As your organization scales, inevitably, so too will its infrastructure needs. From physical spaces to personnel, devices to applications, physical security to cybersecurity – all these resources will continue to grow to meet the changing needs of your business operations.

To manage your changing infrastructure throughout its entire lifecycle, your organization must implement a robust infrastructure lifecycle management program to meet your business needs and enable the optimal configuration of all your assets.

In particular, IT Asset Lifecycle Management (ITALM) and security compliance management are becoming increasingly important for organizations across industries. As threats to organizations’ cybersecurity become more sophisticated and successful cyberattacks become more common, your business needs (now, more than ever) to implement an infrastructure lifecycle management strategy that emphasizes the security of your IT infrastructure.

In this article, we’ll explain why infrastructure management is essential. Then, we’ll outline steps your organization can take to design and implement a program and provide you with some of the most important infrastructure lifecycle management best practices for your business.

What Is IT Lifecycle Management?  

IT lifecycle management refers to the policies and procedures organizations implement to manage their technology assets across the different stages of those assets’ lifespans.

It encompasses planning, procuring, deploying, maintaining, upgrading, and decommissioning hardware and software assets cost-effectively and securely, reducing risk and improving functionality for end users.

Effective IT lifecycle management enables organizations to optimize the value of IT investments while minimizing costs, downtime, and business disruption. It requires clearly defining asset lifecycles, implementing transition control between stages, continuously monitoring assets, and performing periodic audits.

What Is the Purpose of Infrastructure Lifecycle Management?

No matter the size or industry of your organization, infrastructure lifecycle management is a critical process. An infrastructure lifecycle management program aims to protect your business and its infrastructure assets against risk.

Protecting your organization and its customer data from malicious actors means taking a more active approach to cybersecurity. Simply put, recovering from a cyber attack is more complex and expensive than protecting yourself. If 2020 and 2021 have taught us anything about cybersecurity, cybercrime is on the rise, and it’s not slowing down anytime soon.

As risks to cybersecurity continue to grow in number and harm, infrastructure lifecycle management and IT asset management are becoming almost unavoidable. In addition to protecting your organization from potential cyberattacks, infrastructure lifecycle management makes for a more efficient enterprise, delivers a better end-user experience for consumers, and identifies where your organization needs to expand its infrastructure.

Some of the other benefits that come along with a comprehensive infrastructure lifecycle management program include the following:

  • More accurate planning;
  • Centralized and cost-effective procurement;
  • Streamlined provisioning of technology to users;
  • More efficient maintenance;
  • Secure and timely disposal.

A robust infrastructure lifecycle management program helps your organization keep track of all the assets running on (or attached to) your corporate networks. That allows you to catalog, identify, and track these assets wherever they are, physically and digitally.

While this might seem simple enough, infrastructure lifecycle management, particularly ITALM, has become more complex as the diversity of IT assets has increased. 

Generally speaking, there are four major stages of asset lifecycle management. Your organization’s infrastructure lifecycle management program should include specific policies and processes for each of the following steps:

  • Planning. This is the most essential step for businesses and should be conducted before purchasing assets. During this stage, you’ll need to identify what asset types are required and in what number, compile and verify the requirements for each asset, and evaluate those assets to ensure they meet your service needs.
  • Acquisition and procurement. Use this stage to identify areas for purchase consolidation with the most cost-effective vendors negotiating warranties and bulk purchases of SaaS and cloud infrastructure assets. This is where a lack of insights into actual asset usage can potentially result in overpaying for assets that aren’t necessary. For this reason, timely and accurate asset data is crucial for effective acquisition and procurement.
  • Maintenance, upgrades, and repair. All assets eventually require maintenance, upgrades, and repairs. A holistic approach to infrastructure lifecycle management means tracking and consolidating these needs into a single platform across all asset types.
  • Disposal. An outdated or broken asset must be disposed of properly, mainly if it contains sensitive information. For hardware, assets older than a few years are often obsolete, and assets that fall out of warranty are typically no longer worth maintaining. Disposal of cloud infrastructure assets is also critical because data stored in the cloud can stay there forever.

