For most business owners, the IT department is a strange entity best left to its own devices. People there speak indecipherable, arcane languages of programming and formatting web pages that you couldn't hope to understand. But it is important to ensure that your IT team has the tools it needs to run smoothly, including systems management software.
Today, we'll break down what systems management software is and what features to look for when considering a purchase.
What Is Systems Management Software?
Systems management controls your IT department at its core by monitoring and managing their systems using best practices. Regardless of what team you're referring to, good management is always key to success, and your IT team is no different. Employees will complete tasks quicker and be more effective at their jobs.
Why Is Systems Management Software Important?
As companies transition more and more of their applications and data into cloud environments from legacy systems, complicated problems can arise that require resources from your IT department — resources and time that could be better spent on maintaining your products, website, and services. Customers are likely to see your overall performance suffer if your IT team is too busy trying to bail out the water.
Some companies respond to that by not upgrading their technologies at all, but that approach handicaps your business and keeps you from scaling effectively. As your company needs more and more from your IT department, you need software designed with the capabilities to keep track of everything and monitor your resources to reduce downtime and the associated dip in revenue.
In addition to seeing improved efficiency and decreased overhead costs, you'll also notice a better understanding of your system and how it performs under different conditions that can help you plan and scale as your business grows.
What to Look for in Systems Management Software
Systems management software encompasses many different aspects. These aspects are essential for your IT department to monitor and maintain your network, applications, assets, and infrastructure. This software uses automation to save your personnel time and energy, ensuring compliance, reducing risk, and powering the service center.
Since there is such a wide range of features available in systems management software, we're going to break each category down. When you're considering products, look for features that your business needs since most companies won't need everything on this list.
Monitoring Your Network
Your IT department needs to keep an eye on your network to ensure that all of your online business stays in peak condition and runs smoothly.
Monitoring your applications means installing updates and keeping everything kosher. Ensuring that you have the latest version available will go a long way towards stopping unnecessary problems from arising. By keeping track of the life cycles of your applications and how they are performing, you can proactively take steps to keep them in good working order.
Tracking Your Assets
Since this is designed for an IT department, the assets being tracked are your hardware and software, their life cycles, what versions you're using, your operating system, and the licenses involved. This is typically involved in controlling the versions, backing up your data, and recovering lost data.
A big part of improving infrastructure means knowing how it is currently performing under the loads and applications and deciding how to scale for the future efficiently. By monitoring your performance analytics, you can always stay up-to-date on how your website is responding to increased traffic, to use one example. Systems management software doesn't just collect the data either; it also analyzes it so that you and your team can draw meaningful insights from it later.
Automation can help schedule jobs, arrange for the right people to be positioned in different roles, decrease the possibility of human error when inputting information, and overall save your employees a lot of time and effort by automatically completing otherwise tedious manual tasks.
One of the key ways that automation saves time and improves overall performance is by automating patches and updates. Plenty of companies avoid updates and patches either intentionally or unintentionally, but either way, your teams miss out on new tools, features, fewer bugs, and the increased security of keeping everything up-to-date.
Some companies worry that installing updates and patches can put their data at risk, which is why you can, and should also automate backups for your data.
Compliance and Risk
There are two main aspects of compliance and risk: management of user-profiles and protection against viruses. Systems management software will automatically run anti-virus and malware software to keep your data protected from hackers and other bugs roaming through the internet that could compromise your protected information and cost your company a lot in lawsuits.
These types of tools can detect possible intrusions or breaches in security, safeguard your data, back it up in case of data loss, and periodically sweep your other devices too. For example, by keeping and storing logs, you can discover the causes of certain issues and enable your technicians to find resolutions more efficiently.
Another way to keep your information safe is through managing user profiles. In doing so, you ensure that only authorized people with the right credentials can log in to your system and access sensitive data. However, be careful not to limit the information too much, or you might end up with frustrated employees who can't find the data they need to do their jobs adequately.
Help and Service
Although not as common of a feature, some systems management software has features that allow you to schedule and monitor tickets for issues through your business's help and service center. By tracking these tickets, you can measure how long it takes for customers to receive a response, who those tickets are forwarded to, and how many customers have their issues solved through the responses.
These insights can help you expand your customer service to meet the customers' needs better. They can also work in tandem with performance analytics to understand what your customers are looking for and what types of changes you need to make to your customer service to enhance their experiences. When you satisfy your clients with great customer service, they are more likely to become brand loyalists and tell their followers on social media about your products or services and help you attract new customers.
Aspects to Consider
When wielded properly, systems management software can be a tool to increase productivity for your employees and can make a big difference to your IT department in a good way. However, it can do the opposite if used incorrectly by forcing people up a steep learning curve to spend more time fumbling through the management system than it would take them to perform the tasks manually.
You'll need to ensure that all of your employees are trained to use the software, which can be challenging for existing companies with large departments and lots of staff members. It's also good to keep in mind that systems management software doesn't come cheap, especially if you look for packages with lots of tools and features. There are free ones out there, but like with anything else, you get what you pay for.
Free systems management software is often hard to implement at scale because it is harder to learn and install. Also, you're expected to do everything yourself with no input from the company that created it. They also do not have premium features or extra tools.
You will need to take a hard look at your current operating system and determine which systems management software package works best with that system. Most systems management software theoretically works with multiple operating systems, but user forums and other research should be able to identify what works best with your existing hard and software.
Systems management software may not be something that immediately comes to mind as necessary when you get started building a website, but it is a handy way to keep track of everything in your IT department and gives your team the tools they need to keep you up and running so you don't lose money during annoying website downtime.