Peer groups can be a valuable source of information both for a startup managed IT provider and for an already-grown business. There, you can typically find advice regarding your operations, gather templates for documents, and sometimes get discounts for certain solutions.
In this article, we overview more pros and some cons of participating in a peer group and discuss how to find one that suits you. Continue reading
When you back up your data regularly, performing full backups all the time might be way too resource-demanding. The alternative is a synthetic full backup, which saves your time and bandwidth. Continue reading
If there’s one thing that MSPs have collectively ascertained from the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s that RMM tools are here to stay and evolve. And that includes open-source RMM software, plus both paid and free RMM solutions.
The Rise of MSP RMM Software During the COVID-19 Pandemic
You see, while there’s no denying that the pandemic has negatively affected the business world, MSPs are seemingly experiencing some sort of a boom. Through a survey that sampled hundreds of professionals across IT security, emerging tech, and managed services fields, CompTIA established that 75% of the MSP respondents had witnessed a spike in business opportunities since the beginning of the pandemic.
Well, you can blame that on organizations increasingly shifting from on-premise to remote working environments.
It turns out that by March 2020, only 41% of companies had solid remote working capabilities. So, of course, the rest have been energetically hiring MSPs to power, manage, and maintain their remote IT capabilities. CompTIA’s survey even established that most of the new business opportunities have been coming from organizations in desperate need of switching from on-premise to the cloud. Now that’s a goldmine for MSPs all right. But, to fully capitalize on it, you need reliable RMM tools that’ll help you keep the clients happy. And, to be more specific, you might want to start with an open-source RMM software solution.
Read along to find out why, as well as discover some of the top free, open-source RMM software tools you could consider for your MSP business.
The Purpose of RMM Software for MSPs
Since RMM refers to remote monitoring and management, it involves using specialized resources and tools to remotely keep tabs on your clients’ IT infrastructure.
At the center of it all is RMM software, through which IT service providers get to remotely manage their clients’ PCs, networks, software, and endpoints (Learn more about endpoint monitoring in our article: Introduction to Endpoint Monitoring and Management). They can, for instance, conduct routine maintenance checks, apply system patches, install new software, as well as introduce updates.
In simple terms, therefore, RMM software saves you the trouble of physically visiting your clients’ premises just to conduct basic maintenance checks. The most comprehensive ones even give you the privilege of attending to multiple computers at the same time.
Now, all that considered, the tools are primarily categorized into paid commercial RMM software, free RMM software, and free open-source RMM software.
Paid vs. Free Commercial vs. Open-Source RMM Tools
At the very top, remote monitoring and management solutions are classified into:
Free RMM software.
Paid / premium RMM software.
It’s only after you’ve dived deeper that you get to further branch out into free open-source RMM and free commercial RMM.
Here’s how they all compare:
Category 1: Free RMM Software
Free Commercial RMM Tools
Free commercial RMM refers to the premium category of RMM software that happens to offer some of its features for free.
Make no mistake about them, though. Although they might be generous enough to grant you access at no charge, they are not built like their open-source counterparts. You see, the kicker is, free commercial RMM tools always come with a caveat. It turns out they are not entirely free of charge.
Consider Pulseway, for instance. Thanks to its free, all-in-one IT system for remote monitoring and management, you can monitor your clients’ networks in real time, take complete control of their machines, administer patches, automate maintenance tasks, as well as stay posted with instant alerts.
The only problem is, the free version covers only two client systems. Nothing more. If you’d like to accommodate additional clients, you’ll have to upscale to a premium account. All in all, therefore, this subcategory of free RMM software is only suitable for beginners who’d like to try out and get a feel of what they stand to get from the corresponding paid versions.
Free Open-Source RMM Tools
Unlike the free commercial tools we’ve just explored, open-source RMM software is completely free of charge. There are no caveats here. You can expect full, uninterrupted access to all the features and provisions without any financial commitment.
Hence, you should be able to run open-source RMM software on as many machines as you like. You won’t be required to pay any license fees to introduce additional client networks. And that’s not all. Since open-source systems provide access to their underlying code, you’ll be free to customize even the smallest details. All you need is adequate documentation from the developers and technical coding skills.
However, the sad bit is, you won’t be getting any technical support from the software developers. Open-source RMM software always leaves you to figure everything out by yourself, and then maintain the whole system without help from a customer support team.
On the flip side, though, that doesn’t necessarily mean that help is completely unavailable. By revealing their underlying code, the best open-source RMM software often attracts large communities of developers, who then collaborate extensively to develop the tools even further. You can reach out to them for technical tips, as well as patches and updates.
