheet or even a paper notebook, but this typically proves unscalable and hard to maintain. Instead, we will see how proper asset management can easily be done using NodePoint, a free solution that allows you to create an inventory, have your users request access to items along with a full approval process, and optional information disclosure when an item is checked out such as lock codes, serial keys or item locations.

1. Installing NodePoint

The first step will be downloading and installing NodePoint on a server. Go to http://nodepoint.ca and download the Windows or Linux version. It's free and open source software, and the installation process is fairly simple. You can consult the manual (Windows | Linux) for full details.

Typically, it involves unzipping the files, running setup.bat and then going through the Initial Configuration screen. On that screen, make sure you enter an admin password, select Projects with goals and milestones at the Items Managed line, and enable the Inventory Control component. This is the component we will use for asset management, but you can of course also enable any other component you want to use, such as Tickets Management, Support Articles and so on. Configure any other item you may need, such as email notifications and Active Directory integration:

2. Adding items

Now that the software is running, you can login as the product administrator, although it's best if you create yourself a normal user account with the right access level. Anyone with a level of 1 or higher can request an item, while level 4 can add or edit items, and approve requests. Check out the manual to find out all about how users are handled and how access levels work.

Next, go to the Items tab and start adding items:

You must pick a type, enter a name and a serial number. You can enter additional information which will be disclosed to the user when checkout is done. You can also specify that approval is required. In that case, users will be able to request an item but checkout will only happen once someone with access level 4 or higher approves the request. Otherwise, checkout happens right away. Finally, you can attach a project or client to the item.

3. Managing items

Once you have items added, you can see a list of them on that page:

From there you can see at a glance which items are available, and which ones are checked out. If you click on an entry you can edit the information related to that item, and also see a history log for that item, such as who checked it out and when. There is also an option to make an item temporarily unavailable, assign it to someone, or delete it. By setting an expiration date, you can also keep track of expired licenses and prevent users from checking out expired items.

Finally, individual users with checked out items will see a list on their home page:

4. Doing more

As you can see, doing basic assets management is quite easy. You can also do more with NodePoint if you enable other components. For example, if you use the Clients Directory then you can add contacts and assign items to them. If you use Tickets Management then you can create custom forms for your users to file tickets related to the items they checked out, and they will even see a list of checked out items that they can file tickets in relation to. You can also create a list of projects and assign items to those projects.

Using the JSON API, you can do a batch import if you already have a list of items you want to migrate into NodePoint, and a plugin can be used to run each time a checkout happens, which allows you to run an external process, for example to automatically assign licenses to users. Finally, use the Automation component to import Active Directory items from a specific OU or CSV file on a schedule.