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Telecom Network Inventory Audits: What, Why, How and When

13 June 2024
Melanie Gomersall

Trusted by:

Vodafone
Asiacell
Lumos
Lumos
BT
Telenor
Telefonica
Telecom Egypt
Orange
Géant
BC Hydro

Granite

National Grid
Open Fiber
TPX Communications
Telxius
UGG
Ella Link
Lineox
Red Iris
Surf Net

Auditing both telecom networks and telecom inventory in an operators environment is probably not at the top of everyone’s “to do” list, least of all the telecom engineers. However as much as this can be seen as a very mundane job, it’s really comes with some great obvious benefits. In this blog we’ll list why it’s a great idea to do a Telecom Network Inventory Audit and give some practical information about What it is, Why you should consider doing it, How it can be done and When is the best time to do one.

What exactly is a telecom network inventory audit?

A network inventory audit is like a health check-up for your telecom network. It’s a comprehensive review of your entire network infrastructure, including hardware (you’ll be counting network switches, routers, and, software and more), configurations, and performance. The goal is to identify any issues, inefficiencies, or vulnerabilities lurking in the depths of your network and to verify that every piece of equipment you think you have is actually there, in the condition you expect, and in the right place.

Why should you care about telecom network inventory audits?

An interesting question! Here’s why:

  1. Cost Savings: Imagine finding out you’ve been buying extra routers because the existing ones were hiding in a dark corner. Which company doesn’t like saving money right? You potentially will also uncover underutilized resources and redundant services within the network.
  2. Operational Efficiency: Knowing exactly what you have and where it is means less time running around and more time keeping the network humming.
  3. Lifecycle Management:
  4. Compliance: Regulatory bodies love paperwork. Accurate inventories keep you in their good books.
  5. Disaster Recovery: When things go sideways (and they will), knowing your inventory helps you get back on track faster. It also gives a clear understanding of what assets are available for rapid deployment in case of emergencies
  6. Performance Optimization: Spot bottlenecks and tweak configurations to keep your network running faster than before.
  7. Security: Identify vulnerabilities in the network before the hackers do. Think of it as installing a state-of-the-art alarm system and just being proactive about safeguarding internal data, external data of customers and seeking “best practice” when it comes to your organization.

Doing an audit is taking back control and understanding the landscape in which you’re operating. By being proactive and being in the know, your business can have more leeway to make decisions, quicker and faster. And also proactively fix pitfalls before they become bigger issues and mitigate company risk. Those are big benefits compared to other operators not doing anything at all. Gives you the competitive edge and strategic advantage!

How do you actually perform an network inventory audit?

Another great question! Let’s break it down:

To execute a telecom inventory network audit requires preparation, a dedicated team (definitely not a 1 man or 2 man job), implementation, reconciliation and reporting. Having the right software in place to achieve this is equally as helpful. VC4-IMS compliments this process perfectly to get the job done. Click here to skip the “How and When”, if you want to go straight to VC4-IMS to see how it can help you with reconciliation and reporting.

1. Define Objectives and Scope:

What: Decide what you’re auditing (all equipment, just the network gear, etc.).
• Why: Clarify the purpose (accuracy check, regulatory compliance, etc.).
• Scope: Define the extent (specific sites, entire network, etc.).

2. Assemble Your Audit Team:

• Who: Gather a motley crew of network engineers, inventory managers, and maybe that one guy who’s weirdly good at finding lost stuff.
• Training: Make sure everyone knows the plan and how to use the tools.

3. Collect Preliminary Data:

• Data Gathering: Pull existing inventory data from your systems.
• Verification: Cross-check with physical records and past audits, if you have them.

4. Physical Count:

Okay this requires probably the most time, so we’ve expanded this point a bit more.

4.1 Planning the Physical Count

    • Sequence of Locations: Determine the order in which different locations will be audited to maximize efficiency and minimize disruption. For example, start with central warehouses and then move to regional depots and field sites.
    • Item Categorization: Group similar items together, such as network switches, routers, cables, and maintenance tools. This helps streamline the counting process and reduces the chances of oversight.

    4.2 Tool and Equipment Preparation:

    • Barcode Scanners and RFID Readers: Ensure that all barcode scanners and RFID readers are fully charged, tested, and functional. These tools help quickly and accurately capture inventory data.
    • Audit Forms and Checklists: Prepare printed or digital forms and checklists for recording item details. These should include fields for serial numbers, conditions, locations, and any other relevant attributes.
    • Personal Protective Equipment (PPE): Equip the audit team with necessary PPE such as safety helmets, gloves, and high-visibility vests, especially when working in field sites or warehouses.

