In the early days of your business, IT may have been the simplest thing you had to manage. Many businesses now are starting out with a collection of computers all sharing similar storage, with websites and other hosted solutions all being taken care of by managed hosting providers. But as your business grows, so will your asset footprint and your IT requirements. You start to move beyond a couple of workstations into the world of servers, network devices and other equipment and infrastructure otherwise known as endpoints. So the task of managing and maintaining the needs of larger, sprawling systems becomes a challenge.
We find a great way of understanding and managing your IT infrastructure is by employing endpoint management solutions. Whether you’re choosing your first endpoint management solution or you’re looking to switch to a new product, it’s vital that you understand exactly what these systems can do for your business.
Put simply, endpoint management is the process of remotely accessing, managing and maintaining all of the endpoints within your business. An endpoint device is classed as an internet-capable computer hardware device that is functioning on a TCP or IP network. It can refer to desktop computers, laptops, smartphones, tablets, printers, POS terminals, smart meters or even virtual desktops. As your business grows, your ability to manage all of this equipment will be stretched, and this is where an endpoint management system comes in. But endpoint management solutions are complicated beasts and can include many different feature sets and configurations to suit your needs. Typically, a good endpoint management solution will be able to offer 5 key services alongside their chosen extras.
Asset Management – A good asset management solution will gather all of the important details about each of your endpoint details and store them in a central database. This information will include the hardware specifications, operating system and applications installed and running on the machine. Need to know how many PC’s you have with less than 4GB of RAM? It’s only a search away.
Patch Management – Not only will a good endpoint management solution allow you to see the details of the machines within your environment, it will also help you to discover and apply patches to them. This means if you are operating 100 POS devices in different locations, you can download and push out patches to all of the machines at once, instead of having to install them all individually. The software will also help you monitor when patches are needed for which machines, and help you keep track of when they need to be deployed.
Operating System Deployment – Endpoint management systems have effectively ended the era of inserting CD’s and installing operating systems the manual way. Instead they give you an easy way to deliver and deploy new operating systems to any number of devices all at once. Leveraging PXE (preboot execution environment) boost technology, these operating systems can be pushed out to a device will little to no involvement from the end user, reducing the risk of user error significantly.
Application Deployment – Once the operating system has been installed onto a new or existing asset, you then need to think about the applications each device might need to use. Does one department within your business need access to a very specialised set of tools, while another needs the latest accounting software and another just needs sales tracking programmes. A good endpoint management system not only lets you install these applications remotely and in bulk, but it can also package them into departments for quick deployment. For example, your accounts team package would include your basic applications, but also those specific to that department, and would be applied to each machine tagged as ‘accounts’.
Mobile Device Management – The growing popularity in mobile enterprise means that almost everyone has a smartphone and is going mobile with their work. Whether it’s a company owned tablet, phone or laptop, you still need a way to manage these devices as well. A good endpoint management solution will help you to track your equipment, manage the apps on mobile devices, apply security policies and more. Such solutions are also able to extend their asset index beyond your network to include any BYOD (bring your own device) or COPE (corporate-owned, personally enabled) devices you may be using.
Of course, every business is different, so now that you understand the basics of an effective endpoint management system and what it can do, you now need to decide if it would be right for your business. To figure this out, you need to ask yourself a few questions. Firstly, does your business actually need most of the features provided by an endpoint management solution? If you are a small business with only 1 or workstations, odds are you aren’t quite ready for this sort of system yet. Equally some of the features included in your chosen solution might overlap with existing solutions within your business, so it’s important to consider all angles. Secondly, what would it take for you to move to an endpoint management solution? Will you need to remove or replace some software or equipment that overlaps, or will no longer be needed in the new environment? How well will the new solution integrate with the existing infrastructure in your business, or will you need to make changes there as well? The final point to consider is your ability to actually deploy and manage the solution. Do you have the in-house talent to research, deploy and manage an endpoint management solution, or would you need to outsource this to an expert?
Ultimately a good endpoint management solution is a tool to help you gain control of your network, gain a keen insight into your devices and their use and help you keep things in order. If you’re interested in deploying your own endpoint management solution and would like to know more, you can always get in touch with us today for a free consultation and some impartial advice