PowerShell Remote Alerts
In this document you'll find a PowerShell script that checks the status of the services listed below and sends an email alert if any of them is turned off:
Windows Update Service
Any installed third-party antivirus
Category 2: Paid RMM Software
Paid RMM solutions are the premium tools that’ll charge you to access and use their features. There’s no standard pricing range, though. What you end up paying here depends on the specific RMM software you choose, its pricing model, plus the size of your client network. Usually, premium RMM software solutions charge users periodically, based on their volume of workstations, number of agents, and billing schedule.
Pulseway, for example, starts at about $16 per month per client system. Then the likes of Ninja RMM and SolarWinds RMM prefer to proceed with custom quotes based on your needs.
With Site24x7, however, at least you get to choose the features and pricing you want from a set of priced plans. In particular, its MSP package starts at $45 per month for 50 websites or servers.
Now, the best thing about all these paid RMM tools is they come with adequate technical assistance. You’ll find that customer support is readily offered across several contact channels. What’s more, some of their enterprise packages even provide dedicated support agents and specialized onboarding.
Then, while you use the software, you don’t have to worry about maintaining its tools. The software vendor takes care of all the core resources and infrastructure.
Overview of the 3 Top Open-Source RMM Software Solutions
Formerly known as Comodo One RMM, ITarian is a remote tracking and IT management suite that helps MSPs link up with their clients’ networks to conduct operations management, troubleshooting, system monitoring, and file control.
In addition to that, the software facilitates secure resource and document access through role-based permissions plus user groups.
And, speaking of security, ITarian RMM has also proven to be quite a reliable solution when it comes to patch management. You can use it to not only analyze operating systems, but install the accompanying updates as well. It’s also possible to automatically deploy resources, implement audit logs, and control remote devices across different geographical locations.
If you’re particularly keen on tracking your clients’ networks, you’ll be pleased to know that ITarian is further capable of automatically monitoring the status of devices, plus the corresponding active services and performance levels. You also get to explore files and folders, as well as copy and paste content between remotely networked machines.
Additionally, when clients raise queries, you can count on ITarian to automatically assign their tickets to your support agents. All you need to do is set your own task-handling rules by creating a custom workflow, and then leave the software to implement everything.
Just as the name suggests, OpenNMS is indeed an open-source system that specializes in enterprise-grade network monitoring and management. “NMS” here stands for “network management system”. And yes, it’s completely free of charge.
Make no mistake about it, though. Although OpenNMS publicly reveals its code as open-source software, it’s actually a commercial solution that’s duly copyrighted.
Then, get this. OpenNMS comes in two versions: a free one, known as OpenNMS Horizon, plus a paid package called OpenNMS Meridian. Fortunately, though, there are no huge feature differences between the two. Meridian is only priced because it comes with specialized technical support. Otherwise, you should be comfortable with the Horizon version.
The software itself is built to give you well-rounded network management capabilities. It packs tools for service monitoring, performance measurement, device provisioning, and event management. Hence, you should be able to keep all your clients’ core processes running, track their overall network performance, control all their linked endpoint devices, and perhaps define the accompanying system events.
OpenRSM is yet another renowned open-source RMM software solution, but with a core that fundamentally focuses on remote asset management and network monitoring. “RSM” in this case stands for “remote systems management”, which sums up the three core modules offered by the software:
Remote desktop control.
Collectively, the modules facilitate tasks like status reporting, user credential management, path distribution, server configuration, software delivery, and system auditing. All of these can be deployed on both Linux and Windows operating systems, from where the system will proceed to power remote agent-based management.
Another impressive thing about OpenRSM is its ability to bypass even virtualized resources. That means that if your clients are running virtual machine instances, you can count on this software to see through everything and query the underlying operating systems and hardware.
Unfortunately, however, OpenRSM isn’t the simplest open-source RMM software. Beginners are bound to experience difficulties learning the ropes. But then again, on the flip side, technically skilled users are sure to enjoy the extensive customization freedom the platform offers. It is, without doubt, one of the most flexible open-source RMM software solutions on the market.
For the best-possible client experience, your best bet would be combining RMM software with a remote-assistance tool. This will help you interact with your clients in real time while attending to their issues.
Well, I’m not the one to brag, but MSP360 Managed Remote Desktop happens to be a great solution in that segment. MSPs love it because:
It comes with an incredibly intuitive interface.
It’s easy to install and use.
It securely accesses both desktops and servers.
It’s perfectly optimized for real-time customer support through text and voice messages.
For an MSP, RMM tools can be the key to delivering great customer experience in an efficient way. However, not all RMM tools are equally useful for all situations. Different RMM platforms have different strengths and weaknesses, and it’s important to choose the right tool for your needs.
