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remote access

Remote Access: What You Should Know

In the prehistoric age of computers, when they took up entire rooms in tall buildings, remote support was just a twinkle in the eyes of early engineers. Fast-forward several decades to the 1980s and the advent of the World Wide Web and voila! Remotely servicing machines was no longer a wishful thought, but an actual possibility.

Today, with billions of smart devices around the globe to support, managed service providers (MSPs) have come to rely on remote access tools to troubleshoot technology issues wherever the end user is in the world.

As remote access solutions become more sophisticated, there are fewer reasons to send technicians on site to support devices. This not only adds to an MSP’s bottom line, it also makes technicians and engineers more effective at their jobs.

What is Remote Access?

In its simplest form, remote access is a process where a technician is able to access a machine (it could be a computer, smart phone, or a server) from another location.

Can you think of an industry that doesn’t use smart devices (computers, phones, tablets, etc.)? Somewhere in the company’s infrastructure, there’s a machine – and those machines can malfunction. As glamorous as it would be to fly all over the globe to fix computers and phones in exotic locations, it’s not exactly cost-effective to send techs troubleshoot issues in person. So, when tech issues arise, it’s remote access to the rescue!

So, what’s the difference between remote access and remote support? Some in the IT community use those terms interchangeably. When you think about it, they’re not wrong. For the purposes of this article, the difference is this:

Remote access is the process where a technician remotely supports machines, mobile devices, servers, and systems that are unattended by the end-user.

Remote support is the same process essentially, with one key difference: the technician is assisting a person on the other end of the session while they address tech issues with the person’s device.

Choosing the Best Remote Access Software for Business

There are dozens of solutions on the market, ranging as broadly in complexity and capability as they do in price. Some cater to home users and others to enterprises. Some split up the remote access and support functionality into different tools. Others are all-inclusive (meaning one software offers the option to both support end users AND access unattended machines).

Narrowing the options down to the right one for your business can be tricky. It might even be tempting to opt for the cheapest one and hope for the best. But not all remote access solutions are created equal. Here’s what you should consider.

Security

Security is at the top of the feature list. Remote access without proper security exposes business data to cybercriminals. When data breaches happen, MSPs lose not only credibility, but money. MSPs can incur fines associated with data breaches, not to mention lost revenue due to poor reputation, lost clients, and remediation.

Look for a comprehensive security feature set that includes:

  • Role-based permissions
  • Password management
  • SSL
  • Alerts
  • Multiple authentication methods

MSPs that support industries like healthcare may require you to have specific security measures in place to comply with legal and ethical guidelines like PCI, DSS, and HIPAA. If these apply to you, make sure your choices include additional security features like:

  • On-premises options
  • Video auditing and recording

Reliable Connectivity

Another ding on an MSP’s credibility is slow, unreliable connectivity. Shaky remote access tools are bad for technician morale and can also leave your customers with a bad impression of your IT services. A remote access tool worth should let a technician connect to the device in seconds, temporarily install software for non-managed machines or break/fix scenarios, and will include options to install permanent agents as needed.

Cross-Platform Compatibility & Mobile Support

Companies that MSPs support will usually rely on an array of devices – both mobile and stationary – to run their day to day business functions. The thing is, many of these devices run off of different platforms, tasking MSPs with supporting Microsoft® Windows, Mac, Linux, Android, and Chrome. Likewise, it’s important for technicians to be able to access machines while they’re away from their desktops.

Integrations

Disparate systems are no good – that’s not a new idea. So, it’s crucial that the solution you choose integrates with the other systems you use (ticketing, billing, and business management). Otherwise, you could be creating more problems than you’re solving. When you’re researching remote access tools, ask yourself these questions:

Does this integrate with the solutions I already use?

Does this offer extensions and apps for enhanced capabilities?

How often are new solutions added to the integration roster?

Online Collaboration

A strong tech support team relies on collaboration to get the job done quickly and accurately. If your remote support solution doesn’t also offer remote meeting capabilities, you’re missing out on an easy way to promote team collaboration, and to share information quickly with your customers through screen-sharing and simple document sharing.

The right remote access solution allows your techs to help each other or request help easily, and gives them the capability to chat with end users, share screens with customers, and set up meetings to help explain issues quickly and directly.

Customization

White labeling is key for brand recognition and building trust. Remember that remote access can be daunting for end users. The more your customers see your MSP’s logo, colors, and messaging, the easier it’ll be to build your brand equity.

Beyond logos, colors, and custom URLs, consider which customizations would most benefit your team. The best remote access software will offer an array of editable settings, languages, designs, and workflows.

Setup & Implementation

Something to find out about before choosing a remote access tool is how much time and education is required before you’re up and running with your new solution. With some solutions, it’s a very simple process that involves installing an access point onto the machine(s) or “endpoint” you want to support. Be careful to consider things like compatibility – if your endpoints run on Windows OS, for instance, you should check to make sure the remote access tool support it.

