Smaller businesses with a lot of remotely distributed PCs and laptops have always struggled with managing those far-flung resources. One vendor plans to step up to the plate to deliver a tool that will simplify that task.
LogMeIns upcoming new release of its IT Reach software builds on the companys history in the area of remote control to add a host of new management functions that appeal to medium-size enterprises.
Among the enhancements to the tool, which has seen decent traction among SMBs (small and midsize businesses) over the last 18 months, are new multi-administrator settings and more detailed reporting.
“It has richer functionality for organizing administrator groups, setting permissions and reporting on their usage and access to the machines they manage. It can support decentralized groups of administrators,” said Duncan Riley, director of product marketing for support tools for LogMeIn, in Woburn, Mass.
IT Reach, enhanced to better manage hundreds or thousands of remote desktops, laptops and servers, is designed to appeal to both internal IT administrators and MSPs (managed services providers) that provide outsourced IT services to SMBs.
“Where you have computers in multiple locations, many stand-alone computers or small, isolated networks, its a good fit. Its easy to deploy and get in running in those remote locations,” Riley said.
VSI (Vertical Systems), which owns and manages computers in hotel business centers around the globe, found the tool to be such a good fit, it opted to convert from a competitors offering, according to Idris Kothari, chief technology officer at the Sunnyvale, Calif., company.
“We have similar challenges to a corporation spread out with multiple locations. We dont have thousands of machines in four buildings, we have thousands of buildings with four machines each. Every single machine has a different IP address and we must go through hundreds of different firewalls. We have to have tools that work under any kind of firewall in the field,” he said.
Although Vertical Systems had been using Citrix GoToMyPC, it was much more expensive and much less flexible than IT Reach, Kothari said.
“We couldnt move machines from one server farm to another. Once I installed one in group A, I couldnt move it to Group B. At the factory level we had to customize each machine for a region and install it with that group before it left the factory. With LMI we could move between groups using drag and drop,” he said.
IT Reach, which provides remote access, support, management and reporting, adds three levels of user accounts in the new release. A Master Account Holder controls billing rights for the account and can create Master Administrator and Secondary User accounts. The Master Account Holder, by definition also a Master Administrator, can define permission levels for the other two account types.
Master Administrator accounts manage remote and local systems and have access and administration rights over all systems in the account. Master Administrators can create other Master Administrator and Secondary User accounts. Secondary User accounts give end users remote access to specific PCs in the account, with no administrative rights.
Management and maintenance tasks, including running diagnostics, can be performed on remote PCs in the background, as end users are using the PCs. “You can connect to a machine, get the statistics you need to diagnose a problem and resolve the problem in the background without disrupting the user,” Riley said. “It reduces the amount of end user downtime, and administrators dont have to do normal maintenance outside of normal office hours.”
Kothari characterized the new release as a “godsend. With multilayered administrative rights, I could pinpoint the time of day, who logged in and the events that took place. And the new option where we get a report by individual machine or group of machines—if something goes down I want to know which machines were affected to go fix and inform people theyre going offline,” he said.
The tool, accessed via a browser interface, uses agents installed on target machines. It also provides monitoring and alerting, which can be customized using wizards.
With the latest release of IT Reach, LogMeIn hopes to compete with larger enterprise management tools such as those from IBMs Tivoli unit or Hewlett Packards OpenView, by offering a less costly and complex tool. “Those are often overkill for medium-sized businesses,” Riley said. Similarly, VSIs Kothari called IT Reach “a poor mans Tivoli.”
As Tivoli is enterprise-class management software, what IT Reach actually competes with are products like Citrixs GoToAssist, NTR Globals NTR Support, and products from WebEx Communications and Networkstreaming, according to Stacy Sudan, research analyst for mobile software at IDC (International Data Corp.), in Framingham, Mass.
“We see a need for these products. Theyre good for companies with a distributed work force; they can be great for IT service providers that outsource help desk operations. They are also helpful for smaller companies that dont have infrastructure like a data center. LogMeIn hosts a server for this. That helps a smaller customer. And these kinds of solutions scale well,” she said.
Although IDC has not yet begun to size this market segment, the company believes it is growing. Sudan said she expects IDC to begin tracking it within the next year.
The new release of IT Reach, available now, is priced at $55 per agent per year for 11 to 25 systems and $30 per agent per year for 200 or more systems. Subscriptions can be annual or monthly.