Now that we’ve outlined the purpose and basic stages of infrastructure lifecycle management, it’s time to look at the steps your organization can take to implement it.

6 Key Benefits of IT Lifecycle Management

Implementing robust IT lifecycle management delivers significant advantages:

  1. Reduces costs by optimizing end-of-life hardware and software refresh cycles, consolidating vendors, eliminating unused assets, and negotiating better deals through data management.
  2. Thanks to application lifecycle management, productivity increases by ensuring employees have the right tools and systems to do their jobs effectively.
  3. Lowers security risks by removing vulnerable, outdated technology and keeping firmware/software updated as part of digital transformation efforts.
  4. It enables better decision-making with improved visibility into IT asset inventory, status, usage, and total cost of ownership data through IT services and IT systems.
  5. Boosts compliance by maintaining licensing documentation and settings that adhere to regulations through ITAM audits.
  6. Decreases business disruption from IT failures and downtime by proactively upgrading aging assets before issues emerge through automation and robust management plans.

The 5 Steps of IT Lifecycle Management

There are five core components to building an effective IT lifecycle management program that optimizes the entire ecosystem:

  1. Discovery and Inventory: Compile a central record of all Microsoft product lifecycle hardware and software license assets, including details like specifications, licensing, support status, and assigned end user(s).
  2. Optimization: Analyze inventory data to identify consolidation, upgrade, or end-of-life decommissioning opportunities to reduce costs and risk exposure.
  3. Lifecycle Transitions: Define and implement policy-based procedures to guide assets through key lifecycle stages like refresh, reassignment, disposal, etc., enabled through increased workflow automation.
  4. Monitoring and Reporting: Continuously track real-time asset data like utilization, performance, and support status and collect metrics to guide data management and decision-making.
  5. Policy Improvement: Regularly evaluate program efficiency and make enhancements to increase automation and optimize based on new technology needs or digital transformation initiatives.

What Are the Steps for Implementing an Infrastructure Lifecycle Management Process?

Step 1: Assemble a Team

As with implementing any program, the first step is ensuring the right people are assembled to complete the job. Your IT team will primarily be responsible for the ensuing steps involved in infrastructure lifecycle management, so ensuring they are qualified is important. Include any departmental managers, senior executives, and other people responsible for decision-making that you want to be involved in the process, and make sure that you communicate roles and responsibilities to anyone on board.

Once you have a solid team of stakeholders, you’ll be ready to begin the next step in the infrastructure lifecycle management process: asset identification.

Step 2: Identify and Inventory Your Assets

Conduct tabletop exercises with your team to compile a list of assets that you’ll use to develop a more comprehensive inventory. You’ll need to account for every physical and digital asset, which can take some time.

Some of the assets you should include in your inventory are as follows:

  • Your network has computers, laptops, mobile devices, and other computing devices.
  • Network infrastructure and access points, including both physical and virtual barriers.
  • Operating systems.
  • All information is stored on or within all devices, networks, and servers.

Your inventory must be updated often (ideally via an automated process) whenever new assets are added or any other changes, including upgrades. Your inventory will also need to be indexed for shifting compliance requirements.

Step 3: Prioritize Your Assets and Assign Risk Ratings

Especially if you’re just starting on the journey toward infrastructure lifecycle management, you’ll want to prioritize your assets so you can focus on the ones that matter most. Otherwise, you’ll quickly get overwhelmed by the sheer number of numbers that require your attention.

Next, conduct a risk assessment for each asset so that you can prioritize them and assign risk ratings. Mitigating risks in lifecycle management is a crucial component of a secure organization. But before you can begin prioritizing your assets, you need to establish some metrics for measuring risk.

Most organizations opt for qualitative measurements such as “high/medium/low,” but quantitative measures such as statistical analysis are also gaining popularity. You should aim to choose units of measurement that you can use enterprise-wide to establish a baseline for comparison.

Once you’ve ranked your assets from most important to least important, you should start at the top of the list and work your way down, identifying any risks associated with each asset. Using a risk matrix, determine which assets pose the highest risk to your organization and what you can do to mitigate those risks.

