Remote Monitoring & Management (RMM): Learn the Ropes


What’s behind the importance of Remote Monitoring and Management (RMM) tools in the partner universe?

As Techopedia helpfully explains, RMM is the “proactive, remote tracking of network and computer health”, and typically delivers a set of IT management tools that enable technical staff to maintain service delivery more efficiently and productively - like trouble ticket tracking, and remote desktop monitoring and support.

But, inevitably, not all RMM solutions are created equal. So what is it that makes for a RMM tool that keeps your customers happy and your support teams’ productivity keen?

We looked into a number of recent comparative articles and reviews (like this one in Business Solutions and this one in TechTarget’s SearchIT Channel, amongst others) and came up with this (hopefully!) helpful wish-list:

1. Ease of deployment

“The choice you make when selecting RMM software often boils down to the best combination of integration, deployment and automation characteristics”, writes SearchIT Channel’s John Moore, and to my mind, deployment ranks right at the top of this hierarchy.

Why? Because the less you can disrupt your (and, by potential extension, your customers’) business with your RMM deployment, the better.

So look for solutions that can deploy selectively to one device or a group of devices, and to one location or multiple locations, in one smooth movement.

Consider the hardware onboarding, too; automatic provisioning is far less disruptive than manual, but Mobile Device Management (MDM), for example, will need to be cross-platform (iOS and Android) and offer easy enrolment and configuration functions.

Ultimately, you need to be comfortable with the vendor’s and solution provider’s role in all this, too. What sort of hand-holding or on-boarding will you receive during those crucial first few weeks? Is it restricted to self-help online tutorials, or will it follow a structured statement of work delivered by an engineer on a 1-to-1 basis?

And will they offer you any kind of satisfaction guarantee to protect you against the potential infelicities that shifting a hefty slice of your business productivity to a single platform could occasion?

Much of this is driven, in reality, by whether you choose a cloud-based RMM platform or an on-premise one – so shop around for solutions providers who offer options, to enable you to properly balance risk and return.

 2. Asset coverage and management

RMM can’t effectively monitor or manage anything unless it’s pointing to the right sources of information, and has within it the appropriate management tools.

Your RMM solution needs to work tightly with customers’ workstations, servers, printers, routers and mobile devices, but you also need to be able to slice and dice the monitoring and management by whatever criteria suit you best in any particular situation – by OS, by application, by location, and so forth.

The more geographically, technically, and logistically complex your and your customers’ operations, the more beef you need under your RMM bonnet!

3. Usability and minimal training requirements

Whichever kind of RMM you deploy, users have to be able to use it! For partners and MSPs, that’s principally operators in their own organisation (technical support staff, or perhaps, on occasion, account managers) but customers might need access to the solution, too (in a corporate enterprise deployment scenario, for example)          .

Either way, complexity can spell disaster. The Standish Group, a research outfit that tracks corporate IT purchases, has found that complexity is at the root of some 66% of all IT project failures or late deliveries.

Consequently, your RMM solution has to be built on intuitive features that are easy to master, should be able to orchestrate workflows to prevent human error, and must generally reduce the learning curve for the operators.

Look in particular for features like pre-configured groups, searches, templates and schedules, so that your teams don’t have to hand-craft monitoring and corrective routines on a day-to-day basis.

4. Automation

Related to what I said above about training, automation is the secret ingredient in making an RMM solution function effectively out of the box, and therefore enhancing the productivity and customer satisfaction it can deliver.

In any event, insist on pre-loaded monitors and alerts (so that you can go from both proactive and reactive investigation.)

But be wary: you need to get to the bottom of how quickly and precisely you can choose which of the hundreds of automated elements should be ‘on’ and which should be ‘off’. Does it involve cumbersome, costly trawling through countless groups, and individually cherry-picking the elements?

Or is there a more business-driven approach (such as allowing you to selectively turn off, say, all the Exchange or SQL server performance monitors at once, as opposed to their individual constituents?)

In the search for RMM zen, not all automation is nirvana!

5. Remote capability

Of course, none of this really works for your customers at all if your RMM solution’s remote support capability is lacking. If you can’t easily deliver support straight to a user’s screen, you’re not providing much of a service.

In an ideal world, the “stealth” functions of the RMM platform – the ones that enable you to support customers by making helpful changes and adjustments to their machines without them even knowing, and without interrupting their work – rule.

But sometimes, interrupting the user is unavoidable. Whichever situation you find yourself in, prefer a RMM solution with a native remote support capability, rather than a connection to a third-party one.

The former is controllable from within the solution itself, with one click, alongside all the solution’s other functions (the oft-cited “single pane of glass” approach) and will deliver a more seamless support experience to the end-user.

6. Integration capability

Finally, integration looms large on many MSPs’ and resellers’ RMM agendas. The ability to work with a “supporting cast” of existing applications (including security) not only diminishes customers’ operational headaches, it also creates a three-stage virtuous commercial circle.

The RMM solution becomes saleable because it works securely with existing applications sold by the partner, enabling it to potentially add an extra revenue stream to each customer.

New applications become saleable because they can be easily controlled thanks to the RMM solution, enabling the partner to into existing customers.

And for new customers? Rinse and repeat on both counts!

RMM: which solution to choose?

Essentially, it boils down to this: MSPs and resellers don’t know how their markets are going to diversify in the future. They may be selling one kind of service today, tomorrow it could be another, depending on where there’s profit to be made.

But they’ll all be online, they’ll all be remote, and they’ll all bankrupt the partner if they don’t integrate with a RMM solution that helps to transform the burden of keeping the service running into a highly automated – rather than costly manual – process.

One RMM solution to serve them all? Now that would be a great thing to sell.