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You remember the commercial….”I am not a security guard, I am a security monitor….I only alert you when there’s a problem….There’s a problem”?  This is a great, tongue-in-cheek way to bring light to a very distinct difference between two concepts in IT: remote monitoring and remote management.

What is Remote Monitoring?

Remote monitoring is an easy enough concept. Your IT partner will place software on your servers, workstations. This software’s job is to just sit there and look for problems. Disk space, over taxed memory, outages, etc.  

In a monitoring scenario, the IT provider (or you) are alerted when there is a fault detected. It is then your call whether or not to do something about the issue. You have complete control over what happens and what doesn’t happen, and nothing will happen proactively without your knowledge and consent.

As the commercial says, “I only alert you when there’s a problem.”

How is Remote Management Different?

The key distinction between monitoring and management is what happens when the fault is detected.   Think of it like the difference between a smoke detector and a fire alarm connected to the central station. When the smoke detector goes off, you assess the problem and then make a decision to either ignore it, grab a fire extinguisher, get a garden hose, or call 911. That’s just how it works. The smoke detector just says, “Hey, you need to look at this.”

By contrast, when the fire alarm goes off, the central station is automatically notified, and the fire department is dispatched. There are no decisions, no assessments, there is no time lag.  It is a direct cause to effect scenario.  This is what remote management is like.

When a fault alarm sounds (e.g. YOUR ANTIVIRUS DID NOT UPDATE), your remote management team responds. They will log into the computer, patch up the problem, and then assess why it may have happened to prevent it from occurring again in the future.  The whole key to remote management is prevention.  Prevention as a much lower cost to deliver than “Cure” has.   

This means the best providers are taking a little time now to prevent a lot of time later. It is one of those scenarios where it truly is a win-win, the customer has higher uptime and fewer problems, while the IT provider enjoys the economy of scale that comes with less firefighting. Better to extinguish the grease fire at the stove than to wait until the house burns down.

Which One is Right for Me?

This is a tough one to answer. We always feel like management is the optimal situation, but the reality is that this is not always the case.  There are real, true, financial implications in any business, and sometimes you just can’t justify having the fire department on standby all of the time. In this case, monitoring is a good substitute, because it is better than doing nothing at all, to be sure. You can always pay as you go for the remediation, and just fight the fires as they come up.

In other cases, you may already have the resources in place, with the time to commit to putting out the little fires. If that is your situation, then monitoring may be a good fit because it is another set of eyes, trying to make sure things do not fall through the cracks. Monitoring lets you know if something got left undone, and gives you a path to getting it corrected.

On the other hand, if it makes more sense to try and get in front of issues, or if your internal team just doesn’t have the bandwidth to do all the preventive maintenance, then remote management may be the better path. With management, you simply farm these tasks out, and it is your provider’s responsibility to try and keep you out of the ditch.

Nothing is perfect. Unforeseen things can still happen, but in either case, having a partner on standby who can see what is happening, and respond to it is a benefit to your company. At the very least, there is no ramp up time to get to the cure.  Remediation can start without delay, getting you back on your feet as quickly as possible.