Remote Operations Director Noel Thompson on how to choose the right remote management and monitoring tools for your needs…
Any business that is looking after an IT estate of over 50 endpoints is going to benefit from having both management and monitoring in place. Some of the major benefits include: automating manual work such installing and monitoring an antivirus product; receiving an alert when your key infrastructure has a problem – whether it be high bandwidth usage, or a failover event on your internet breakout.
When it comes to choosing a remote management and monitoring tool, there are many options out there – some that are completely free; others that can end up becoming very expensive. The cost is often based on the number of devices and services you want to manage or monitor, meaning that the more infrastructure you have, the higher the costs are likely to be.
It can be a daunting task to choose the right product, especially with confidence that your chosen tool or tools will still be the best ones in six months, a year, or two years’ time.
The potential pitfalls of using a single tool
There are products out there that will claim to do all the management and monitoring in one package. However, in this type of scenario, you will likely end up making some sacrifices to get a single product to do both tasks. For example, detailed monitoring (that would show when a router is no longer the primary one in the cluster, for example) is an unlikely feature in this hybrid monitoring/maintenance solution.
From my experience, you are better off using a separate product for the remote management of your endpoints, preferably one that covers the Windows, Mac and Linux machines in your estate. Unfortunately, even that can end up meaning you make some sacrifices – for example, dedicated management tools for Mac machines will perform better than ones that do both Windows and Mac.
Remote management options
There are a number of remote management software options from which to choose. At the end of the day, you really have to consider your minimum requirements and budget before you even start. Ideally, you want to narrow down your selection so that you only end up with three or four that meet all your requirements. You can then compare the costs, which will again potentially rule out one or two. With your final candidates, spend time trialing the product yourself, comparing the products to your minimum requirements to make sure that they do actually work as you expected.
There are a multitude of very good open source monitoring tools on the market that, if set up correctly, will match the commercial ones and not cost you an arm and a leg. An important consideration with open source software is the amount of time (and skill) it will take to set up the various aspects.
Top tips when choosing tools
Here are my top tips to help you choose remote monitoring and maintenance tools. Key to this process is choosing the tool or tools that best match your needs.
- If possible, use a specialist tool for remote monitoring, coupled with a specialist tool for remote management – having separate tools is often more effective than having one tool that claims to do both. Of course, this does depend on your environment and the complexity requirements around your monitoring.
When it comes to monitoring, the key is to understand:
- How do you want to be alerted? Examples:
- On-call rota
- Specific times to specific groups
- What kind of dashboards do you want? Examples:
- View of all that is down or only critical outages
- View of all key infrastructure (up or down)
- View of key bandwidth graphs and what is down or in warning state
- What devices are you going to monitor and to what level? Examples:
- Cisco switches
- Linux servers
- Palo Alto
- Windows servers
- ESXi servers
When it comes to endpoint management it’s key to match your tool to your requirements:
- What operating systems do you need to manage? Do they all have the same basic requirements?
- What antivirus product do you use? Will you consider changing to one that is integrated into the product?
- When it comes to patching your endpoints, to what level and operating system does that need to happen? Examples:
- Windows Linux and Mac
- Adobe and Java
- What kind of remote access do you need? Examples:
- On-demand command line access
- User-approved screen sharing
- Live view of process CPU and memory usage
- What kind of maintenance do you run on your endpoints?
- Powershell scripts to clean disk space (Windows)
- Bash scripts to clean up disk space and run update (Mac & Linux)
- Vendor-specific updates such as Dell & HP
- Third-party tools such as CCLeaner or MalwareBytes