Thomas Dewar, Executive Director of Information Technology, Lutheran Social Services of New York
I like to keep things as simple as possible. The simpler things are, the more likely you are to use them. More importantly, the more likely you will be successful in having your team adopt your solutions. Simplicity is just as significant with remote monitoring. I have heard many horror stories about people spending time and money configuring a tool that became too cumbersome to use. In a crisis, you need something you can use to get answers fast without much thought.
Here are some things to think about when you select remote monitoring tools:
How easy is it to set up?
You want something you can get up and running quickly. The messier it is to configure, the higher the probability it will gather dust. Two of my favorite tools, Lansweeper, and Meraki Networking equipment are very easy to set up. With Lansweeper, you give it the IP ranges and domain(s) to scan, and some credentials to use and it does the rest. Meraki networking equipment automatically gathers information as soon as it is plugged in.
Do you push or pull?
The best monitoring solutions reach out to you when you need to know something. You need an email or text message to know something is wrong. If you must go looking for the information, it is probably too late. You can be creative with this. If your solution only has email capability, find out your cell phone’s email address and use that for text messaging.
How do I stop the SPAM?
Having a remote monitoring solution that sends you messages is good, but you also want to make sure the communications are meaningful. Make sure that whatever you use can be configured to send only the alerts you need to know about immediately, and lets you look for the rest when you need it. Too many warnings become unread SPAM. I use text messaging for the immediate must have alerts and email for the less important ones.
Summary information can be beneficial as well. Consider having some of the information sent as a daily or weekly report instead of coming in as it happens.
How user-friendly is the interface?
Great tools have easy to read dashboards with a combination of text, graphics and color coding.
Remote monitoring solutions should be flexible enough that they set up easy in the beginning but can be more advanced as you learn the tool
An excellent interface draws your eye to the vital information quickly. Make sure that whatever you choose feels comfortable for you and is an interface that will tell you what you want to know.
Does it bring you joy?
We will save that question for when you clean out your network closet.
Does it grow with you?
The best tools start simple and grow with you as you learn them. Remote monitoring solutions should be flexible enough that they set up easy in the beginning but can be more advanced as you learn the tool. This way you don’t outgrow the solution and can use it at the level of complexity that makes you comfortable.
Can it do more than monitoring?
Remote monitoring is excellent for keeping tabs on things, but when you get an alert, you want to do something about it. My favorite tools incorporate functionality with monitoring.
Lansweeper, for example, has tools that allow you to perform actions on the assets it monitors. You can look up a user, find out which PC they logged into, get configuration information about the machine, ping the computer, check the services and start/stop/restart them, remote into the PC, and much more; all from the same monitoring interface. You can look at your printers, select one, see the information collected, and then go straight to the web interface all with a few clicks.
Meraki networking equipment lets you find a device, see who logged into it, trace the switch and port it connects to, see what network activity it has had, ping the device, and do a packet capture all from the same interface. If you have a power over internet device, like a phone, you can bounce the port and reboot the phone. You can examine the internet traffic, and if you find something like video using too much bandwidth, you can perform traffic shaping and restrict that traffic all from the same interface.
Functionality like this can make the difference in avoiding the need to make a site visit. Whether your site is in another town or another continent, those visits slow things down. The more you can handle remotely; the more efficient your team can be.
What are your peers using?
Check and see what your peers are using and ask for a demo of the tools they like.
How can you combine sources and be more efficient?
Combining alerts from different sources can be easy and useful. Teamviewer gives popup messages when someone logs into a PC configured for remote access, and I usually ignore them. When I have a site that is down, and I am waiting on the ISP to bring it back online, my tools can help me keep on top of the status. When I get text messages from my Meraki equipment letting me know the devices are back online, I am aware the internet is back up, but when I see the cluster Teamviewer alerts that those PCs are logging back in, I am confident the site is up and functioning without having to check.
A good friend reminded me that one of our best remote monitoring tools is staff awareness. Train staff to alert you proactively when they see something unusual.
These tips can help you find useful remote monitoring tools that can save time, money and make your team more productive.