MDM System vs. Physical Asset Management: What’s the Difference, and Do I Need Both?

If you are a district administrator or technology director, it’s likely your schools have increased the number of mobile technology and take-home devices issued to students and staff over the past several years. You may also be anticipating the addition of even more devices in the years to come. Understanding and having confidence in your inventory data is crucial when planning how to invest in your instructional technology in the future.

These devices are likely one of the most important investments your district will make, and it’s essential they are protected and managed correctly. So… is a mobile device management (MDM) system all you need?

Let’s start by looking at the difference between MDM systems and asset management systems.

Mobile Device Management System:

Software that allows an IT department to remotely control, monitor, update, keep secure, and ensure policy compliance for devices such as laptops, tablets, smartphones, and other user devices issued by the organization.

Asset Management System:

Software that allows an IT department to track and manage physical devices and other assets throughout their entire lifecycle, from procurement through disposal, and everything in between. Often your asset management system can integrate with your MDM to provide better reporting.

It may be tempting to believe that your investment is protected with MDM software alone, but this simply is not the case. Read on to learn the differences between MDM systems and physical asset management solutions and why it is essential to consider using them together to safeguard your district’s investment.

Districts should utilize mobile device management (MDM) software to manage the security protocols, applications, and content on those mobile devices visible on the district network. But if you assume that you have covered all your bases solely through an MDM system, you’ll miss out on the critical physical asset management side of the equation. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that MDM software can serve as a total solution for tracking all your inventory.

Why is a physical asset management system necessary?

Consider these scenarios specific to K-12 education:

  • While most MDM solutions will include a serial number in their device reporting, they won’t offer system access to site-level staff. Site-level staff tracks the assignment of assets to students, staff, and rooms, allowing the district to have oversight of exactly how mobile devices are being utilized. With an asset management system, not only will the current assignment of devices be documented, but the historical use of the asset by building, room, or person (staff or student) ensures all assets are documented.
  • MDM systems don’t provide accountability procedures to ensure that each student or teacher knows that the device is on loan and that damages or loss are accounted for and documented.
  • MDM systems provide little support for big picture planning. But an asset management system can provide data around device ages, funding sources, and building allocation. This gives administrators the information they need to budget and justify purchase requests and refresh initiatives for devices and accessories.
  • Not all inventory is MDM-compatible. Assets like Career and Technology Education equipment, Special Education assistive devices, and capital assets don’t have an automated inventory control method through MDM technology.

While MDM systems are invaluable for ensuring devices are up to date and secure, a physical asset inventory management system provides needed oversight and visibility into the hardware itself: who has each device, where it is, what funding source was used to purchase it, and how it’s being used.

This is where physical asset inventory management systems come in, like Frontline’s Asset Management. Asset Management uses barcode and RFID technology for physical inventory tracking, and can integrate data with common MDMs such as Google Admin and Jamf for free, or with Filewave, Lightspeed Systems, SCCM, and others for a fee. Asset Management allows campus-level staff to effectively track any asset’s lifecycle from purchase, transfer, assignment, through collection and disposal.

Technology departments use Asset Management and MDM integration for seamless data access to dynamic device information stored in the MDM system. Schools can deploy a system interface to share data points unique to each system to provide greater overall asset transparency for reporting and oversight. To learn more about Frontline’s Asset Management solution, click here.

Read more about device lifecycle management throughout the school year.

Related Resources

  • The Complete Guide to K-12 Device Lifecycle Management

    In Depth The Complete Guide to K-12 Device Lifecycle Management

    What you need to know about managing devices throughout the entire school year.

  • 13 Questions to Ask When Evaluating an Asset Management System

    Buying Guide 13 Questions to Ask When Evaluating an Asset Management System

    How to be sure you’re choosing the right solution for your district.

  • Mountain View Los Altos Union High School District

    Case Study Mountain View Los Altos Union High School District

    MVLA needed a system that could track inventory, quickly assign devices, and create accountability.