To help, we’ve compiled a list of the core functions and features to evaluate when selecting RMM tools. Depending on your needs and use cases, some features may be more important than others.
Ready to provide more than RMM to your clients?
Remote monitoring and management solutions can become your eyes and hands in the environment of the customer. But before they can do that, they need to be installed.
Most tools nowadays are cloud-based, but client apps -- called ‘agents’ -- should be installed on your clients' endpoints. These agents will do the most of the heavy lifting: They will track and monitor individual client systems, as well as give you remote access to them.
If agent deployment is difficult or time-consuming, you’ll be stuck having to deploy each agent tediously on every system you need to support. To avoid this, look for auto-discovery and “push-installation” features in RMM platforms. These features will help to choose the new system and start the remote installation of the RMM agent automatically. Otherwise, you’ll typically have to deploy the installation file with third-party tools, like Windows Active Directory GPO, scripts, or PSA tools.
Occasionally, a client’s IT infrastructure will experience issues and, most likely, it will be your job to fix these. If the impacted system is sitting next to you, this won’t be an issue, but that is highly unusual. In most cases, you need to reach the client’s machine remotely.
For this purpose, remote access is a foundational feature for remote monitoring and management tools. It means you can easily connect to a remote server system and directly complete the necessary actions as though you were accessing the server’s physical console in person. Moreover, you can skip the hassle of giving tedious phone instructions to the user to try to solve the issue remotely.
Indeed, remote desktop connection support becomes a necessity when you are managing clients from other cities. If you already have an RMM system in place, but still don't have a solution, check out our free and secure MSP360 Remote Desktop tool.
Most vendors today promise to offer a “single pane of glass” dashboard. But what this actually means in practice can vary.
So, review precisely the actual functionality of the dashboard of the RMM solution you are considering. You and your employees will spend a lot of time working with it, so make sure it suits your environment perfectly.
While managing the administration routines, you will need a customized dashboard with detailed reports on all of the systems which require your attention. Opt for a dashboard panel that shows you the scope of new systems, systems that require action, lists of last errors found, etc. to minimize manual actions.
Integration with PSA Systems
Depending on whether you already have a separate professional services automation (PSA) tool, you can choose RMM tools that integrate with your PSA platform. RMM tools can automatically create “issue” tickets in your helpdesk tracking system, set up alerting and notifications by email, map out maintenance, etc. Automation of repeatable tasks saves time, helps to troubleshoot proactively, and meet SLA requirements for various types of issues.
Nowadays it is more efficient to get rid of legacy systems that need to be controlled manually. Implementation of an automated RMM-PSA system will pay off in the first weeks, or even days, of your work.
Reports are crucial not only for your IT team, but for customers, too. With the RMM reports created, your customers can inspect their systems’ health and whether it meets their own business SLAs.
Note that you should look for RMM tools with fully customizable reports, and flexible reporting schedules.
Remote monitoring and management tools are perfect when they are priced on a pay-as-you go model. This means that you can buy additional licenses when you get new client systems that you need to support, rather than having to pay upfront for volume licenses that you may not use fully.
Your clients may use a variety of different types of operating systems and devices. Your staff may as well. The best RMM tools will be able to support any type of environment. Look for tools that can work with all of the major operating systems -- Windows, Linux and macOS -- and that support servers, PCs, phones, tablets, network switches and any other devices you may need to manage.
Look as well at how many types of applications the RMM tools support or integrate with. Can they monitor any type of application, or only certain ones? If you need to configure application integrations manually, how much effort will that require?
Like everything else, your RMM tools will need to be updated from time to time. Ideally, this process will be fully automated, meaning the RMM platform will install patches for both the RMM server and its agents on its own.
In addition, the tool should provide reports on patch status, let you know when a patch installation has failed and so on. This is important in order to ensure that you know if any of your RMM tools are out of date, which could lead to security vulnerabilities or other issues.
Sending alerts when something is wrong is one of the core parts of RMM functionality. Look for tools that can send alerts based on both overall system status, as well as the status of individual applications. You should also be able to configure alerts not just when something fails entirely, but also when performance degrades (e.g., when an application begins taking longer to handle requests).
The ability to customize alerts is important, too. You may need different types of alerts than those that come built into the RMM tools. You may also need to tweak alert thresholds or frequencies to ensure that you don’t receive unnecessary alerts.
Basic ITAM Functions
IT asset management, or ITAM, is the process of keeping track of the devices in your network. RMM tools can help with this by maintaining an inventory of the devices you are managing, and automatically updating it whenever new devices come online or existing devices are decommissioned.
