Remote monitoring and management or RM&M for short is our first topic for 2021. There are significant benefits in efficiency, cost, and visibility on your IT infrastructure with RM&M tools and services. I am going to go over how every small business can benefit from it and how to budget for it. This is what I will be diving into on today’s episode. My name is John Virgolino and I’m your host for ConsulPod.
I consider myself pretty handy, now. Emphasis on now. When I was younger, I had no idea what I was doing. If I held a hammer the right way, it was pure luck. Having owned some homes and done some projects like building things we actually use, I have learned to be handy. I know more today about how to patch this, adjust that, and most importantly, when it’s the right time to bring in a professional. The other thing I have learned is that you shouldn’t waste your time trying to hammer a nail into a wall with a screwdriver because the hammer isn’t close by – you know you’ve done it, don’t deny it. It’s just not worth your time. The expression about using the right tool to get the job done right couldn’t be more appropriate. So it goes with maintaining your IT and its underlying network. If you use the right tools, it will hum and be gloriously efficient. It’s also important to know when to bring in the professionals, but more on that later.
What exactly is Remote Monitoring and Management? Generally speaking, it’s a service that many IT firms provide to their clients to remotely and securely watch over all the PCs, laptops, tablets, phones in some cases even, servers anything that matters. There are three overlying services that RM&M provides. The first is device management. Generally speaking, a small software agent is installed on all your targetted devices like PCs and servers. This agent runs full-time in the background and rarely is even noticed. Behind the scenes, it facilitates an incredible amount of functionality. Not least of which is the remote control. When you call your IT help desk and they take over your keyboard, mouse, and screen, they are likely doing it with remote control software like that found in RM&M solutions. Beyond that, the help desk also has access to a ton of information on each PC and server including CPU and memory usage, event logs, who is logged in and since when, access to command lines, file systems the registry. Pretty much anything an engineer would need to help you with your issue. This is super critical because much of what they need to know can be gathered behind the scenes without interrupting you. This is very efficient for everyone. Some of these RM&M solutions even let you turn on machines remotely in case someone turned their machine off before leaving. Super helpful for after-hours work.
Reporting is another big benefit. Let’s say you want to review PC configurations across the company and see who needs an upgrade. All of this information is gathered during regular background audits of hardware and software managed by the RM&M software.
You can dump a clean report of your CPU, core counts, memory, hard drive size, and usage, etc. All the key factors can be listed and a whole lot more. If you know your criteria, you could even create an upgrade candidate report that filters out the machines that meet your criteria. You can even schedule the report to run automatically and email it to you so you can get a list every week, month, quarter, or whenever. Another good use is to determine how many licenses of some software you are running company-wide. There are a ton of possibilities.
Finally, there is automation. This one is huge from a systems administration point of view. Because the software has access to every nook and cranny of your computers, that data can be mined and used for automation. For instance, the big one, Windows updates.
Letting your users handle updates is unpredictable and often leaves the network vulnerable and inconsistent. With RM&M, you can get around that by managing the updates on every computer, usually on a daily or weekly basis. The software tracks what updates each computer needs and in the correct order. It all gets done in the background while the users are working. It may ask for a reboot here and there, but that’s the only interruption. This allows you to keep your entire organization up to date and more secure and you don’t even have to think about it. It all hums in the background. This same mechanism can be used to update other 3rd party software on your computers as well. Things like Adobe Acrobat Reader, Java, and so forth.
RM&M software also provides a scripting platform that lets you automate almost anything. That could be installing new software, removing old software, make changes to the registry, manipulate files, create accounts, and so much more. The power comes in mass deploying these scripts. Let’s say for instance there is a new vulnerability in Windows that is fixed by deploying a registry change. There are many ways to do it, but RM&M lets you write the script to change the registry key, select the machines you want to run it against, and in one click deploy it right there. If you need to run repetitive tasks for maintenance, security or setting up new user Pcs, whatever, it can all be scheduled to run automatically. This level of automation doesn’t depend on Windows or the hardware, it is completely agnostic. If you can script it, you can automate it and schedule it if you want.
So what does all this cost? Well, like everything else in IT, it depends. In almost every scenario, you will be paying by the device. The main thing to consider with cost though is whether you are just getting RM&M services or if you are buying into an MSP, or managed service provider offering where they bundle help desk support, RM&M, and maybe some other services into your contract. Be careful with what you are paying for and be careful of contracts. Most MSPs will lock you into at least a 1-year agreement or more. If that’s not your thing, look for a provider that fits your business. My IT consultancy offers competitive rates and no contracts because that is our approach, but that’s not for everyone either.
Be sure to choose a firm you are comfortable with and make sure you see everything you are getting upfront before signing anything.
You can also consider doing it all in-house. In other words, buy the RM&M software, deploy it and manage it yourself under your own IT department. This has its challenges and is probably better suited to larger setups, but it is an option.
Remote monitoring and management is a very powerful tool that can help manage and automate your entire IT infrastructure from a single console. It frees up your IT to focus on the projects that will give your business the maximum impact long and short term and can be very affordable. Whether you have 5 PCs or 200 or more, it is worth looking into putting RM&M into your IT tool bag.