Any organization can fall victim to a cyberattack—regardless of location, industry, or size. But unfortunately, not all organizations are equipped to protect themselves against the full range of sophisticated cyberthreats that we’re seeing today. Small- and mid-sized businesses (SMBs) often have limited IT resource—both in terms of finances and in-house people power—that can’t be stretched to continuously monitor and manage their networks for vulnerabilities and indicators of a breach.
But this doesn’t mean that they have to venture into the virtual world unprotected.
Many SMBs are leveraging the support of managed service providers (MSPs) to help them navigate today’s tumultuous threat landscape and keep their systems secure. And there are many tools that an MSP can use to provide that support.
However, as cloud adoption and the popularity of remote and hybrid work have increased, MSPs have had to find new ways of monitoring, managing, and securing their clients’ networks, without having to visit those clients in person.
The two main tools used to enable this are remote monitoring and management (RMM) solutions and unified endpoint management (UEM) solutions. RMM and UEM solutions offer many similar features and often get confused for this reason, but they’re actually very different.
So, what is the difference between RMM and UEM, how can they help you help your clients, and which of them should you be using?
What Is RMM?
Remote monitoring and management (RMM) software—sometimes also referred to as remote IT management or network management software—enables MSPs to monitor and manage their clients’ networks, including their endpoints, from anywhere. RMM solutions make it possible for MSPs to identify and remediate issues on a client’s network without having to visit that client in person. This makes remediation much quicker, which leads to higher reduced downtime, increased security, and higher client satisfaction, as well as reduced travel costs for the MSP.
Who Needs RMM?
In recent years, organizations around the world have embraced a remote or hybrid working strategy, allowing their users to work from home. This meant transforming their traditional office-based environments into more complex off-site and hybrid cloud environments. But as well as their clients turning to remote work, many MSPs have also embraced this new, modern way of working themselves.
This meant that many MSPs needed a tool that would help them monitor and manage IT incidents across their clients’ networks from anywhere, at any time—even if those networks (or the technicians managing them) were spread across a range of locations, including offices, end users’ homes, and public workspaces such as cafés and rented desks.
RMM solutions are that tool.
However, the “remote” part of RMM isn’t its only use case. RMM solutions also enable MSPs to automate many repetitive, tedious tasks—such as deploying patches and running self-healing scripts. This allows them to spend less time and resource on these tasks, and more time on dealing with incidents that are too complex for a computer alone to solve.
This makes RMM solutions popular amongst MSPs that need to monitor a large number of clients, or whose clients are running a lot of different applications and operating systems, all of which need to be continuously monitored for updates and patches.
Key Features Of RMM Solutions
All RMM solutions will have a slightly different feature set that is designed to meet specific use cases. However, there are some features that all the strongest RMM solutions should offer.
MSPs need clear visibility into their clients’ networks to be able to identify and resolve any issues in those networks. They need to be able to response to any issues immediately—without having to add travel time to their mean time to respond (MTTR). So, remote monitoring is at the heart of any RMM platform.
The strongest RMM solutions should provide a comprehensive insight into the state of IT security across each client’s network. This insight should include health and status information on all software, hardware, and systems connected to the client network. This data should be fed back to the MSP in as close to real-time as possible, with alerting and ticketing to enable faster identification and remediation of vulnerabilities and malicious activity.
The strongest solutions also triage alerts or tickets, classifying them according to alert type and severity to help MSPs prioritize their incident response and support.
Reporting And Analytics
RMM solutions should provide a central web- or cloud-based management console that technicians can easily access, no matter what device they’re using. This console should be easy to navigate; many MSPs have to manage their support services across multiple clients, each of which could have hundreds or even thousands of devices connected to their network.
Within the management console, the solution should offer clear reports into the health and security status of each client’s network overall and on a granular level. Reports should be clear, visual, and customizable. This will enable the MSP to easily find and read data on each client for faster issue remediation, as well as demonstrate their value to the client.
As we’ve mentioned, MSPs could find themselves managing hundreds of devices for each of their clients. Managing repetitive tasks manually across each of those devices can be time-consuming and tedious—it wastes valuable human resource, while also introducing the risk of an error occurring. Because of this, it’s important that an RMM solution offer powerful automation capabilities.
The most important tasks when it comes to automation are onboarding and patch management. Onboarding is the process of setting up new users, devices, and entire client networks. Patch management involves monitoring all hardware and software for vulnerabilities and ensuring they’re up to date with the latest patches.
RMM solutions should offer easy integrations with the other tools that an MSP uses to support their clients. There are two main types of integration you should look out for:
- Integration with your security tools. This will help you achieve a seamless, comprehensive overview of security across all systems, without having to manually copy data from one tool to another.
- Integration with your user directory. This will make onboarding and offboarding much easier.
Some RMM solutions offer in-built security features, such as endpoint detection and response or backup and recovery. These can help improve incident response times, while allowing you to reduce the number of tools you’re having to manage to support your clients.
Some solutions don’t offer native security features, but instead offer strong integrations with other security tools. In this case, it’s a good idea to check that the RMM solution is compatible with the tools you’re currently using.
What Is UEM?
Unified endpoint management (UEM) solutions enable businesses and MSPs to monitor and manage all PC and mobile endpoints on their network or their clients’ networks respectively. It also enables them to manage the tasks and processes carried out on those endpoints, such as application deployment, device usage and health, patch management, and malware protection.
