Friday, September 27, 2013

The Art of Asset Management for Higher Education Institutions

Car keys on documentFor universities and colleges, controlling who is in possession of assets such as electronic equipment, department resources and keys to dormitories, research labs and administrative offices can be a time-consuming task, especially if key control officers can't always be nearby to physically monitor the check-in and checkout process.

For instance, when the College of William and Mary's Sandra Prior was promoted to director of the Environment, Health and Safety Department, she was charged with maintaining an inventory of 30 to 40 radioactive sealed sources. The problem was, her office was located in a separate building from where the sources were stored, making it difficult for her to be available when someone needed access to the sources.

In situations such as Prior's, it is easy to sacrifice security for convenience in an attempt to streamline users' access to keys and assets. But despite the appeal of easy access, security needs to be a top priority for higher education institutions.

Michael Burch, access control supervisor at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, says it best in an article by Campus Safety Magazine: "We have a mandate to care for our students, faculty and staff as well as the buildings themselves, so we need to be proactive in providing the best level of security that we can. At the same time, security can be intrusive, so we need to minimize the inconvenience to the people we serve."

Like Burch, Prior recognized the need for an "inventory control means that gave faculty ready access while still maintain[ing] the integrity of a good inventory control process."

Finding a Balance Between Convenience and Security

Electronic key control system containing sources
The KeyTrak Guardian system Sandra Prior implemented in her department

Fortunately, as Prior discovered, providers of electronic key and asset management systems have addressed the accessibility-versus-security quandary. These systems are designed to provide three essential elements of asset control:

  • Key and asset storage
  • Access levels
  • A 100 percent verifiable audit trail

By meeting the security standards higher education institutions require without making it unnecessarily difficult for authorized people to gain access to the keys they need, electronic key and asset management systems can be the key to implementing a well-rounded key control policy.

As for Prior, her research led her to the KeyTrak Guardian. The system's individual lockers provide more security than the padlocked flammables cabinet that was previously used by the department. In addition, the system allows her to automatically grant faculty members access to the sources through fingerprint biometrics, ensuring that access is only granted to authorized users. Because transaction records are stored in the system, Prior is not required to be present to check keys in and out.

To read the full story of Prior's experience with the Guardian system, click here.

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