Automation Tools for IT Management

Summary: Automation tools for IT management are integral to ensuring the company continues to run smoothly. Lonnie Cherry, Senior Technical Engineer at PCG, discusses the types of tools they offer to businesses of any size. Listen or read more to learn about automation tools for IT management.

John Maher: Hi, I’m John Maher and I’m here today with Lonnie Cherry, senior technical engineer at PCG, a managed service and IT provider with headquarters in Portsmouth, New Hampshire and locations in Dover, Manchester, and Portland, Maine. Today, we’re talking about automation tools for IT management. Welcome, Lonnie.

Lonnie Cherry: Thank you.

John: So, Lonnie, what are some of the types of automation tools that are available in terms of IT management for my company?

Lonnie: Well, some of the tools that we utilize here is an RMM tool. It’s a remote monitoring and management tool. We also use a network discovery tool. We also have what we like to call a document and password repository tool.

Remote Monitoring for Servers and Desktops

John: Okay. So, talk a little bit about each one of those. Tell me more about remote monitoring and what that is.

Lonnie: Yeah. So, the remote monitoring tool is basically what we utilize to monitor your servers and your desktops. It basically monitors the performance or the server’s health. It provides alerting or any of those items that we would need to basically kind of be proactive and provide top-quality service at a level. It kind of gives us early warning signs of health of your desktops and servers and if anything’s going wrong or potentially could be degrading in your network or your network devices.

John: So, it helps you to provide a company with information about the computers and things like that, and maybe let them know when there’s problems that are starting to arise before something major happens in a computer or a hard drive just crashes, etc.

Lonnie: Absolutely. Yeah, it gives us that early warning detection.

John: Right, right.

Lonnie: Absolutely.

Data Collection and Network Management Tools

John: What about data collection and network management, those types of tools? What do they do?

Lonnie: Basically, what they do is kind of similar to the RMM. They go out and collect the health and status of those devices from  . . . kind of like a network layer situation and kind of report that back into a portal that we can go ahead and look at those items and kind of manage those items. It gives us a little bit more clarity into what’s going on with those devices that we don’t typically get with the RMM tool so that we can have better advanced troubleshooting, and so on and so forth.

John: Okay. I know that there’s some new tools for network management that are available that give you some really, really detailed information about all of the equipment that you have in your company. Can you talk a little bit more about what some of the advancements are in recent network management tools?

Lonnie: Yeah, they kind of give you a little bit more in-depth on what’s going on with band width and how things are connected. A little bit more granular data as far as like port utilization, and so on. It also kind of maps out the network for us, in some respects, so that if somebody adds something to the network or if something’s not quite right on the network, it’ll show us that something’s been added or something’s not functioning quite right.

It also kind of gives us a little bit more insight on configuration changes, and so on and so forth. We use a product that also kind of collects configs of switches and routers and firewalls and windows. Those configs change slightly, it reports on that and sends an alert to our line of business application.

John: And why would those configs change? Is it because somebody unplugged something or plugged something new in? Or is it because a particular port on the switch has all of a sudden stopped functioning? What are some of the reasons why things would change?

Lonnie: Well, typically config changes on like a firewall or router, typically somebody actually logged into that device and made that change. They wouldn’t just typically change on your own.

John: Okay.

Lonnie: And that would be something that we definitely would want to alert on. Maybe a technician went in and made a config change but didn’t record it properly or made a config change that wasn’t quite right. The great part about those automated tools is they copy those configs in a regular manner when they change. Then we are able to compare them. So, it kind of keeps them in a history lineup.

John: Would the network management tools that you’re using help you to diagnose what the problem is? If something’s just not working at my company and then I call you guys and I say “Hey, this is the issue that I’m having. I’m not able to print to my printer.” Because you have these systems in place, are you able to more quickly diagnose what the issue is?

Lonnie: Yes, exactly. Having those tools — it kind of gives us that quick response and be able to, you know, each tool on their own maybe doesn’t provide everything that you need. But as a suite of tools, we’re able to more quickly identify problems.

John: Okay.

Lonnie: Yeah, absolutely.

Benefits of Documentation and Password Repository Tools

John: Talk a little bit about the documentation and password repository tools. What is that?

Lonnie: So, the documentation and password repository tool basically provides our clients and us with a way to document your environment and have that information that that’s important to your environment. Again, so we can readily diagnose items and changes and so on.

Actually, as a side note, some of those automated remote monitoring management tools actually write data into the document collection repository so that we can see those changes in kind of a real-time format and be able to see the history of changes, and so on and so forth.

It also is a good way to kind of keep consistency amongst our technicians so that if I’m the senior technician on a site and I’m doing work and I keep really good documentation in a documentation repository, when one of the junior technicians or another senior technician goes to that site, say I’m on vacation or just away or at another site, he’ll be able to provide the same level of service, because he’ll be able to read about the history of the client, what items are there, what servers are there, any oddities on the site, and so on and so forth.

John: Okay. And the password repository, is that for one of your clients to use so that if they forgot their password, you’re able to access that? Or is that so that the company itself, so that all the employees have the access to the correct passwords that they need for their tools and services?

Lonnie: So it’s primarily for our employees so that they have access to all the right passwords and to get into each individual device and each individual portal that provided for a client, whether it be their customer support portal for the line of business application or one of the many portals that we utilize to provide service for our client.

John: Okay.

Lonnie: They also have their own version of that document password repository that we provide to them also so that they can keep their standard operating procedures, their SOPs, and any documentation they want to keep.

The great thing about it is, when a client needs something, that we can also share that from our document repository to their document repository, and they can have that information so there’s continuity between us and them with information. They can kind of check our work, make sure that they have everything. If they need to provide something that they maybe did on their network back to us, they can share it back to us.

Implementing Automation Tools

John: Okay. So how do I implement these systems if I’m a company and this all sounds really interesting to me? I want somebody to be able to see what the issues are that are going on on my network, the issues you that my employees are having with their computers, all of these things. I want to get these in place, where do I start?

Lonnie: So, the great part about a lot of these products that we’re offering here, they’re provided to you if you sign up for managed services with us here at PCG.

John: Okay. So, basically, just give you guys a call, and then you guys go through what all these systems are that you have available to a company and the benefits that they have and figure out what’s going to work best for each company.

Lonnie: Yeah. You give us a call, and the RMM you will get so that we can manage your servers and your desktops. Then some of the other tools can be provided at an extra fee.

John: All right, that’s great information, Lonnie. Thanks again for speaking with me today.

Lonnie: No problem, thank you for having me.

John: And for more information, you can visit the PCG website at pcgit.com or call (603)431-4121.