The Case for Managed Network Services
By John Forsberg
For years IT support was much like the fire department. As an IT support firm, if a client’s workstation or server went down, we would get the call and rush to the client site, battling whatever fire was raging. And just like the fire department, we had to plan for any contingency as typically we were arriving with limited information, more often than not with little more than, “the server is down!”
In short, it was a reactionary response, and a costly one in terms of client down-time and the delay of getting to the fire, analyzing the situation and getting things back up and running. In addition, there were the difficult issues of expense and scheduling control in keeping IT support staff at the ready in case the alarm bell rang.
Thankfully, using Managed Network Software and Services, there is now a way to nearly eliminate the need for reactionary IT support.
Managed Network Software is an application that is installed in your organization’s network, typically on each workstation and server. Once installed, it monitors the on-going health and activity of each device in the network, whether it’s a workstation, server, printer, PDA, switch, router or other connected device.
The real beauty of Managed Network Software is that it can be configured to send automatic email alerts or text messages when problems occur – and better yet, can be configured to send alerts when there may be a potentialproblem in the near future.
For example, more than once in years past we’ve been contacted by a new client with a server failure. After going out to the client site, we’ve discovered that the server’s log files have grown so large over time that they have filled the hard drive, thus shutting down the server. With Managed Network Software, the hard drive of the server can be monitored and if it reaches a certain capacity, can automatically let the client and the IT support company know that it’s time to clean things up.
Or, perhaps an employee has installed new software on a workstation and now it’s running slow. The Managed Network Software can tell you why, even sending alerts that RAM or CPU usage is running too high.
The power of Managed Network Software is that it can be monitored and administrated from anywhere via an internet browser. It also means that most devices, such as workstations, servers, routers and others, can be remotely accessed and serviced – in some cases without the user ever having to log off. This allows IT support professionals to not only be alerted of a potential problem, but access the needed device, fix the issue and document it without ever leaving the office. This is a tremendous cost savings to both the client, and to the IT support firm. It also means a vastly improved response time.
For small to medium-sized organizations there are two, well-established Network Management Software solutions available: Kaseya (www.kaseya.com) and N-Able (www.n-able.com).
Both offer remote monitoring and management, as well as alerts and remote desktop support. In addition, both offer patch management, allowing administrators to manage and distribute patches across the network from one central location. Both also offer software distribution functionality, allowing administrators to install common software (new browsers, production applications and others) across the network, eliminating the need of physically sitting down at each workstation and running through the install process.
Kaseya offers an additional feature of trouble-ticket management. Workstation users can click on a trouble-ticket icon in their system tray and immediately submit a network trouble-ticket to both an administrator and to the IT support firm for follow-up.
With Kaseya and N-Able, administration is handled via an internet browser, giving administrators the ability to manage the network from anywhere.
So How Much Does it Cost?
N-Able charges a per device rate (approximately $6.50 per device), while Kaseya charges for a block of devices. Clients may purchase the service directly, however in the case of Kaseya, it is typically less expensive if the client purchases only what they need through a Kaseya re-seller such as your IT support firm, as Kaseya’s smallest block is 100 devices - far more than many small organizations have. Lastly, with N-Able, there is a limited amount of installation cost required as the application must be installed on each device. Kaseya’s installation costs are lower as the application can be installed and distributed remotely.
Both solutions are extremely powerful and have vastly improved IT support. When interviewing new clients over the years, it is very clear that the number one issue facing IT support firms (and the number one frustration of their clients) is customer response. By implementing a managed network software solution, response is not only immediate, but more importantly, is pro-active.
It’s true that there will always be some IT fires to put out, but at least now there is a very intelligent, inexpensive smoke detector out there that benefits both IT support firms, and their clients.