Get Remote Endpoint Management For Rapid, Collaborative Problem-Solving

Remote troubleshooting is faster, less costly, and spurs greater productivity

Tivoli Beat. A weekly IBM service management perspective.

Regular readers of Tivoli Beat will know that in 2011, IBM took a tremendous step forward in endpoint management.

With the introduction of the Tivoli Endpoint Management (TEM) family, IBM really changed the game for the better: one intelligent agent to manage all endpoints, one server that could typically handle up to 250,000 endpoints, and a smart allocation of workloads in which the endpoints themselves do most of the work, transparent to the user.

What may come as news to Tivoli Beat readers is just how flexible this family really is. Tivoli Endpoint Management solutions, in fact, can address all phases of endpoint lifecycle management—simplifying and accelerating key tasks at every step, and reducing operational costs and complexity at the same time.

For instance, consider the task of endpoint troubleshooting. Given an infrastructure of tens of thousands (or even hundreds of thousands) of user endpoints—a typical scenario for enterprise-class organizations—the faster and more easily reported that problems can be solved, the better. Yet IT team members, already challenged for time, will struggle if they try to visit each and every endpoint in person to solve such problems.

A much better approach is to diagnose and resolve such issues remotely, over the network, whenever possible. Not only are technical problems solved much faster, but both IT and end users become more productive as a result. IT staffers can move on to the next reported issue more quickly, and end users can get back to their actual job duties instead of trying to figure out what's wrong with their desktops or laptops.

Granted, not every reported problem can be solved in this way; for instance, a hard drive failure will prevent a machine from booting at all. But as any IT professional will confirm, the vast majority of issues—well over 90 percent—fall instead under the heading of software: configuration issues, software conflicts, unexpected changes improperly introduced by users, and so forth. For such cases, a remote diagnosis and resolution is typically both possible and desirable.

IBM Tivoli Endpoint Management provides centralized support for remote diagnosis and troubleshooting

In the latest iteration of Tivoli Endpoint Management, just this type of capability is provided. Once the agent has been deployed on a given endpoint, the solution can be used not just to track what's happening on that endpoint over the network via a distributed management connection, but also take specific action to remediate problems.

For instance, imagine that a user reports something very general, such as reduced performance for a laptop, but offers no explanation. Once the trouble ticket has been assigned to an IT staffer, that staffer can use Tivoli Endpoint Management to investigate—examining the laptop over the network connection for the root cause of performance degradation. The solution provides extensive version and configuration information about the deployed software on each endpoint, so it’s relatively quick and easy to see if the right software is installed in any given case, as well as verify configuration settings are correct.

Perhaps it turns out that the user has installed older software that doesn't work properly with the operating system and commands far too many resources, such as a holiday screensaver. Perhaps a network setting is improper, slowing down the endpoint's access to key systems. The IT staffer can simply disable or remove that software or correct that configuration, restoring full performance, and can educate the user about the nature of the problem so it doesn't recur.

Because the large majority of reported issues ultimately stem from software, not hardware, this capability translates into a vastly accelerated overall process of troubleshooting endpoint problems as a whole. And the larger and more distributed an organization is, the stronger that business case becomes.

For exceptionally distributed enterprises that have many sites that are separated by hundreds or even thousands of miles, Tivoli Endpoint Management is not just delivering a faster solution to end-user issues, it's also delivering a more centralized solution. One team can now use one intelligent agent, on one endpoint management platform, which requires only one server, to support as many as a quarter-million users with that server, regardless of operating system.

The fact that those users are geographically distributed is abstracted out of the process; Tivoli Endpoint Management will work regardless of their physical locations. This has the effect of simplifying endpoint management enormously, allowing IT to focus less on the tools used to solve problems and more on what really matters—the problems themselves and their potential business impact.

Single-console support for multiple operating systems and collaborative troubleshooting

"Once the agent has been deployed on a given endpoint, Tivoli Endpoint Management can be used not just to track what's happening on that endpoint over the network, via a distributed management connection, but also take specific action to remediate problems."

In the latest version of Tivoli Endpoint Management, things have become simpler and more centralized yet. Remote management capabilities are now integrated into the console proper, so that IT staffers aren't even required to pull up a separate window to leverage them. And the solution’s remote capabilities apply to endpoints running both Linux and Windows (various flavors of each operating system are supported).

Furthermore, Tivoli Endpoint Management additionally can be configured to acknowledge and reflect the internal organization of IT support groups. Typically, these are divided by levels; if problems turn out to be unusually sophisticated or complex, they can be escalated from one level to the next, where more experienced staffers can help to solve them.

The solution’s support for remote management capabilities plays right into that paradigm. Suppose such a problem emerges, for which a remote diagnosis session begun by a level 1 staffer turns out to require extra help from level 2. Tivoli Endpoint Management allows these two team members to share that session—basically, mirroring the window into the user's endpoint for both team members, and allowing them both to take action as needed to solve the problem.

Additional granularity of control stems from the fact that Tivoli Endpoint Management can be configured with action profiles that take into account IT support team knowledge levels and skill sets. In this way, it's possible to provide some team members (perhaps the more junior ones, on the first level of support) basic access privileges over endpoints, and give others (perhaps the more senior ones, with more experience and more technical knowledge) higher privileges with more control.

Such a design means that organizations can leverage Tivoli Endpoint Management not just to handle end user issues remotely, but also easily tailor how—by mapping its operations and privileges with IT staffer seniority, in whatever level of detail the organization requires. It also means that the risk of inadvertent error from the support staff goes down, because junior staffers can only change an endpoint in predefined ways, with limited total influence.

Because IBM is committed to continually improving its solutions and to better serve its customer base over time, Tivoli Endpoint Management is also expected to become more and more powerful and refined going forward. Specifically, in 2012, the solution family will be increasingly integrated with other members of the IBM Tivoli service management family.

In this way, the remote management capabilities and related information that Tivoli Endpoint Management provides will deliver more business value, in more ways, to more IT domains than ever before—all with the view of reducing risks and costs while accelerating time-to-resolution and increasing end-user and IT productivity.

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