Whether you’re a technology professional focused on residential installations or dealing with light commercial applications like houses of worship, restaurants, and bars, the care and feeding of the network is a big deal in terms of balancing time management and customer satisfaction with generating new revenue opportunities.
After all, the job doesn’t end once you’ve installed the network. You’ve got to keep those customers online and happy even as you work on the next job and the one after that.
Designing and installing a job for facilitating remote systems management (at Luxul we call it remote monitoring and management, or RMM) — which lets you connect to your customers’ networks from a browser and remotely monitor, manage, and configure devices connected to that network from anywhere — helps minimize that balancing act and makes things much more efficient for you and your customers.
Any dealer who’s ready to implement RMM to not only troubleshoot systems without rolling a truck, but to generate recurring monthly revenue (RMR), can follow a few simple tips to prime the system for optimal usage:
1. Use smart power distribution units (PDUs)
PDUs have controllable outlets that you can access through RMM software. Make sure your priority devices are connected to these outlets, which give you remote reboot capabilities if a device is not functioning properly.
PDUs are most often used in the centralized rack where the AV infrastructure is located. But don’t forget about the system edge, where devices like smart TVs, cable boxes, and media players are located. Most PDU manufacturers have small PDUs with only a few outlets made for just this purpose.
Many PDUs have self-healing features for IP devices that are connected to them. The PDU can monitor the device with a network ping, and if that device quits responding, the PDU can automatically cycle the power on the associated outlet.
2. Implement managed switches
Managed switches have controllable Power over Ethernet (PoE) ports that you can access through RMM software. Devices that are powered via PoE can be rebooted remotely if they are not functioning properly.
Some RMM software allows you to see network statistics, like bandwidth or port errors, from managed switches, helping you remotely diagnose problems.
3. Ensure proper documentation
To effectively work on a remote system, you need proper documentation. Take the time to make sure priority devices have easily identifiable names and physical locations set in your RMM software.
Also spend time on other relevant documentation, like network maps, physical device connections, IP addresses, usernames and passwords, etc.
Some PDUs and switches allow you to name your outlets and ports to make them easily identifiable. Some RMM software can even read these outlets and port names and display them in the RMM application.
Check with your suppliers to shore up any gaps in this area too. Luxul dealers who use Luxul’s Customer Assurance Program for designs can get guaranteed documentation, for instance. The program gives Luxul dealers certified wired and wireless network designs that are guaranteed to meet their customers’ reliability and performance requirements relating to Wi-Fi.
4. Grant all permissions for access and security
Most RMM software solutions allow for multiple user roles and permissions. Make sure everyone who will access the RMM software has his or her own unique account and has proper rolls and permissions set.
This allows for proper user tracking so that admins know who is logging into a particular site and what actions they are taking. Users can be limited on their access to certain features or sites. For example, a junior-level tech might be able to create a site for remote monitoring but won’t be able to delete it. Or they can reboot a device on a PDU but not permanently turn off the power.
Security and liability are other reasons for each user having his or her own account. Many custom integrators share the same username and password for their RMM software with all their employees. But this is a risky practice. What happens when an employee leaves the company? Now that employee has access to all your customers’ sites, and the only way to restore security is for everyone to learn a new username and password.
On the other hand, when each employee has his or her own account, it’s easy to disable one employee’s access for any reason without disrupting the others.
5. Verify remote access before leaving the site
Most RMM software has remote access features that make it possible to remotely administer devices on customer sites. The most common use is to connect remotely to a device’s local web admin page, but people use RMM for other remote connection methods as well, such as SSH and telnet.
Make sure your device’s admin method is set up correctly and you have added all appropriate usernames and passwords.
Never leave the customer site until you have verified you can access it remotely. Using your mobile device, disable Wi-Fi so that your Internet connection is running through your cellular connection.
Confirm all remote connectivity using your RMM software app. If your software is web-based, then use your phone as a mobile hotspot for your PC and confirm your remote connectivity. Just make sure you are not connecting to the Internet through local Wi-Fi or physical network connections at the site. Cellular is a great tool for verifying remote access.
As integrators and homeowners continue to deal with a changed environment due to the coronavirus impact, network reliability is especially crucial and service calls don’t stop.
No matter what the situation, RMM has the potential to transform your maintenance and service operation, creating more predictable scheduling and revenue, and satisfied customers in the process. Following these best practices when installing the system can make future use easier and more efficient.
Mike Grubb is the vice president of marketing for Legrand | AV – CI. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.