Monitoring license status and letting you know when a license will expire is another facet of ITAM that RMM tools can help support. So is keeping ahead of device replacement needs by sending you notifications when a device is approaching the end of its useful life.
IT Asset Management for MSPs. Efficient Way to Control Your Assets
Learn the fundamentals of ITAM, the benefits for your MSP, and what software to use to simplify your asset tracking
Although RMM tools don’t always interface directly with customers, the ability to offer self-service portals where customers can view the status of their systems directly is a handy feature. Building knowledge bases that customers can access is valuable as well, as is the ability to provide customer support and communication via RMM platforms.
RMM tools are a crucial part of almost any MSP’s arsenal. But rather than simply purchasing the first tool you find, or the cheapest one, be sure that your tool excels in the areas of functionality that are most important to you.
Remote monitoring and management, or RMM, tools make MSPs’ jobs more efficient by helping them to take a more proactive approach to monitoring and administering the various systems that they manage. RMM solutions also enable automation, which allows MSPs to work faster and operate more effectively at scale.
This article provides an overview of RMM, including what it is, what benefits it offers and how to use RMM as part of your MSP strategy.
What is RMM?
Remote monitoring and management is an approach to IT management that relies on pre-installed tools for monitoring and managing IT systems resources from any location.
RMM software is any type of tool or other solution that supports RMM. An RMM tool could be an application that lets you log in remotely to a server, or it could be a tool that collects data about the server and streams it to a central dashboard where you can monitor all of your servers.
In many cases, MSPs deploy RMM platforms that combine multiple types of RMM functionality - remote logins, remote monitoring, remote administration and more - into a single product suite.
Benefits of RMM
RMM offers a range of benefits across different areas of a managed services workflow.
RMM software allows your team to monitor systems 24/7 through a centralized dashboard. You don’t have to check each system individually to track its status.
What’s more, because RMM tools work in the background, they collect monitoring data automatically, without disturbing your customers.
RMM tools make it easy to build automated workflows by, for example, setting up automated alerts for monitoring tools, automatically creating tickets to handle support requests and using scripts to automate incident resolution.
PowerShell Remote Alerts
In this document you'll find a PowerShell script that checks the status of the services listed below and sends an email alert if any of them is turned off:
Windows Update Service
Any installed third-party antivirus
Benefits of RMM also include transparent reporting. Using the data collected by RMM tools, you can create various types of reports about your clients’ systems. For example, you can automatically generate data about how many times you logged in via an RMM tool to provide support, or how many alerts a client’s system experienced in a given time period.
Simplicity and Transparency
By consolidating monitoring and management operations into a single platform, RMM tools simplify MSP tasks. They also make information more accessible to anyone on your team who needs it.
RMM tools are critical for scaling MSP operations. By automating workflows and making it easier to support clients spread across a large area, RMM helps your business grow.
RMM tools help your technicians investigate issues faster, without having to travel to remote sites. In turn, they increase productivity.
In addition, RMM helps you deliver more secure managed services. RMM monitoring and security tools can detect threats automatically. You may even be able to use scripts to automate security incident resolution by, for example, blacklisting an IP address that is generating malicious traffic.
RMM reduces downtime, too. By enabling you to find and fix issues proactively, RMM means fewer disruptions for your customers.
Finally, as your customers’ needs change or you seek to offer new types of managed services, RMM provides the flexibility to help you do so. When you spend less time traveling to remote sites or fixing problems manually, you are in a stronger position to offer more services to more customers.
The benefits of RMM may be clear to you as an MSP, but less obvious to your customers. They often want the cheapest service model, rather than one that includes proactive services via RMM tools.
To help customers understand the value for them of the types of services that RMM enables, emphasize:
Faster results: Automation and remote support mean your customers get what they need from you sooner.
Proactive service: Ongoing, continuous management via RMM eliminates the need for customers to monitor systems or make changes on their own.
Minimal disruptions: RMM helps you deliver managed services with minimal disruptions to your customers. You don’t need to send staff on site or sit at their desks.
Self-service: In some cases, you may choose to use RMM tools to let customers check the status of their systems on their own. For example, you could give them access to monitoring data from RMM tools.
From faster support to more efficient troubleshooting to less downtime, RMM offers MSPs and their customers a range of benefits. Whether you’re building a new MSP business from scratch or looking for ways to optimize your existing business, RMM should be a part of your strategy.
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To best protect your data, it’s essential to distinguish between approaches that could truly be considered backup and those which are better amalgamated under a heading which could be termed “backup-like”. Continue reading
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