Information technology has become far more complex over the last decade, with a dizzying array of tools, technologies, and solutions that have radically changed the way businesses operate. Plus, the intersection of various digital technologies—including cloud, mobility, and real-time analytics—has amped up the stakes. Keeping IT systems and networks operating efficiently while avoiding snags and downtime can be an enormous challenge.
Remote monitoring and management (RMM) systems attempt to address this issue and provide a comprehensive and efficient way to spot trouble and correct problems—before they grow into full-fledged emergencies. RMM is increasingly at the center of an effective client relationship. It helps a business gain the maximum value from its IT systems and ensures that it can address problems and technical issues promptly and efficiently. What’s more, when a channel pro gains insights into gaps and weaknesses that exist within the IT infrastructure of a business, it’s possible to better address the client’s needs. All of this helps forge deeper and stronger relationships.
Unfortunately, many MSPs fail to use RMM tools to maximum advantage. Too often, channel pros overlook key features and tools, underutilize core functionality, and miss insights from reports and dashboards. Further complicating matters, RMM systems are changing and evolving rapidly—and many of these tools incorporate new features and capabilities on a regular basis. States Frank Picarello, chief operating officer at TeamLogic IT Inc., a consulting and computer advisory firm in Mission Viejo, Calif.: “When remote monitoring and management tools are used well they dramatically improve an MSP’s ability to serve its clients.”
IT departments face mounting pressure to perform faster and better at lower costs—particularly at smaller firms with fewer resources. Remote monitoring and management fits this business model. “RMM offers a way for a business to operate far more proactively,” says Dave Seibert, CIO for IT Innovators Inc., an Irvine, Calif., MSP that provides services for clients across Southern California and beyond. RMM, he says, should be thought of as “an early warning system.” It makes it possible to identify and resolve issues before they become major issues.
A problem, Seibert says, is that many business executives—particularly at SMBs—don’t comprehend the full value of remote monitoring and management. Although these organizations often rely on some level of monitoring, notifications, and alerts, the approach is haphazard and reactive because RMM capabilities are not coordinated across the full spectrum of systems and devices. “They do not have a complete picture of their assets, licenses, and IT tools. They don’t know how many employees use mobile devices and apps and exactly what they are using,” he notes. In some cases, there’s also minimal awareness of “shadow IT” and the use of consumer applications such as Dropbox and Evernote.
Dave Sobel, director of partner community for GFI MAX, a leading Durham, N.C-based RMM vendor, believes that many MSPs haven’t done a good job of educating clients about the benefits of RMM, nor have they helped them weave effective monitoring and management into a broad array of IT systems. As a result, there’s frequently a lack of alignment between business objectives and what actually takes place on the front lines of IT.
“Too often, MSPs treat every customer roughly the same,” says Sobel. But there are significant differences in how businesses use RMM. “The first step is to know which features are important for a client,” he notes. “The second step is to use the capabilities an organization requires.”
Making Connections Count
Seibert says that a starting point for mapping out an RMM strategy is to recognize that the focus for clients is on IT performance and results. Just as a homeowner doesn’t care what type of hammer or saw a contractor uses to build a house, a business typically isn’t concerned with the exact tools an MSP uses. It’s not about selling a product or specific features and technical specs, though these may be critical factors for a channel pro. “The MSP should be selling RMM under the premise of lowering risk, increasing system uptime, and delivering a more proactive framework for IT,” Seibert explains.
Conducting an up-front inventory and site assessment is paramount, Seibert says. It’s crucial to spend adequate time reviewing the IT infrastructure and learning how various components and systems fit together. It’s also imperative to consider personal devices such as tablets and smartphones—especially those that interact with enterprise IT.
Finally, there’s a need to develop rules, policies, and workflows, and plug in a governance model. “You cannot set up the right alerts, notifications, and automated processes if you do not fully understand what is happening and how it is supposed to take place,” argues Joshua Liberman, president of Net Sciences Inc., an Albuquerque, N.M., provider of RMM services and support.
Liberman says that gaps frequently occur between the RMM system and the embedded processes, such as trouble tickets, because processes take place manually or monitoring and management data resides in too many places. The end goal is to achieve a global view and a high level of integration with the RMM environment. For example, it’s important to have customer relationship management (CRM) functions available within the RMM solution or plug into a third-party provider with integrated ticketing and help desk functions, he notes. Likewise, there’s a need for products to tie into third-party billing, project management, and security tools—if they don’t exist in the primary RMM platform.
In fact, MSPs must configure for events across a wide swath of hardware, software, and cloud-based tools, Liberman says. That requires setting up the right templates and rules and modifying them periodically to adjust to evolving business and IT conditions and new IT components.