What is a Computer Audit?

Mary Elizabeth
Mary Elizabeth

An audit is an examination and evaluation, often in regard to financial records or accounts, which are checked for accuracy. A computer audit generally means an audit of a company’s computer networks and related technology and software, as well as the procedures in place with regard to the use of IT resources. It may be undertaken to check the efficiency of the system and turn up any violations. Less often, the term computer audit is used to refer to a tax audit in which a computer is used as a tool to assist the traditional audit process.

A computer audit can include assessing media capabilities, including CD and DVD burners.
A computer audit can include assessing media capabilities, including CD and DVD burners.

The most basic part of a computer audit is an asset management inventory that identifies all the hardware and software holdings and their connections, and helps determine what is owned and what may need to be updated or replaced. The computer audit information will give a more-or-less detailed analysis of each computer’s processor, current operating system, Service Packs, memory, storage, partitions, size, media capabilities — such as a CD/DVD burner — and any attached peripherals, such as keyboards, printers, scanners, external drives, microphones, speakers, etc. A software inventory provides the name, installation date, and version of all software. This is helpful for a standardization review, especially if a standard operating environment is sought.

Many companies have staff in place specifically to manage computer assets.
Many companies have staff in place specifically to manage computer assets.

In a licensing audit, the serial numbers and product keys for software are collected. The appropriate licenses for individual computers and networks are also reviewed. These steps can help to ensure that everything is up-to-date and examine whether the existing licensing choices are still optimal.

Another aspect of a computer audit is a security review. Knowing and having an appropriate record of assets is only the beginning of this process, which might also involve bar-coding or otherwise tagging holdings. Checking firewalls and security software for consistency and effectiveness is also important. This means a review of anti-virus software and anti-malware, as well as checking systems to make sure they’re clean.

Finally, a computer audit may examine IT procedures, looking for ways in which they could be more efficient. Also under analysis may be any possible instances of misappropriation of resources, improper use of resources, or poor matches between equipment and the demands of individual’s job descriptions. The latter could come from a determination that the employee is underserved by the computer setup he or she has, or that there has been unnecessary IT spending, given the real need.

Mary Elizabeth
Mary Elizabeth

Mary Elizabeth is passionate about reading, writing, and research, and has a penchant for correcting misinformation on the Internet. In addition to contributing articles to wiseGEEK about art, literature, and music, Mary Elizabeth is a teacher, composer, and author. She has a B.A. from the University of Chicago’s writing program and an M.A. from the University of Vermont, and she has written books, study guides, and teacher materials on language and literature, as well as music composition content for Sibelius Software.

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Discussion Comments


@Monika - That makes a lot of sense. I know there are computer audit tools for home computer and I think I may invest in some soon. My computer hasn't been running as smoothly as it should and I think an audit will help me figure out what to do.


My friend works in IT and he tells me frequent computer system audits are essential for any business that uses computers. He usually gets called in when there is something going wrong and normally its because the people running the place haven't been paying attention to their computer system.

An audit can point out things that need fixing, updating, or deleting and help everything run more smoothly.

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