Step 4: Cross-Reference Licenses and Compliance Regulations

You’ll also need to ensure that all your software and hardware are up to spec for required licensing and regulatory compliance. Often, regulatory compliance frameworks will require you to do these steps in a particular way, so you may want to take note if there are any additional steps you’ll need to take.

Here are just a few of the compliance frameworks that businesses must follow to meet regulatory compliance requirements:

Most of these frameworks have built-in controls for asset management, such as inventory protocols or requirements to replace factory default security settings with more robust options.

Step 5: Practice Continuous Monitoring

Continuously monitoring your assets means keeping track of them in real time. This process will eventually eliminate waste, reduce downtime, bring down incidents of theft, and keep your assets well-maintained.

Again, your infrastructure lifecycle management process should be dynamic and flexible to adapt quickly to organizational structure changes. Revisiting your infrastructure asset management will ensure that it’s protecting your assets and your organization throughout the evolution of your business.

Step 6: Automate the Process

Automated solutions are designed to make the infrastructure lifecycle management process less painful. Automation can make your organization’s work in infrastructure lifecycle management less prone to errors when used correctly.

For this reason and more, it’s best to automate whenever possible. Automating all aspects of the infrastructure lifecycle management process will be nearly impossible, so start by focusing on the most repetitive tasks and go from there.

Consider tasks such as reporting, patching, and application deployment. These can be easily automated, saving your IT team time and money. You may consider outsourcing the entire process for small to medium businesses with smaller budgets. Ultimately, management software that provides automation will reduce the burden of work on your employees.

Step 7: Collect and Analyze Data

Once you’ve implemented a comprehensive infrastructure lifecycle management program, demonstrate how well it’s working. The only way to determine performance in business is by measuring results against business metrics or company standards.

Throughout the asset lifecycle management process, you will have amassed data to help you identify the most critical metrics. These metrics include network configuration, licensing, financial data, metrics linked to business objectives, and user information.

Using these key metrics, you’ll better understand your organization’s asset depreciation rate, average fines paid, compliance failures, average maintenance cost, etc. Looking at this data holistically will help you determine which aspects of your infrastructure lifecycle management process need revision, mainly when a change occurs, such as introducing new technologies.

Step 8: Adapt

Adaptation is key to survival in the modern business environment. These days, technology changes quickly and frequently. Everything linked to that technology must be upgraded or modified when those changes occur.

This is where a dynamic approach to continuous monitoring and improvement will come into play. By continuously updating your asset inventory, you’ll be better positioned to respond to changes when they occur, and your infrastructure asset management processes will be better equipped to adapt to any future changes.

What Are the Best Practices for Infrastructure Lifecycle Management?

Now that we’ve outlined the steps for implementing an infrastructure lifecycle management program, it’s time to look at some of the best practices your organization should incorporate for the most successful implementation possible.

Develop Comprehensive Inventory Management Practices that Include Identity and Access Management

Creating a plan for comprehensive inventory management is one of the most essential components of a solid foundation for infrastructure lifecycle management. Inventory management best practices should ideally be baked into your architecture implementation, with the knowledge that you’ll need to account for every asset your organization owns.

While creating an inventory for physical devices such as computers and laptops will be easy enough, user accounts are one of the most often overlooked (but most important) parts of infrastructure lifecycle management. This means accounting for all the software and hardware your organization relies on and then thinking about everyone who uses it and how they’re using it.

One of the best ways to do this is using Identity and Access Management (IAM) techniques. You should also consider requiring access session monitoring and control so that even authenticated users are monitored when accessing sensitive data to ensure that they uphold protocols. Together, these practices can empower insights about how, when, and why your infrastructure needs to be revisited or repaired.

Implement an Incident Response Program and Integrate Threat and Vulnerability Management Measures

Planning for and adequately responding to cybersecurity incidents as they happen is more important than ever before. Even the best-protected systems will be targeted, so organizations must implement a robust, dedicated incident response program.

