Remote monitoring and management (RMM) is software with a pretty simple mission: save IT pros time and effort. How? Instead of waiting for a user to report an issue, an RMM lets you automate responses and gain insights that can reduce issues down the road.

Now, there are plenty of other software tools you could use to make life easier and to be clear, RMMs aren’t the right tool for every job. So let’s take a closer look at what an RMM is, the problems RMMs solve, and other tools that help fill in the gaps RMMs don’t cover.

What is RMM?

Remote monitoring and management (RMM) is a class of software used for centralized monitoring and management of IT assets, especially servers and endpoints.

Of course, “monitoring” and “management” are broad terms, so let’s drill down. From a monitoring perspective, an RMM enables IT to track metrics related to CPU, memory, disk, and network I/O from all endpoints, servers, and network devices across multiple sites.

If something goes wrong (e.g CPU usage gets abnormally high), IT admins can use the “management” features of an RMM to execute commands or access a remote terminal or desktop to troubleshoot that endpoint remotely. Additionally, the “management” features let IT perform routine tasks like automating responses, patching devices, and installing or updating software packages.

How do RMMs work?

Generally, RMM software takes an autonomous agent-based approach to monitoring and management. For that to work, each monitored endpoint needs an RMM agent installed. That agent collects data from individual machines and sends them back to the central management portal. It can also act in the other directions as well—providing a mechanism for remote management features to access the device.

What are some common RMM features?

If you’re familiar with other control software, like professional services automation (PSA) platforms, network management systems (NMS), network monitoring tools, or network mappers, you might wonder what makes RMM different.

It’s a good question. There certainly is overlap across these different solutions, and vendors often add features to products that can blur the lines between different software categories. An RMM can have features you’d associate with PSAs, and an NMS can have RMM features, while network mappers might have performance monitoring functionality, etc.

The opposite is also true. While an NMS might have some RMM features, it usually won’t have all of them. Similarly, an RMM might give some network performance monitoring functionality, but it probably won’t be as robust as a true network performance monitoring tool.

Simply put, what differentiates these tools is their core functionality.

While there’s no authoritative RMM definition or standard for what makes an RMM an RMM, here are some of the features common to most remote monitoring and management software:

  • Endpoint health monitoring. The monitoring side of RMM involves an agent capturing device health metrics (RAM, CPU, disk, etc) and sending it back to a centralized portal. These metrics serve as the data that enables threshold-based alerts, notifications, and automation triggers.
  • Remote controls and remote desktop. Ad-hoc controls (like reboots), terminal commands, and remote desktop sessions are still an important part of debugging and troubleshooting. RMM tooling gives IT a single place where they can execute commands on any of their managed endpoints, and even drill down further to access a terminal or remote desktop session.
  • Patch management and software installation. RMMs allow IT to remotely apply patches and install software.
  • Automation, scheduling, and scripting. Automation based on “if, then” style logic, scheduled actions, and custom scripts allow administrators to reduce or eliminate the need for a human to get involved in incident response and maintenance.
  • Reporting. With an RMM, IT can create and view reports related to things like device metrics, software versions, Windows events, access logs, active alerts, and security and compliance issues. That makes it easier for IT to understand where they need to devote resources to activities like upgrades, troubleshooting, and patches.
  • Site management and multi-tenancy. For admins responsible for multiple sites, and MSPs responsible for multiple clients, logically isolating and managing those endpoints is important. Many RMMs offer site management features and support multi-tenancy to accommodate these use cases.

Additionally, many RMMs offer more advanced features like managed antivirus, PSA features, and ticketing.

RMMs and MSPs: A priceless partner

Any IT team that manages more than a few remote endpoints will benefit from an RMM, and they’ve proven particularly popular in the IT managed service provider (MSP) world. Along with PSA software, RMMs have become staples in MSP solution stacks. While PSA software helps MSPs automate and scale the business and account management side of their operations, RMM software helps with the IT side. With an RMM, MSPs can get proactive: out in front of issues before their clients call them, and even automate certain solutions. Not only does this reduce truck rolls, but it also improves the overall end-user experience. When RMM solutions are properly implemented, MSPs can solve problems before clients even notice them.

RMM or MDM? Even more acronyms!

Even after examining the core functional differences between tools like an NMS, PSA and RMM, there can still be some confusion around remote management and mobile device management (MDM) software. After all, RMMs may support mobile devices, and MDMs have many of the same core features as RMMs. At least when you’re looking at surface-level descriptions.

At a general level, the difference is simple: RMMs mostly focus on “traditional” endpoints (e.g., PCs and servers) while MDMs focus on mobile devices (e.g., phones and tablets). Generally, an MDM makes it easier to provision, monitor, manage, and remotely wipe mobile devices than an RMM.

In practice, RMM and MDM solutions can complement one another quite well. RMM enables automation and scripting to proactively address endpoint issues, while an MDM simplifies mobile device administration.

💡 Bonus acronym! UEM: If you’re exploring MDM and RMM tooling, you may have come across the term unified endpoint management (UEM). UEM solutions go beyond basic MDM features to add support for more endpoints (like IoT devices), security management, and bring your own device (BYOD) support. Worth considering if you’re headed down that path for device management.

Common issues with RMM tools

RMMs are great, but they’re limited, particularly when it comes to mobile device support and network visibility. The fact that IT teams and MSPs need MDMs and UEMs illustrates this. RMMs are great for automation and scripting, but they’re mostly optimized for endpoints like servers and PCs, not mobile or IoT devices.

Similarly, RMMs tend to lack the granular network visibility needed to troubleshoot performance issues. Endpoint agents, when optimized for desktops and servers, typically don’t provide the insights IT needs to resolve network issues quickly. That’s where network management and network monitoring software comes in.

Network monitoring tools get into the thick of it. They help IT visualize data flows, identify bottlenecks, and capture real-time data related to their networks. And while RMM software does a good job of automating simple tasks for PC and server troubleshooting, support for the same functionality for network devices is limited. A network management system can enable IT to extend centralized management to their network gear.

How Auvik complements RMM tooling

Because of Auvik’s remote management features, we like to think of it, in part, as an “RMM for network infrastructure”. With integrations for RMMs like Continuum and ConnectWise (as well as dozens of other popular IT and MSP tools), and a hierarchical model that makes managing multiple sites easy, Auvik is a great complement to traditional RMMs. Specifically, with Auvik, IT and MSPs can:

  • Automatically discover and map their networks. One of the biggest challenges of distributed site management is simply knowing what devices are on the network. Often, IT simply doesn’t have visibility into all the devices on a network or how they are connected. Auvik automatically discovers devices and maps the network connections between them. This makes it much easier for administrators to get a holistic view of the state of their network.
  • Drill down to troubleshoot network issues in just a few clicks. Auvik allows admins to quickly drill down from network maps to individual devices and even access individual network device terminals with just a few clicks.
  • Securely manage multiple sites. Managing remote IT risks is a difficult balancing act. Auvik’s remote management features make it easy to manage multiple sites without compromising security. Case-in-point: the Auvik collector works without the need for you to open additional ports to access your network devices remotely.
  • Gain granular insights into network data flows. Features like TrafficInsights make it possible for IT to gain deep visibility into ingress and egress data flows across a network. With the data provided by Auvik, IT can get to the root cause of issues faster, identify bandwidth hogs, and improve their network planning.
  • Automate backups. Auvik automatically backs up network configurations, keeps snapshots of historical configurations, and makes it easy to roll back bad to a last known working config.

If you’d like to try Auvik for yourself, sign up for a risk-free 14-day trial today!

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