    4.3 Counting Procedures:

    • Systematic Approach: Follow a systematic approach, counting items shelf by shelf, row by row, or area by area. This ensures no items are overlooked.
    • Dual Counting Method: Employ a dual counting method where two team members count the same items independently and then compare results. This helps to identify and correct discrepancies immediately.
    • Tagging and Marking: Use temporary tags or markers to indicate items that have been counted. This prevents double counting and ensures clear identification of audited items.

    4.4 Data Recording:

      • Real-Time Data Entry: Utilize mobile devices or tablets to enter data in real-time into the inventory management system. This reduces the risk of data loss and errors associated with manual data entry.
      • Detailed Item Information: Record comprehensive details for each item, including:
        • Serial Numbers: Unique identifiers for each piece of equipment.
        • Condition: Note the physical condition (e.g., new, used, damaged) of each item.
        • Location: Precise location information, including rack, shelf, and room numbers.
        • Quantity: The number of each type of item found at the location.

      4.5 Tech Help: Use barcodes and RFID to speed things up.

        4.6 Security Assessment: Scan for vulnerabilities, check firewall rules, and ensure all devices have the latest patches and updates.

          5. Reconcile and Analyze Data:

            • Reconciliation: Compare physical counts with system data. Resolve discrepancies.
            • Analysis: Look for patterns such as recurring performance issues, outdated configurations, or security gaps.
            • Performance Analysis: Use tools to monitor traffic patterns, identify bottlenecks, and measure latency and throughput. This includes data analytic tools and inventory management software. (For example: VC4-IMS).

            6. Report Findings and Implement Improvements:

              • Report: Summarize your findings, highlighting any issues.
              • Action Plan: Develop and implement solutions for identified problems.
              Network Audit

              When should you perform inventory audits?

              This decision is always the discretion of the operator but can be influenced by stakeholders, compliance obligations and security measures. But generally once or twice a year is a good benchmark to follow. Other considerations are:

              • Regularly Scheduled Audits: Pre-plan for quarterly or bi-annual audits to maintain inventory and network health.
              • Before Major Upgrades: Audit before rolling out major network changes to ensure you’re starting with accurate data.
              • After Significant Changes: Anytime there’s a big change (like moving offices or major equipment upgrades), it’s audit time.
              • Following Security Incidents: Audit the network after a security breach to identify vulnerabilities and prevent future incidents.
              • Regulatory Requirements: Whenever regulations or compliance guidelines dictate it.

              VC4-IMS: Your saving grace for network inventory management audits

              VC4-IMS is not only an outstanding inventory management software but also a powerful tool for auditing purposes. Its ability to consolidate and reconcile data from multiple sources into a single, accurate repository makes it ideal for auditing complex network infrastructures. Here’s how VC4-IMS enhances the auditing process:

              Comprehensive Data Consolidation: VC4-IMS integrates data from various network elements, providing a unified and consistent view of all physical, logical, and virtual assets. This eliminates discrepancies and ensures that auditors have access to accurate and up-to-date information.

              Automated Reconciliation and Discovery: The automated reconciliation feature continuously updates the inventory by discovering changes in the network. This ensures that the inventory reflects the current state of the network, making it easier to identify discrepancies, unauthorized changes, or missing assets during an audit. In fact they wrote an entire whitepaper about this very topic and you can download it here.

              Detailed Audit Trails: VC4-IMS maintains detailed logs of all changes and transactions within the system. This audit trail capability allows auditors to trace every action back to its source, providing transparency and accountability for network modifications and operations.

              Customizable Reporting and Dashboards: The software offers robust reporting tools that generate comprehensive reports tailored to specific auditing requirements. These reports can include asset status, utilization, configuration changes, and compliance with standards, providing a clear picture of network health and adherence to policies.

              Impact Analysis and Fault Management: VC4-IMS’s impact analysis features enable auditors to assess the effects of network changes on service delivery and performance. By identifying single points of failure and analyzing fault impacts, auditors can evaluate the network’s resilience and risk management strategies.

              Integration with Financial Systems: The integration with financial asset management systems ensures that the physical inventory is aligned with financial records. This helps in verifying the value of network assets and ensures that all investments are properly accounted for.

              Compliance and Standards Verification: VC4-IMS helps ensure compliance with industry standards and regulations by providing tools to monitor and enforce naming conventions, process adherence, and SLA compliance. This is crucial for auditors to verify that the organization meets all necessary regulatory requirements.

              By leveraging these features, VC4-IMS not only simplifies the auditing process but also enhances its effectiveness, ensuring that network operators maintain a transparent, compliant, and optimized infrastructure. This makes VC4-IMS an indispensable tool for any organization looking to streamline its auditing processes and ensure the integrity of its network operations. Reach out to them and embrace the telecom network inventory audit!