UEM solutions are much more user-friendly and efficient than legacy endpoint management tools, as they provide a single interface from which IT teams can manage all their users’ endpoints. Traditionally, IT teams would have to use multiple systems for endpoint management:
- Mobile device management (MDM) for configuring policies for laptops, smartphones, and tablets
- Enterprise mobility management (EMM) for managing the applications installed on each endpoint
- Client management tools (CMTs) for automating administrative tasks such as OS deployment and updates, software distribution, and patch management
With a UEM solution, IT teams can remotely monitor and manage endpoints without having to aggregate data from these various tools. This makes it easier to establish a baseline of security across all user endpoints—including personal mobile devices.
Who Needs UEM?
Today’s hybrid workplace comprises a range of comprising desktops and mobile devices, on- and off-site devices, and personal as well as corporate-issued devices. While this allows for greater flexibility and increased productivity, it makes it much more difficult for IT teams to keep track of which devices are connected to their networks (or, in the case of MSPs, their clients’ networks)—let alone ensure those devices are secure.
UEM solutions provide complete visibility into all the endpoints connected to a business’ network. This makes them particularly suitable for businesses and MSPs that need to remotely manage a diverse device fleet and want to do so without having to juggle multiple solutions.
Key Features Of UEM Solutions
To provide a comprehensive, unified view of an organization’s endpoints, a UEM solution must be compatible with all the different types of endpoint on an organization’s network. Most commonly, businesses and MSPs will require compatibility with Windows, MacOS, Chrome, iOS and Android devices. However, it’s important that you check exactly which operating systems you need to protect before investing in a solution. You may need to find a solution that also supports IoT devices, such as printers and wearables, for example. The risk of investing without checking for compatibility is that you may end up having to use multiple tools for endpoint management after all.
On top of being compatible with all the endpoints you need to manage, it’s important that your chosen solution offers a straightforward provisioning process for each device type. This is particularly important for businesses with lots of BYOD devices, as BYOD users will have to set up the device themselves. Some solutions offer cloud deployment that can be centrally managed; others offer a self-service app store deployment.
The best UEM solutions have a cloud- or web-based management console that enables IT teams to manage their endpoints centrally and remotely, from anywhere, at any time. The console should enable you to manage:
- Onboarding and offboarding of users and devices
- Software distribution, either via automatic rollouts to specific users or user groups, or via an app store
- Security and access policy configuration
- Device health reporting
- Device usage reporting
- Compliance reporting
The reporting aspect of the management console is really important—the strongest solutions provide detailed analytics of device and application usage. This will help you configure usage and access policies, and to inform your security and compliance processes.
If the device fleet you’re managing includes BYOD devices, it’s important that you choose a UEM solution that offers application isolation. This allows users to separate the personal and work apps installed on their device so they can use work apps securely, without compromising the privacy of their personal life.
Different solutions offer different methods of isolation. Some enable users to connect to a secure, corporate intranet form their device, so that they don’t have to store any corporate apps on the device itself. Some enable users to create an isolated workplace environment or container within their device, where their work apps are stored.
Some take this method a step further, offering a container or kiosk “mode” for the device which, when activated, provides admins with a higher level of control over the device, such as the ability to configure more stringent security controls, view the device’s screen, and control peripheral settings.
The best UEM solutions offer integrations with other third-party tools and applications for easier deployment and ongoing management. These could include user directories, app suites such as Google Workspace and Microsoft 365, and security tools such as VPNs, user authentication tools, and antivirus software.
Endpoint Security Features
Any UEM solution worth its salt will allow you to roll out patches for operating system and software vulnerabilities across your device fleet. But some solutions also offer further security measures built in. These may include:
- Remote device wiping or locking in case of loss or theft
- Remote, real-time screen viewing
- Email security that only allows trusted attachments to be opened on a covered device
- A VPN to secure the user’s connection to the corporate network, even when they’re using an unprotected Wi-Fi service such as a personal router or free public Wi-Fi
- Multi-factor authentication (MFA) to protect access to the device itself, and to apps and data stored on the device, against unauthorized access via an identity-related breach such as a brute force or social engineering attack
If you’re considering a solution that doesn’t offer these features natively, it’s a good idea to check that it offers easy integrations with other security tools that will allow you to implement these measures. After all, it only takes one endpoint to be breached, for your entire network to be compromised.
RMM Vs. UEM: A Summary
RMM and UEM solutions do offer some overlapping features, but they are two very different solutions, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. Before investing in either, we recommend that you assess exactly what support your clients need. This will help you decide which solution enables you to offer that support best. You may even decide to utilize both an RMM and a UEM solution, as the two often go hand in hand.
A UEM solution will enable you to configure your clients’ endpoints and remotely distribute software easily—even across BYOD devices. While some RMM solutions do offer this functionality, it can be much more difficult to manage.
On the other hand, RMM solutions offer remote access to endpoint devices, as well as the ability to run scripts automatically for more efficient remediation. They also offer more in-depth performance data than UEM tools, giving detailed insights into how your client’s network is set up and running.
Overall, RMM and UEM solutions are complementary. You can use an RMM tool to provide a comprehensive help desk, as well as to monitor your clients’ networks, and identify and quickly remediate any security issues. UEM tools then give you the ability to apply consistent policies across all endpoint devices, deploy software, and monitor device health status.
To help you find the best solutions for monitoring, managing, and securing your clients’ endpoints, we’ve put together guides to the best RMM and UEM solutions on the market, including their key features and who they’re best suited for. You can find these guides below: