If you’re an Enterprise systems administrator, you’ll have some structured tools in place to support your servers and desktops. In a Microsoft-centric world, you’re likely to have a Standard Operating Environment, locked-down control via Group Policy, and SCCM and SCOM servers for configuration and management control. Or perhaps you’ve invested in third party remote monitoring tools, like those from Solarwinds. These kinds of systems have a long shelf life and become an ingrained part of your infrastructure, forcing you to need a pretty good reason to change them.

Many of those tools don’t scale down cost-effectively to the SMB market though, creating an industry of Remote Monitoring and Management (RMM) vendors. Here, options range from ‘buy licenses and install your own RMM server’ through to Cloud hosted subscription models. SMBs and SMB IT providers (including Managed Service Providers) can get stuck in the investigative phase trying to select the ‘best’ RMM tool for them.

Here are a few things to consider on your hunt for the best remote monitoring tool:

Remote Monitoring for Multi-tenant

Are you an MSP managing multiple customers, that you need visibility of in one dashboard? Are you able to buy a product and split licensing across a group of like-minded companies (eg a local association of SMB IT professionals or a franchise group) and not see each other’s customers? Do you retain the flexibility of per customer settings or are you stuck with some settings that apply system-wide (either for the monitoring & configuration of the devices or within the UI of the RMM tool)?

Ease of deployment

How hard is it to get this tool out across your desktop fleet? Does it require a lot of open ports and firewall exemptions? Can you just add the installation to a login script and watch it deploy silently? Can the tool automatically crawl out to all devices across the network as it discovers them?

Desktop monitoring

For smaller organizations, advanced notice of an impending desktop failure can be very important for minimizing downtime when they don’t have a large replacement pool. In fact, this is often promoted as a benefit of having an MSP manage your IT. How granular is the desktop monitoring? Can you change the levels of sensitivity per device or device group? You don’t want to be swamped by the noise of every single desktop event log error. Can you set monitors to automatically heal if they don’t re-trigger within a certain timeframe?

Patch management

Often the RMM tool becomes the WSUS replacement, so how does it handle operating system patches? Can it deploy third party patches out of the box (eg Adobe, Java etc)? Can it be scripted to deploy other application patches? Can patches be delivered from a centralized PC or Server instead of downloaded by each machine from the Internet?

Mobile device management

Does your organization provide mobile devices to employees? Or do staff use company apps on their own devices? How are you ensuring that those devices are secure (ie. enforcing that they have a PIN number? Can you remotely force the removal of corporate apps from BYOD devices when someone leaves, without wiping their family photos? Do you want to be able to do some or all of this within your RMM tool of choice, or are you happy running a separate mobile device management system?

Mixed-platform management

Are all of the desktops running Windows, or do some departments (or staff) have Apple Macs? Will your remote monitoring tool support both platforms for monitoring, management and patches?

Other devices

What else connects to your network that you want visibility of? Is your networking equipment able to be monitored via SNMP, for example? How about your printers? Do you want your RMM to alert you when printer toner is running low? This won’t be important to a business with separate network monitoring or a third-party managed printer service, but they are rare in smaller businesses and these features can be useful.

Remote access

Do you need your remote monitoring tool to do this? Maybe you’re happy with just RDP or maybe you use another tool for access like TeamViewer? Do you want the option to record remote sessions or allow unattended remote access?

Integration with other systems

What other systems does your remote monitoring need to integrate with? Often this is another Helpdesk ticketing system, but for MSPs that could include invoicing/financial software or scheduling apps/calendars.

Remote Monitoring Recommendations

Ignore the testimonials on the product website. They’re not likely to publish a bad review. You also have to be careful with real world experiences too. Someone may have had a nightmare with their installation, while it was smooth sailing for someone else. It’s worth listening to feedback on the product support too, as great after-sales service can make a huge difference.

If you find a few products that meet all of your requirements, there’s seldom a huge difference between them to sway you convincingly to the winner.  Often it’s a case of ‘try it and see’. But like most technology decisions, the value in the product will be how you implement and use it. If you don’t get the tool integrated in your operational processes, it really won’t matter which one you have chosen.