RMM software (remote monitoring and management software) is a type of application that information technology (IT) service providers use to maintain their clients' IT infrastructure and systems. The software is a cornerstone application for managed services providers (MSPs), in particular, whose business model is based on the ability to deliver services remotely. RMM software products provide the mechanism for doing that.
An RMM platform is one of several IT management and business operations products a channel partner might use to run its business.
Several vendors target channel partners with RMM software products. Some are standalone products, but vendors also offer remote IT management as part of a broader, integrated package of offerings for automating a channel partner business.
Functions of remote monitoring and management
RMM software products can offer various tools but have two main functions. RMM software enables service companies to keep tabs on their clients' IT systems, including servers, desktops, applications and mobile devices, by supplying performance data and other reports that service technicians can review. In addition to client endpoint device monitoring, service providers can also use RMM to execute management tasks, such as patch management, updates and service configurations, on the client's systems. Both functions can be done remotely rather than on site, which is an important benefit to service businesses.
To connect RMM software to a client's systems, a service provider must install agent software on the client's servers, desktops and mobile devices. The agent's job is to collect data on the monitored device's health and status and then report that information to the RMM product's portal, dashboard or console, through which the MSP system administrator can observe and manage the client's systems.
RMM software vendors' management consoles aim to provide a single-pane-of-glass view of the IT service company's portfolio of clients. This centralized console can also display details such as the number of client devices and cloud services, as well as open help desk tickets and alert tickets for each customer.
Typically, RMM software will automatically detect devices on client networks. Once devices are discovered, the software can automatically perform onboarding and configuration tasks for the new devices. Support for Windows, Linux and macOS devices is typical for RMM tools, with support for Android and iOS also available, depending on the product.
RMM software agents, however, usually can't be installed on devices lacking an operating system -- switches and routers, for example. In those cases, RMM software vendors might offer network management capabilities that enable device management via the Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP).
RMM use cases
RMM software is central to running an MSP business because it enables service providers to keep labor costs down and operate efficiently. Furthermore, because MSPs can serve their clients remotely, they can reduce the amount of time they might potentially spend visiting customer sites.
Some RMM products might also be used to automate otherwise manual processes, providing an additional efficiency boost. RMM tools might offer prepackaged automations, such as run check disk, and provide the ability to create customer scripts to automate tasks. Automation and scripting can address IT infrastructure issues before clients become aware of them, enabling MSPs to offer customers proactive maintenance.
In addition, MSPs can also use RMM software to acquire and manage clients that are located outside of their local markets.
Benefits of RMM software
The functions and use cases of RMM software translate into several benefits for MSPs. Those include, but aren't limited to, the following advantages:
- Creates the technology foundation for offering managed services
- Improves MSP employee productivity
- Reduces cost and increases profitability through labor savings
- Cuts down on repetitive and/or redundant activities through automation
- Improves ability to take on more clients
- Opens opportunities to standardize business processes and workflow
- Facilitates greater predictability and efficiency in service delivery
Top RMM software vendors
RMM software vendors are many and varied. Several organizations have attempted to identify the top vendors, according to market share, user feedback and other criteria.
A 2017 survey from managed services pioneer Karl Palachuk identified five companies as RMM market share leaders: Autotask (now Datto Inc.), Continuum Managed Services (now a ConnectWise company), Kaseya Ltd., LabTech (now ConnectWise Automate) and SolarWinds MSP.
Capterra and G2, meanwhile, are among the companies that assess RMM software products and publish online listings and reviews of vendors.
A sampling of companies that provide RMM software include Atera Networks, Auvik Networks, Barracuda Networks, Comodo Security Solutions, ConnectWise, Datto, ITarian, Kaseya, LogMeIn, Naverisk, NinjaRMM, Pulseway and Syncro.
History of RMM
When the MSP business model emerged in the late 1990s, service providers initially used a combination of homegrown tools and data center management products to manage customers' environments. However, software purpose-built for MSPs began to replace earlier automation efforts. The arrival of those RMM products, some built and commercialized by the MSPs themselves, coincided with the evolution and increasing maturation of MSPs in the 2000 to 2005 timespan.
RMM software, to a significant degree, enabled the MSP business model, which relies on remote service delivery to generate recurring revenue streams. RMM, along with other key software components such as professional services automation (PSA), remain the key technology underpinnings of many MSP businesses today.
RMM and PSA
MSPs often deploy RMM and PSA products to run their operations. PSA manages essential business processes within an MSP, playing a role parallel to enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems in manufacturing firms and other types of enterprises. PSA products handle such tasks as project management, resource management, and time and expense management.
Integrating RMM and PSA can improve MSP workflow. For example, when the RMM tool encounters an issue in a customer's network, a ticket is generated and routed through the PSA to an MSP technician for resolution. Several MSP software vendors offer integrated product suites encompassing RMM and PSA software.
Some MSPs, however, prefer to purchase what they perceive as the best tools within the RMM and PSA product categories. Those MSPs typically rely on vendor-provided integrations to link products together. Integrations not only let MSPs link RMM with PSA, but they also provide gateways to other tools such as backup and disaster recovery (DR) offerings and security products.