IT is crucial to the majority of businesses. Almost all businesses use IT to some extent and yet many businesses' IT estates remain woefully unprotected. There is also a disconnect between the qualities of many IT management solutions and businesses increasing reliance on their IT device estates.
Gartner estimates that there are currently 1.4 billion computing platforms worldwide, and projects that number will grow to 20 billion by 2020 with the advent of the Internet of Things – a phenomenal rate of growth. You start seeing the scale of the challenge.
Yet the challenge of keeping that many devices or endpoints running is not a technical one – but one of scale. When you consider Microsoft recently reported that over 60 per cent of the world IT devices aren't under any credible endpoint management, that means that less than half of the world's IT support desks have any idea where their devices are or whether they are working or not.
Effective monitoring and management can cut the total cost of ownership for desktop PCs for businesses by 42 per cent according to Gartner.
Here are my top tips / issues to consider when you are deciding how to manage your IT estate:
Maintain and monitor devices remotely
The old days of managing PCs and servers with monolithic on premise products are over. Cloud services and the mobility, scalability and flexibility they offer are now starting to appeal to businesses of all sizes. Solution vendors need to enable our customers to bring in best in class solutions easily and affordably rather than creating needless barriers or anti-competitive walls. We need to be flexible and open to collaboration or integration.
Cloud based, in-house, or managed service?
Cloud based technology-as-a-service solutions are low touch, light on the device and the network. They can be simple, uncluttered and intuitive to set-up and manage. A simple, scalable and flexible cloud based system can give IT administrators and service desks complete visibility and control over their entire IT estate from a single integrated platform.
Do you want to be proactive or reactive?
Proactively monitoring a businesses' endpoints allows an IT support desk to get on the front foot, enabling them to offer a proactive service that spots problems before they arise, rather than one that reacts to a device failure.
Understand the benefits of remote management
Many organisations that have deployed device management software have been able to move from a reactive break fix approach to their IT maintenance, to a proactive approach that focuses on preventing problems before they happen. By moving to remote device management, organisations have reduced their IT support costs, cut the number of engineering visits required, and keep their desktop and laptop estate up-to-date and patched. This approach offers particular benefits to organisations with geographically dispersed offices, or staff who regularly work remotely. Effective management also helps to keep devices compliant, up to date and secure, something that is becoming increasingly difficult to do in a time of growing, disparate IT estates and insufficient bring your own device (BYOD) and chose your own device (CYOD) policies.
Secure data on corporate devices
Security is an ongoing challenge for IT service providers, particularly when they are managing large IT environments; yet our own data reveals over a third of servers and workstations (35 per cent) are missing security patches and well over a fifth (20 per cent) of devices lack any active anti-virus provision. For example from a sample of 325, 000 devices, CentraStage research found, there are roughly 115,000 devices with at least one Security Patch available but not installed or hidden. Roughly 65,000 devices don't have an active antivirus provision and over 33 per cent of devices operating on our system are also operating Windows XP.
Ensure your management solutions can integrate seamlessly
Many businesses employ a number of tools as they attempt to gain visibility of their device estates, however this increases system inefficiencies as well as increasing the potential for mistakes. Many solutions do not integrate properly. In my opinion the concept of all-in-one products has also reached its zenith and it's time to move on. There are just too many fantastic specialist solutions entering the market nowadays for that kind of strategy to work and not to be knocked down and replaced by more specialised services; those with a narrower focus, but more broad and robust interfaces to allow deep integration and collaboration within an ecosystem of like-minded offerings.
Consider your BYOD/CYOD scheme
My concern is that many organisations seem to view smart phones and tablets as peripheral to their core device estate and look to bolt-on or standalone MDM solutions to manage them. In my view this is a big mistake and leads to an increased security risk, as well as higher cost of management. Instead, enterprise needs to treat mobile devices as another corporate endpoint, alongside servers, desktops and laptops and look at the benefits of employing a single device management system that allows their support teams to audit, protect, manage and access data across their entire estate. Organisations can significantly reduce their hardware support costs by managing and monitoring desktops, laptops, and mobile devices remotely via a single, easy to integrate platform.
Ian van Reenen is the CTO and co-founder of CentraStage, the IT management-from-the-cloud provider.