I am a one-person IT department (though I wear a bunch of hats, and IT was thrust on me), and I struggle to manage all of the computers, printers, and other devices on the networks at our two locations. I can react to things when they break, but it would be great to be able to automatically get notifications before things go wrong. Any tips for me?
I too run an IT department and wear a handful of other hats, so I can relate to your struggle. Some days the beginning of the workday starts with a set plan to get x, y, and z accomplished. Sometimes, five minutes (or less) after arriving, something goes haywire, and the rest of the day turns into recovery mode and those organized plans are out the window.
Sometimes those scenarios are unavoidable, but often, advance warning would help avert the issues altogether. Three letters will go a long way in helping with this: RMM.
The IT field has acronyms and alternative definitions for everything. Ranging from the obvious IT (information technology) to ISP (Internet service provider) to “bricked” (trying to configure or update a device, and inadvertently killing it in the process). RMM stands for remote monitoring and management, and I am a huge fan of it. My RMM software allows me to get push notifications of issues on my computers, printers, and anything else connected to my network. Some of my most useful notifications let me know if a server is offline (either no Internet or powered off), a hard drive is starting to fill up, Windows updates are needed, antivirus software is outdated, or a printer is low on toner.
Searching our good friend Google tells us that there are a bunch of RMM vendors out there, and I played around with numerous vendors’ products for testing purposes before settling on one of them. The most complete product, with a mature feature set, was Connectwise. This used to be called Labtech, and it has more options than I can list. Try as I might to negotiate, though, the pricing was too high for my budget, but I did have another option waiting in the wings.
The RMM software I ended up using is called Pulseway. I had read excellent reviews for it on some of my geeky websites, and in testing it out, I must have driven my salesperson Vick and his engineer Sami crazy with the number of questions I had; their support was up to the task, and I found them to be top-notch. They walked me through the wide spectrum of their cloud RMM, solutions and taught me some useful tricks along the way.
Either on my Pulseway web portal or on an app on my phone, I can see stats or perform functions or automated tasks on my computers in all my locations. I routinely tell my servers to run Windows updates and reboot late at night, check toner levels on various printers to bulk-order toner, and scroll through event logs while kicking back at the kitchen table after dinner. I can also use their remote desktop solution to access any of my computer’s desktops, but this is an aspect of their offerings that needs some work. It functions, but is missing a file-transfer feature that I use regularly with Teamviewer, my current remote desktop solution.
When it came to pricing, their offering fit my budget, and I’ve been very happy using their software over the past few months. Pulseway’s per-computer price, if paid annually, is published at $1.57 per computer per month, and $3.35 per server per month. They have add-ons you can bundle in as well, like antivirus software and a backup solution, for example.
The functionality an RMM solution can give any IT department, especially a one-person department, is remarkable if used correctly. It’s like having a staff member run through all of your devices constantly and report back to you. I will admit that the alerts I receive can be a pain in the neck, but every single one I get is information I’m much better off getting the instant something happens. I’m a big fan of dealing with the snowball at the top of the hill before it rolls down to the bottom and potentially becomes a disaster. Yes, if the Internet goes off at one of my locations in the middle of the night, my slumber is potentially interrupted with that alert, but I do get another one when it’s back online again, so I just count modems instead of sheep to fall back asleep.
Thanks for writing in, Hatwearer, and hope your summer has been a good one!
Adam Darack is the IT administrator for the town of Edgartown. He writes regularly about the technological issues facing Island business owners. Got a question? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line “Dear Geek.”