The dos and don’ts of remote management

Remote management offers many business benefits, but only if you avoid some of the pitfalls…

As companies move to the cloud or house their infrastructure in third-party data centres, they encounter a problem: they lose the insight and control they have grown accustomed to on-premise.

Even businesses still running their own data centres experience this issue; decades of adding to their infrastructure has resulted in server sprawl, meaning they lose oversight of what systems contain what data, and which ones are crucial to their day-to-day operations and which can be taken offline.

Remote management is a way of regaining that control and oversight. But the control on offer is more overarching than the physical access engineers have on-premise, while the software gives you more granular insight than was ever possible previously.

A good remote management tool lets you look after everything from a single dashboard, whether that is looking after multiple end user computers or spotting anomalies in your infrastructure before they become major problems.

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With the right remote management implementation, your company can run more efficiently, be more agile and cost-effective, and importantly, be confident in the security and performance of its infrastructure.

The benefits of remote management

Using remote monitoring helps you move from a position of ignorance to one of knowledge in terms of what your infrastructure is comprised of, its value and your areas of potential exposure and risk. It lets you see your operational workload, helping you understand which servers are under strain and which are no longer in use. This, in turn, means you can cut any redundant kit to trim your budget, or redeploy underused resources to where they're needed most. In short, you know where to maximise and optimise your systems.

Once that's all under control, you can focus on changing your business from the backend forwards. By giving the management team a clear view of the operating environment that a new application is going to run inside, they can make smarter, just in time' decisions around the way they build and manage those pieces of software.

This allows your business to become more agile, and can underpin and encourage a DevOps mentality where IT and software developers collaborate more closely to roll projects into production environments quickly and smoothly.

Another benefit of remote management is the simple user interface it adds to a complicated environment, making it much easier to manage. Infrastructure data might mean different things to someone with a technical degree than a business end user. For instance, a flashing red light isn't much use if you don't understand whether it signifies an under strain server or that your website just crashed, and log files won't mean much to a salesperson. It must be understandable to all users.

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A well-designed dashboard lets people drill down into the data they are receiving, provides security alerts, and improves workflow management by delivering an in-depth understanding of the infrastructure stacks and how each integrates with the next; revealing chokepoints and clunky hardware.

Prevention rather than cure

A deeper level of insight into your infrastructure also helps you to be more prepared to deal with security threats before they develop into more serious issues. Remote management lets you monitor various endpoints (from servers to mobile phones) for anomalies that could be a sign of malicious activity. By shining a light on your entire IT infrastructure, it means there is little chance of an issue developing without you being able to react quickly and decisively.

If you're applying remote monitoring to a cloud environment, however, you must be careful to ensure a few basic safeguards are in place. Firstly, you must ensure data is traversing between your on-premise environment and your cloud securely if it's just over Port 80, which is the most vulnerable path for black hats to attack. It should be encrypted, even if this is just SSL.

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Furthermore, any data the provider is taking over to its own systems must be encrypted at rest, too, and all usernames and password pairs should be swapped for tokens, such as OAUTH, wherever possible. The remote system should also not have privileged (root or super admin) access to any other system. If any issue does occur, you must be able to cut off the remote system quickly from your own servers.

If you follow these precautions, your environment will be even safer if you implement a remote monitoring tool. By giving you stronger insight into your infrastructure, and tighter control over it too, you can not only secure your business against threats but help it run faster and more efficiently too.

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Here's our rundown of the key dos and don'ts of remote management:

Do

Make the data understandable to everyone. People have different levels of expertise, so they need to be able to understand what information they're seeing and realise why it's important to them.

Use remote monitoring to catalyse a culture change: faster data and more insight into your IT landscape help IT and the business work more closely to build better applications.

Take the opportunity of your new insight into your infrastructure to reassign or scrap servers that are underused it's a great way to trim your budget and ensure your infrastructure is running efficiently.

Assess the interoperability of your infrastructure. With remote management, you should be able to see into every stack, and how data flows between them all. Check for choke points or any other issues.

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Be more forensic. Monitor your environment in real-time, alert for anomalies that could suggest a cyber security issue. If you catch them early enough, you can deal with them without taking anything offline.

Don'ts

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If you're applying remote management to a cloud environment, don't do so without considering encryption. Your data should be encrypted in transit and at rest.

Don't implement remote management in isolation. There are real benefits from the technology, such as real-time threat data, but you won't make the most of them without working with other departments.

Don't give your remote system any privileged root or super admin access to your own system; you should be able to cut it off at a moment's notice if you need to, as well.

Don't sign up to a remote management cloud provider without interrogating them on the security issues. They should be able to answer questions around encryption, username/password tokens and PII data without trying to move the conversation elsewhere.

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Try not to overload users with information. In the same way that data must be understandable, it must also be relevant. A business user isn't going to find log files interesting or useful, for example.

Want to know more about remote management? Click here to download the whitepaper. 

This is an independent article written by IT Pro, sponsored by SolarWinds MSP to celebrate thought leadership in IT. Learn more about SolarWinds MSP's Remote management and enjoy a free 30-day trial by clicking here.

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