An effective incident response solution should deliver most, if not all, of the following functionalities:

  • identification of an incident and immediate notification to all relevant stakeholders;
  • logging of the incident in inventory systems and indexing against threat intelligence;
  • investigation and deep analysis of root causes and short- and long-term solutions;
  • assignment of responsibilities and resources to personnel for recovery measures;
  • resolution of the incident, including both seizure of attack and recovery of resources, and
  • customer satisfaction and business continuity, including getting back to normal operations.

Incident response is most effective when integrated into a holistic cybersecurity system and will ultimately extend the life cycles of all your infrastructure.

Threat and vulnerability management includes implementing measures for monitoring, analyzing, and mitigating any existing risks and those that still need to come to fruition. Doing so will allow your organization to better deal with cybersecurity threats in real time.

Fortunately, threat and vulnerability management is a practice that’s already baked into most cybersecurity implementations, including most regulatory compliance frameworks. The most effective vulnerability management involves collecting and utilizing threat intelligence, including proprietary data and governmental lists, such as the index of Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures (CVEs). It should also be a system that’s integrated throughout your organization, including both on-location hardware and all software, applications, web presence, and cloud-based networking and computing.

While infrastructure maintenance has always been critical for a system’s physical parts, accounting for and mitigating risks of lapsed cybersecurity protocols and cybercrime is becoming increasingly essential in our more digitized and mobile environment.

This also includes accounting for risks across third-party networks along the supply chain. Your Third-Party Risk Management (TPRM) program should work with your infrastructure lifecycle management process. As you would with your other assets, you should start by compiling a comprehensive inventory of all your third parties and their infrastructures that communicate with yours. TPRM and vendor lifecycle management should integrate into your vulnerability, infrastructure, and asset lifecycle management.

Go Above and Beyond What’s Required

If there’s one thing that organizations with successful infrastructure lifecycle management programs have in common, they go above and beyond for implementation.

Moving beyond a risk management system’s basic protections and into the most complex and advanced analytical methods means better understanding where your organization is most vulnerable. By executing a root cause analysis, you’ll be better positioned to understand and eradicate a problem’s source rather than simply treating its surface effects.

You should also consider conducting penetration testing, also called ethical hacking. Penetration testing involves a simulation of a cyberattack performed by an ethical hacker and is used to determine how a malicious actor would operate.

There are two primary forms of penetration testing: external penetration testing and internal penetration testing. Either type of test can be set for optimization for your assets or asset classes, such as network or firewall penetration testing. Some companies combine these two types of penetration testing into a hybrid form using internal and external penetration testing elements.

Choose Automated Tools to Help

The best way to keep your infrastructure lifecycle in check is to integrate all your practices into one seamless solution. However, this can often challenge small and medium enterprises with modest IT budgets.

Finding tools to help can mean the difference between a thriving infrastructure lifecycle management program and one that leaves your organization vulnerable to cyberattacks. Fortunately, there are management solutions designed to help.

Implement Better Infrastructure Lifecycle Management with ROAR

Managing risks, complying with industry standards and regulations, and inventorying and tracking infrastructure assets can be challenging. Fortunately, there are solutions designed to help.

RiskOptics ROAR is an integrated cybersecurity risk management solution that provides actionable insights to gain the visibility you need to stay ahead of threats and communicate the impact of risk on high-priority business initiatives. Turn the unknown into quantifiable and actionable risk insights with built-in expertise that identifies and maps risks, threats, and controls so you can spend less time setting up the application and more time using it.

A single, real-time view of risk and business context allows you to communicate to the board and key stakeholders in a way framed around their priorities, keeping your risk posture in sync with the direction your business is moving.

ROAR will notify you automatically of any changes or required actions so you can be on top of your risk posture like never before. Eliminate time-consuming, manual work and streamline collaboration by automating workflows and integrating with your most critical systems.

Now, through a more active approach, you can give time back to your team with RiskOptics ROAR. Talk to an expert today about how the RiskOptics Product Suite can help your organization mitigate cybersecurity risk and stay ahead of threats.