One-off vs. integrated IT tools: Which is best for management?

Is it better to use an integrated stack of tools for administering IT systems? Or can you get by with building your own custom pick-and-choose toolkit? My friend and colleague Jupiter (not his real name, he prefers I use his moniker) works as the IT admin for a midsized company that uses mostly Linux (some frontend machines run Windows, the rest are Macs) and he swears by the collection of tools, scripts, and utilities he’s assembled over the years and which he fondly calls his Toolbox. These tools are mostly open source and range from infrastructure automation and delivery frameworks like Puppet to miscellaneous utilities like powertop, ntopng, bandwidthd, and many others. He also uses some vendor-supplied tools such as SolarWinds Remote Monitoring & Management, which as this blog post indicates can be used effectively for remote management and monitoring of his company’s Linux-based backend infrastructure.

Remote management needs special IT tools

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I’m not a Linux guy, however, so I don’t have my friend’s mindset when it comes to “MacGyvering” and building your own toolset for system administration. Especially when it comes to having to do remote monitoring and management of server systems, whether they are running Windows Server or Linux. Doing remote management and monitoring poses challenges that are necessary to face in this day and age of the distributed workplace and (almost) ubiquitous Internet connectivity. And with the focus of most businesses being making a profit while doing more with less, it behooves us as professionals — for that is what we IT pros are supposed to be, right? — to always use the best tool for the job. And not from a technical perspective as geeks, but also from the business perspective of our employer. So to gain more insight into this area, especially when it comes to the specific need of remote management and monitoring that companies of all sizes have nowadays, I recently had a chat with Marius Mihalec, CEO and founder of Pulseway, a leading provider of mobile-first, cloud-first remote monitoring and management software.

I focused my first question for Marius on the subject of remote desktop solutions since there are a plethora of products out there for remoting into Windows, Mac, and Linux machines for performing remote administration or troubleshooting problems. When I asked Marius how companies are using remote desktop solutions these days he replied, “As we can see from growing industry of remote management and monitoring software and professional services automation software, the demand for remote IT management tools continues to grow and the competition gets fiercer every day. From what we have learned through years of experience, the number one reason for deploying a remote desktop solution is the ability to guarantee the security and smooth workflow of IT infrastructure. These tools bring IT management to the next level and greatly simplify and improve the efficiency of the work of system administrators. However, in the end, it all comes down to the tool’s specific functions and abilities. Standard remote desktop monitoring solutions can give you the access for system monitoring, but a full-stack powerful RMM system can change the way you view IT administration altogether.”

Complexity and number of tasks

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I asked Marius next about how the needs of large enterprises might differ from smaller businesses in terms of choosing which kind of remote desktop product they might choose to go with. “I believe the main difference would be in the complexity,” Marius said, “and, of course, the number of tasks that needed to be executed by the system administrator or IT management team. When it comes to our enterprise clients with more than 200 endpoints, the level of IT infrastructure, as well as the demand for the application performance, is higher, and that’s why we keep working on integration with third-party services to deliver the highest standard tool for the most complex IT framework.” And what about smaller companies and organizations? “In the case of SMBs and smaller-size clients,” Marius said, “the ability to monitor, manage, and of course upgrade systems automatically — as well as respond to any urgent server inquires — is critical. Pulseway offers a solution for all the above while enabling cost-cutting for smaller budget clients with the ability to perform every task within the framework of one application.”

I finished my talk with Marius by asking him about some of the areas that different remote desktop products compete with one another and about Pulseway’s solution in particular. “It all comes down to the capabilities and services that the remote solution is focusing on,” Marius says. “In the case of Pulseway, we try to offer an all-in-one solution that will eliminate the need for multiple software applications. For example, our third-party management and antivirus integration with Kaspersky and Webroot enable our users to manage their network while securing it and keeping it up to date at the same time. Ease of use and convenience has always been a key differentiator of the most successful multifunction remote desktop solutions, that’s why providing a powerful mobile-first application was always our priority from the very start.”

Shopping a la carte

The day following my conversation I had coffee with my Linux junkie friend Jupiter and shared with him some of the things Marius told me. “Windows admins need that sort of thing,” he replied somewhat snottily. “Best of breed isn’t always possible in a single integrated package. I prefer shopping a la carte, both when I go out for dinner with my wife and also when I need to get some job done, or done better, in the environment I manage.” I envied my friend for his enthusiasm about learning new tools and always trying something new, but I’d rather have a life and use an integrated solution like Pulseway so I can focus on other things outside of work like staying fit by exercising and building my collection of Dolph Lundgren movies.

Featured image: Shutterstock

Mitch Tulloch

Mitch Tulloch is Senior Editor of both WServerNews and FitITproNews and is a widely recognized expert on Windows Server and cloud technologies. He has written more than a thousand articles and has authored or been series editor for over 50 books for Microsoft Press and other publishers. Mitch has also been a twelve-time recipient of the Microsoft Most Valuable Professional (MVP) award in the technical category of Cloud and Datacenter Management. He currently runs an IT content development business in Winnipeg, Canada.

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Mitch Tulloch

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