Your RMM software is going to become the center of your remote management work and workflow. How it works and what it does and doesn’t do will affect you a lot, every day, and once it is deployed you’re not going to want to to switch any time soon. So choose carefully.
The engine/agent combination is the essence of RMM: Remote Management and Maintenance. The engine is the core software running on a server—either yours or a cloud server—which controls a small piece of management and reporting software, called an agent, that runs on each system you manage, called endpoints. Those endpoints can be servers , workstations, or even virtual machines.
You’ll interact with the agents and engine via a dashboard on a desktop, on the web, or via a mobile app. Once the server that hosts your RMM software is configured, you install agents on the systems you want to monitor and the agents register with your server. Then they are ready to carry out their three basic tasks.
A. Remote Monitoring
You’ll be able to configure your agents to report back on things like:
- if the CPU temp is too high
- if a drive or partition is nearly full
- if a process or service has started, stopped, or isn’t responding
- if a system event has been written
- the system is online/offline/going to sleep
- when a user logs in/out
- antivirus and firewall software are disabled
- software is installed/uninstalled
- a task has run/not run
- a monitored port is closed or ping to a server is too high
You’ll be able to assign those notifications to varying tiers (low, normal, critical, etc) and have them pushed to your dashboard, email, or mobile device.
B. Remote Management
While Remote Monitoring is on the passive side, Remote Management is on the active. These features are what your RMM software will let you actually do. The most important features are:
- Patch Management
- Antivirus Management
- Executing Scripts (batch files, PowerShell & VB Scripts, etc)
Now there’s one essential element here to Remote Management: the more you can do with #3, the more powerful your RMM capabilities. The more you understand Windows’ scripting languages, the more you can accomplish without having to start a remote desktop session and the more you can automate.
So look for an RMM platform with flexible script execution features and brush up on your PowerShell. Then you’ll be able to automate a lot simply by telling your RMM software to execute your scripts at certain times or under certain conditions.
C. Remote Desktop
There are a lot of Remote Desktop options out there, but you really want this built into your RMM package and you want it to support every OS you’re going to manage. You want this integration chiefly because it’s a pain to juggle accounts, credentials, and which systems you can do what on.
Now the feature set for RMM Remote Access is a little different than that of user-facing Remote Access. Users like your clients want remote printing, whiteboards, collaboration tools, etc.
Chiefly you want:
- Clipboard Syncing (Because you will need to paste URLs and system paths from your system to theirs.)
- Interval View (For when you want to watch how something is proceeding, but don’t want to waste bandwidth/system resources on a full remote-desktop session.)
- Drag & Drop File Transfer (Because you will end up needing to push some installer out on-the-fly and it’s easier just to drag it to their desktop.)
- Clean Decay (Some people have slow internet, and you want a connection that will lose quality rather than cut in and out.)
- Recording (It’ll save you a lot of calls if you can show something to a client once and then leave a video of the process on their desktop. They’ll be super appreciative of the convenience and of sparing them the need to call.)
More Feature Considerations
Server Monitoring & Management
An RMM’s ability to monitor and manage server-side software (often simply called servers, e.g. “Exchange Server) is going to save you a lot of headaches. You don’t want to have to start remoting into server-after-server to check and tweak things any more than you want to have to check in on workstations.
It might seem like something you could live without, especially with cloud computing giving you a web interface for everything anyway, but managing all of those credentials and logins, cloud or on-premises, is going to turn into a mess. So consider your RMM’s capabilities for monitoring and managing server software like:
- Active Directory
- Microsoft Exchange
Help Desk Integration
Your Help Desk, aka Ticketing, system, is your system by which notifications generated by your agents and client requests for support are turned into tickets that you or your technicians can assess and attend to according to your policy.
Some RMM software has one built in, but they can also integrate with other services like Zendesk and Autotask, so you’ll want to play around with your software’s built-in ticketing system, see if it will meet your needs, and then assess whether anything else needs to be integrated.
This feature too is something preferably integrated into your RMM package.
There is a bewildering variety of pricing schemes and vendors have so many ways of naming, describing, packaging, and pricing their services that it’s easy to get confused and overwhelmed when you’re trying to make your comparison.
Namely, though, they really want to get you on the phone. Most of the time in life we’re waiting for people to call us back: hours, days, weeks of waiting. RMM representatives will call you an hour after you register for your free trial. Be prepared with questions and don’t commit.
But you really do need to take these companies up on their trials, not only to demo the software but also to talk to their representatives about pricing, because while the comparison of features is confusing, most of the time it’s impossible to get a price from the vendor website.
Some are priced per system, some are per feature, some are a combination. Some have a big up front commitment, others scale from the small side. Since you’ll need to play around with the demos, you’ll first need:
- time to demo the RMM software
- spare hardware and software to test things out
Finally, remember that you’ll need to commit to your RMM package before you take clients, so selecting your software is in part a prediction of what you’ll need to do and need to charge.
You, your workflow, your business, your clients, and RMM software change over time. You might not pick the perfect RMM software when you start out, or you might pick one that goes downhill after being bought-out, that you outgrow, or that is outpaced by a competitor in terms of price or features.
By all means change your mind, and remember that your clients don’t care, provided you don’t inconvenience them or suddenly jack up prices. It’ll be on you, though, to make the transition without throwing everything into chaos.
Also remember that you can do a lot yourself with both your own and downloaded scripts, so when you’re testing software think not only what it can do for you, but what you can do with it. At first you may rely on it’s built-in features a lot, but as you grow comfortable you’ll want to customize things regardless of what RMM software you use.