While the lasting impact of the COVID-19 pandemic may not be known for some time, businesses have realized that there are no certainties or guarantees that things will return back to normal. This realization impacts IT departments and staffers worldwide. Most small, medium and large enterprises had to rapidly embrace different operational mindsets, ones that included adopting WFH (work from home) policies while concurrently dealing with changes in support staffers, who also had to work remotely.
Perhaps the biggest challenge for enterprise IT was one of provisioning, securing, monitoring and maintaining endpoints, which are now scattered about the countryside and connected via broadband or cellular services. A challenge that has certainly been a struggle for an evolving situation. Yet, the situation may not be completely alien to enterprise IT, which may have experience in supporting a few remote or mobile workers. However, there is a big difference between supporting 1 or 2 percent of the workforce in that fashion, as opposed to 100 percent of the workforce.
For enterprises, this “new normal” may dictate the use of different tools, tools such as PSA (professional services automation), ITSM (IT systems management) and RMM (remote monitoring and management) tools. PSA, ITSM and RMM tools normally fall under the auspices of MSPs (managed service providers). Yet, MSPs may use those tools, or better yet, platforms differently than the typical enterprise may. What’s more, most of those platforms use complex licensing schemes and may require integration with numerous other tools to build a custom offering, which obviously are the areas in which MSPs excel.
Today’s enterprises need much the same capabilities as an MSP, but may not have to worry about platform rebranding, multi-tenancy and many of the other requirements an MSP may have. That said, some of the platforms used by MSPs are adapting to the slightly different model that an enterprise may require. Case in point is Atera Networks, which has developed a SaaS (software as a service) platform for ITSM, RMM, and PSA.
A closer look at the Atera platform
Atera is a SaaS (software-as-a-service) platform, designed to bring a wide range of ITSM, RMM, and PSA tools to those that need to manage the IT resources in an organization. Unlike many other ITSM products on the market, Atera is a fully hosted offering, requiring no special management servers be set up onsite or in a cloud instance.
The primary interface is a browser-based management console, which displays rolled-up statuses of monitored systems and highlights issues. From the management console, administrators can perform numerous functions. Submenus offer a path into those additional functions.
Deployment takes little more than installing a small client application on the endpoint. That client application feeds data back to the Atera system and also can execute commands for applying patches, installing software and so forth.
Platform establishes workflows on its own
From a help-desk perspective, Atera offers the ability to create service tickets, where those having an IT-related issue can create a ticket for processing. The idea here is to establish a workflow for resolving a problem, and more importantly, tracking the status of the problem and how it was resolved. Completed and resolved tickets often offer information that is applicable when encountering a new problem.
Although trouble tickets are thought of as a reactive approach to maintenance, they can also be used in a proactive manner. If an administrator identifies a problem using the dashboard, he can resolve that problem before it impacts an end user, while also creating a trouble ticket and closing that ticket to have a history of the actions taken.
The interface also offers the ability to drill down into alerts. Alerts are created when something goes amiss, such as a CPU exceeding a temperature threshold or a hard disk reporting an error. Alerts can be setup using numerous variables and administrators have the ability to define triggers for alerts. That gives administrators the flexibility to fine tune alerts based upon expected parameters.
Atera also inventories endpoints (and servers), as well as creating a visual representation of the devices in the management console. The inventory can be used for a number of different purposes, such as upgrade planning, patch management, and so on.
It can apply patches to systems automatically
Perhaps one of the most important features is Atera’s ability to apply patches to systems, especially considering the increase in cyberattacks aimed at unpatched systems. What’s more, with the increase in work from home situations, Atera can be used to make sure an end user end point can be properly managed and secured.
Numerous automation tools help to ease patch management, software installs, and so forth. That helps to make it easier to remotely onboard a new end point and keep that endpoint maintained. The product offers several other reports, ranging from inventory to device health. Administrators are also able to report on service issues, time spent on problems and user requests.
Although a core percentage of Atera’s customers are MSPs, enterprise users will find many of the reports applicable to an IT department, such as customer satisfaction reports, software inventory reports, and auditor reports. The system can also report on technician performance as well, giving management insight into how well their IT staffers are servicing their internal customers.
Atera successfully brings forth an RMM tool that is suitable for both MSPs and Enterprises. The simplified “by technician” licensing removes a significant burden from corporate IT departments, which are typically bogged down in managing software licenses, while also supporting BYOD initiatives. Broad support for major OSes and devices further eases implementation and automation tools bring simplified provisioning to distributed IT departments.
What’s more, most any IT department could benefit from a unified tool that takes care of the all-too-common end point problems that seem to materialize in today’s distributed environments. Knowing the details of any given endpoint further brings normalization to overall end user support, eliminating the guessing game so many technicians must go through when helping a remote user.
Frank Ohlhorst is a veteran IT product reviewer and analyst who has been an eWEEK regular for many years.