Based on the feedback of our loyal readers, we’re proud to bring you product reviews as a new editorial inclusion this year. Because of the growing interest in the managed services business model, we kicked off our testing with RMM software. Remote Technology Management (RTM), an MSP based in the Boston area and headed up by CEO Eric Brown, performed the testing over a four-week period. Brown, along with his team of technology consultants, tested seven RMM tools and shared feedback on the highlights and lowlights of each one. The seven RMM tools tested were from the following vendors: Continuum, GFI, Kaseya, LabTech, Level Platforms, N-able, and Dell packetTrap.
Below are RTM’s comments on one of the vendors tested. To view the entire product test, which compares all seven RMM products, click here.
Does the RMM vendor have a NOC?
N-able has a NOC that offers server, network, and desktop services. The service offerings break down into two groups: proactive maintenance and monitoring, and full management. The NOC services are further defined by category: server, network, and desktop. Altogether, there are six options for VARs/MSPs to choose from, depending on their specific needs: Proactive Server, Managed Server, Proactive Network, Managed Network, Proactive Desktop, and Managed Desktop.
Agent vs. Agentless
N-able provides a link where you can download and run an application that sends a probe through your entire network and distributes a local agent on every asset it locates. After the initial install, the device basically has the ability to monitor itself.
SaaS vs. On-Premise
N-Able offers both hosted and on-premise versions of its N-central 9.0.
MDM (mobile device management) Support
MDM is on the 2013 product roadmap, but is not currently available to test.
N-Central boasts eight features – a report manager, a remote control manager, a netflow manager, an automation manager, a security manager, a backup manager, an audit manager, and a policy manager. While offering a number of features in its flagship product makes you feel like you’re getting a lot of bang for your buck, I was left wondering most of the time if I had forgotten to utilize one. For example, I had little to no use for the audit manager in my small test environment, however if you are managing a doctor’s office, the scan for HIPPA compliance can be an invaluable tool to demonstrate your service’s value.
The report manager is the newest tool and can build custom branded customized reports. One of the most useful features I found was the remote control manager. N-Central provides a number of remote control settings an MSP can use to access network assets: DirectConnect (a proprietary, instant connection), Remote Desktop, Remote Support Manager (which allows behind-the-scenes resource access), SSH, Telnet, VNC, and a web page.
DirectConnect is available to both Essential and Professional users and has the ability for multiple technicians to remotely connect to the same resource simultaneously. I like this feature for two reasons: 1.) It prevents technicians from kicking each other out of remote sessions if they are unaware anyone is using a resource and 2.) If a level-1 technician is unable to troubleshoot a problem, the tech can bring a higher level tech on the same session, providing better customer service and a learning opportunity for the level-1 tech.
Another feature that is unique to N-Able is called “self-healing”. It’s not quite as magical as it sounds – basically once certain pre-defined conditions are detected, scripts are triggered that are configured to resolve the issue. The conditions are checked again, and if the scripts worked as they should have, the issue will be deemed “resolved”. And the issue doesn’t necessarily have to be a system failure – it can be something as simple as N-Able detects that the C: drive is nearing capacity and scripts run that will delete temporary files. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure – this is one feature that every MSP should be utilizing.
These additional features are integrated into N-Central’s dashboard, and they're all tightly integrated with Autotask and Connectwise – enabling an MSP to open and close tickets from the N-Central dashboard.
What’s Your Overall Assessment? Explain
N-Able can most definitely be a valuable asset to the MSP that has the need and can take advantage of all the additional features they offer. Overall, I found them lacking in the customer service department, as several of my attempts to contact them went unanswered. Their web interface was extremely easy to use, as were most of their feature products and tools, as I almost never had to watch a tutorial to figure out a setup or use a feature. The scope and variety of their tools was impressive, but they ultimately lack luster if an MSP has no use for them. It was disappointing that their MDM was not yet available to test, but it is supposed to be available soon.