The Future of Remote Access

Cloud information management has drastically changed how companies share resources. The cloud has made it possible for even the smallest companies to distribute information and resources around the world, making it crucial for MSPs to be able to administer cloud management and monitoring.

An MSP’s systems need to be able to weather the storm of a constantly changing industry. A robust remote access solution—allowing you to work in multiple environments and continue to support new tools—is key to building a successful business. Evaluate your selections for remote access tools by considering which solutions offer the development support you’ll need for scalability.

A Remote Access Solution that Checks All the Boxes

Every MSP and help desk needs a reliable and secure remote access tool that scales as the workforce needs change.


This article was provided by our service partner : connectwise.com

How RMM Solves Break/Fix Problems

Despite the rise of managed service providers (MSPs), many IT companies still operate on a break/fix model. But the proactive managed services model is far easier and more cost-effective—and helps you provide a much stronger level of service to your clients. If you’re still providing services on a break/fix basis, a remote monitoring and management (RMM) tool can help you make the transition to managed services.

Not sure of the benefits an RMM tool offers? Here are a few.

Cash Flow

In a break/fix model, clients only pay for your services when they need something fixed. As a result, cash flow is inconsistent and unpredictable. By contrast, MSPs charge a uniform monthly fee in exchange for constant, proactive monitoring of a client’s systems. RMM tools proactively monitor a client’s devices and networks, allowing you to charge a monthly fee for your always-on service.

Complex IT Issues

In a break/fix model, you don’t hear about an IT issue until it’s grown large enough for a client to notice. This usually means the problem has become widespread and complicated—whereas a problem in the early stages can be simpler and quicker to resolve. RMM software can detect IT issues before the client notices them, enabling you to fix them proactively before they cause widespread problems.

Wasted Time

Time spent to and from client sites can represent a large part of a break/fix technician’s day—and eats up resources that could be better spent elsewhere. It also takes additional time to analyze a client’s devices and gather basic information about the infrastructure and issue. Every second spent traveling or collecting background information hinders your company’s growth by reducing productivity. But with RMM, you can gather information automatically and solve issues remotely, reducing costs and making every second count.

Client Mistrust

If you operate on a break/fix model, you may fix a client’s issue only to have them call you the next day with the same issue or a related one. The more problems a client experiences, the less they’ll trust you. If you’ve supposedly already fixed the issue, they’ll wonder, why does it keep happening? That’s a problem you can avoid with the help of an RMM tool. Constant monitoring means you’ll always know what’s going on, and if you discover a potential issue, you can fix it quickly. Give the client a well-performing infrastructure, and you’ll deepen their trust in your services.

Limited Manpower

Break/fix models can keep your technicians constantly busy as they dash off to fix one client issue after another. If they’re overworked, they may miss incoming work. An RMM tool automates tasks to ease up the strain on your team and help them handle clients more efficiently.

Outdated Systems

Outdated systems can be a strain on break/fix companies. If a client experiences problems with outdated software or devices, they may budget for upgrades rather than for the IT services you provide—costing you potential business. RMM keeps your clients’ systems up to date with the latest tools and software.

Negative Associations

The break/fix business model may cultivate an unhealthy relationship between providers and clients. You make money only when your client’s system is failing. This creates a negative association in your client’s mind, and they may put off calling you until it’s absolutely necessary. At that point, of course, the problem is much more difficult to resolve. With RMM, you keep everything running as it should, building satisfaction rather than resentment.

Loss of Business

If you don’t offer managed services, someone else will—and it’s only a matter of time before your client finds them. Transitioning to an MSP with the help of an RMM tool means better service for your clients and more business for you.

By adding an RMM tool to your solution toolkit, you’ll be able to proactively detect problems before your client notices, allowing you to offer a better quality of service. In addition, your staff will experience an increase in productivity that will help your company’s bottom line.


This article was provided by our service partner : connectwise.com

5 Must-Have Features of Your Remote Monitoring Solution

As a technology solution provider (TSP), chances are you have a desire to take your business to the next level. The TSPs that are successful in this endeavor have a key ingredient in common: they are armed with the right tools for growth. The most critical tool for success in this business is a powerful remote monitoring and management (RMM) solution.

So the question is, what should you be looking for when you purchase an RMM tool, and why are those features important to your business?

The right RMM tool impacts your business success with five key benefits. With a powerful and feature-rich RMM solution in place, you can:

Automate any IT process or task
Work on multiple machines at once
Solve issues without interrupting clients
Integrate smoothly into a professional services automation (PSA) tool
Manage everything from one control center
To better understand why these features are so influential, let’s talk a little more about each of them.

1. Automate Any IT Process or Task

Imagine being able to determine a potential incident before your client feels the pain, and fix it in advance to avoid that negative business impact. Being able to automate any IT process gives you the proactive service model you need to keep your clients happy for the long haul.

2. Work on Multiple Machines at Once

To solve complex issues, an TSP must be able to work on all the machines that make up a system. If you are attempting to navigate this maze via a series of webpages, it is hard to keep up with progress and makes it easy to miss a critical item during the diagnosis. Having the ability to work on multiple machines at once is paramount to developing your business model and maximizing your returns.

3. Solve Issues Without Interrupting Clients

One of the biggest challenges that MSPs face is fixing issues without impacting their clients’ ability to work. With the wrong tools in place, the solution can be nearly as disruptive as the issue it’s meant to fix. The right tool must allow a technician to connect behind the scenes, troubleshoot and remediate the problem without impacting the client’s ability to work.

4. Integrate Smoothly into a PSA Tool

Two-way integration between your RMM and PSA solutions eliminates bottlenecks and allows data to flow smoothly between the tools. The goal of integration is to enable you to respond more quickly to client needs as well as capture and store historical information that leads to easier root cause analysis.

A solid integration will also increase sales by turning data into actionable items that result in quotes and add-on solutions. The key areas to examine when looking at how a PSA and RMM integrate are:

  • Managing tickets and tasks
  • Capturing billable time
  • Assigning incidents based on device and technician
  • Scheduling and automating tasks
  • Identifying and managing sales opportunities
  • Managing and reporting on client configuration information
  • A solid integration into a PSA will create an end-to-end unified solution to help your more effectively run your IT business.

5. Manage Everything from One Control Center

The control center for your RMM solution should be the cockpit for your service delivery. Having the ability to manage aspects that are directly related to service delivery such as backup and antivirus from the same control center keeps your technicians working within a familiar environment and speeds service delivery. Also, it cuts down on associated training costs by limiting their activities to the things that matter on a day-to-day basis.

Success means equipping your business with the right features and functionality to save your technicians time while increasing your revenue and profit margins. Selecting an RMM solution that solves for these five influential features is the key to getting started down the path to success. What are you waiting for?


This article was provided by our service partner : Labtech. 

5 Must-Have Features of Your Remote Monitoring Services

Remote Monitoring Services Features You Must Have

As a managed service provider (MSP), we have a desire to take your business to the next level. The MSPs that are successful in this endeavor have a key ingredient in common: they are armed with the right tools for growth. The most critical tool for success in this business is a powerful remote monitoring services and management (RMM) solution.

So the question is, what should you be looking for when you purchase an RMM tool, and why are those features important to your business?

The right RMM tool impacts your business success with five key benefits. With a powerful and feature-rich RMM solution in place, you can:

  • Automate any IT process or task
    Work on multiple machines at once
    Solve issues without interrupting clients
    Integrate smoothly into a professional services automation (PSA) tool
    Manage everything from one control center.

To better understand why these features are so influential, let’s talk a little more about each of them.

Automate Any IT Process or Task

Imagine being able to determine a potential incident before your client feels the pain and fix it in advance to avoid that negative business impact. Being able to automate any IT process gives you the proactive service model you need to keep your clients happy for the long haul.

Work on Multiple Machines at Once

To solve complex issues, an MSP must be able to work on all the machines that make up a system. If you are attempting to navigate this maze via a series of webpages, it is hard to keep up with progress and makes it easy to miss a critical item during the diagnosis. Having the ability to work on multiple machines at once is paramount to developing your business model and maximizing your returns.

Solve Issues Without Interrupting Clients

One of the biggest challenges that MSPs face is fixing issues without impacting their clients’ ability to work. With the wrong tools in place, the solution can be nearly as disruptive as the issue it’s meant to fix. The right tool must allow a technician to connect behind the scenes, troubleshoot and remediate the problem without impacting the client’s ability to work.

Integrate Smoothly Into a PSA Tool

Two-way integration between your RMM and PSA solutions eliminates bottlenecks and allows data to flow smoothly between the tools. The goal of integration is to enable you to respond more quickly to client needs as well as capture and store historical information that leads to easier root cause analysis.

A solid integration will also increase sales by turning data into actionable items that result in quotes and add-on solutions. The key areas to examine when looking at how a PSA and RMM integrate are:

  • Managing tickets and tasks
    Capturing billable time
    Assigning incidents based on device and technician
    Scheduling and automating tasks
    Identifying and managing sales opportunities
    Managing and reporting on client configuration information

A solid integration into a PSA will create an end-to-end unified solution to help your more effectively run your IT business.

Manage Everything from One Control Center

The control center for your RMM solution should be the cockpit for your service delivery. Having the ability to manage aspects that are directly related to service delivery such as backup and antivirus from the same control center keeps your technicians working within a familiar environment and speeds service delivery. Also, it cuts down on associated training costs by limiting their activities to the things that matter on a day-to-day basis.

Success means equipping your business with the right features and functionality to save your technicians time while increasing your revenue and profit margins. Selecting an RMM solution that solves for these five influential features is the key to getting started down the path to success. What are you waiting for?


This article was provided by our service partner Labtech.

Network Management : Is SNMP here forever?

The first SNMP release came out in 1988. 28 years later, SNMP is still around, a go to Network Management tool … Will this still be the case in 10 years from now? Difficult to say but the odds are lower these days. Why are we predicting SNMP could go away?

If you’re already savvy about SNMP, check out this blog for getting insight into current SNMP limitations and why we are making this prediction.

SNMP was designed to make it simple for the NMS to request and consume data.  But those same data models and operations make it difficult for routers to scale to the needs of today’s networks. To understand this, you first need to understand the fundamentals of SNMP.

SNMP stands for Simple Network Management Protocol. It was introduced to meet the growing need for managing IP devices in a standard way. SNMP provides its users with a “simple” set of operations that allows these devices to be managed remotely. SNMP was designed to make it simple for the NMS to request and consume data. But those same data models and operations make it difficult for routers to scale to the needs of today’s networks.  To understand this, you first need to understand the fundamentals of SNMP.

For example, you can use SNMP to shut down an interface on your router or check the speed at which your Ethernet interface is operating. SNMP can even monitor the temperature on your router and warn you when it is getting too high.

The overall architecture is rather simple – there are essentially 2 main components (see Figure 1)

  • A centralized NMS system
  • Distributed agents (little piece of software running on managed network devices)

NMS is responsible for polling and receiving traps from agents in the network:

  • Polling a network device is the act of querying an agent for some piece of information.
  • A trap is a way for the agent to alert the NMS that something wrong has happened. Traps are sent asynchronously, not in response to queries from the NMS.

How is information actually structured on network devices? A Management Information Base (MIB) is present on every network device. This can be thought as a database of objects that the agent tracks. Any piece of information that can be accessed by the NMS is defined in a MIB.

Managed objects are stored into a treelike hierarchy as described in Figure 2:

The directory branch is actually not used. The management branch (mgmt) defines a standard set of objects that every network device needs to support. The experimental branch is for research purposes only and finally the private branch is for vendors to define objects specific to their devices.

Each managed object is uniquely defined by a name, e.g. an OID (Object Identifier). An object ID consists of a series of integers based on the nodes in the tree, separated by dots (.).

Under the mgmt branch, one can find the MIB-II that is an important MIB for TCP/IP networks. It is defined in RFC 1213 and you can see an extract in Figure 3.

With that mind, the OID for accessing information related to interfaces is: 1.3.6.1.2.1.2 and for information related to system: 1.3.6.1.2.1.1

Finally, there are 2 main SNMP request types to retrieve information.

GET request – request a single value by its Object identifier (see Figure 4)

GET-NEXT request – request a single value that is next in the lexical order from the requested Object Identifier (see Figure 5)

 


This is a repost of a blog by one of our service partners Cisco.

Where To Start With Infrastructure Monitoring

Recently I spent time revisiting our monitoring system. It needed a little bit of TLC and some of the staff wasn’t clear on exactly how it works and does its magic. As a follow-up, I thought it might be useful to write a little about monitoring. I mean, so what’s the point anyway?

Monitoring has evolved over the years. Especially with cloud computing and more resilient infrastructures. The tools have also progressed and I think it’s pretty clear that anyone deploying a serious monitoring system has long since abandoned the old-days of MRTG (http://oss.oetiker.ch/mrtg/), and mon (https://mon.wiki.kernel.org/index.php/Main_Page).  Even the infamous and all power Nagios is falling by the wayside. Finally, on the other end of the spectrum is software like SMARTS (http://www.emc.com/it-management/smarts/index.htm) formerly System Management Arts.

A good monitoring tool starts with:

  • Trends collected data (collection history)
  • Applies thresholds to data
  • Sends notifications based
  • Displays information in a meaningful way

That’s really the nuts and bolts of it. After that, things get much more in-depth. For example, how the data is collected and what escalation rules can be applied when sending notifications, etc. In addition, what about correlating the data and setting dependencies? The feature list goes on and on.

Once the data is collected and made useful (graphs, excel, whatever) it opens up the doors to things outside of monitoring such as planning, troubleshooting, faster SLAs, etc.

So if you’re planning on doing a Performance Monitoring Project, think about what you want and a little bit about how you might get there. What makes a tool do performance and monitoring in one package? Explore what others have and how they have leveraged it to improve their SLAs, planning, troubleshooting etc. Finally, it would also be worth considering what software has been used in conjunction with Monitoring Software to leverage it even further.

I noticed our system works well and is now a mature deployment. Our challenges now revolve around making sure people really know how to leverage the data and continuously document and improve the system.