How to keep tabs on remote systems

What constitutes a remote management system?

Well, if you look at the number of workstations and servers deployed throughout your organization, you have to be feeling the pains of managing them. Even if you are not managing them yourself, there has to be some way of keeping tabs on the technology resources in your organization.

There are several products on the market, but the key is actually implementing a product that gives you the data you need to report back to management on how the environment is progressing.

The first thing to do is determine what exactly your IT group needs to fully manage your systems. This can be a short meeting with your IT folks, or you can develop some way of providing ideas and feedback. A lot of companies use "groupware" type of applications to discuss shortcomings in the infrastructure. If you haven't implemented something like this, I suggest you do so. Microsoft Exchange (which is used by the majority of companies) provides this ability.

The second thing you need to do is determine which products meet remote management needs. As noted, there are a number of products in the market that profess to provide this ability. As a conscientious manager, you should realize that marketing tactics sometimes predicate the actual products themselves. In essence, some vendors put more behind marketing than actual product development. A game of golf doesn't always relate to a successful set of management

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tools. There are many vendors that try to hide the fact that their products are poor, but they try "giving you the moon" to change your mind.

The third thing you need to do is allow your IT folks to test the products. What might work for another company, may not work in your environment. Make sure that you gather all the data from the testing of the different products. Testing is key to determining the product that you will rely on for years to come.

The fourth thing you need to do is TRUST your IT folks. In this day and age, there are a lot of IT managers who didn't come from real-world IT experience. In a lot of instances, the IT manager may have come from a specific business unit of the company, and those folks need to rely on the "technical" people in the company to provide the proper guidance for technologies that should be implemented in the organization. The best managers rely on the skills of others; instead of thinking they can make the decisions themselves.

The last part of the equation is to put together a strong proposal, based on the output of the testing scenarios. Putting together a strong proposal, not only makes sure that the proper technology is implemented in the company, but it also builds the case for revisiting the remote management solution, should the initial decision fail to work as the vendor touted.

All-in-all, there are many ways of managing the companies' technology assets. The primary key is to put together a methodology that makes sense for the environment. When you read the horde of news articles, newsletters and comments on the Web, your attention can be quickly deviated, thinking you just read about the most fascinating product ever created! In the majority of case, this simply is not true. Trust the IT staff you hired and manage. Implementing a successful remote management product in your environment not only makes you look good, but it saves money for your company.


Rod Trent, manager of myITforum.com and a Microsoft MVP, is an expert on Microsoft Systems Management Server. He has more than 18 years of IT experience -- eight of which have been dedicated to SMS. He is the author of Microsoft SMS Installer, Admin911: SMS, and IIS 5.0: A Beginner's Guide and has written thousands of articles on technology topics.

This was first published in May 2005

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